Mayor of London Boris Johnson and Old Vic Artistic Director Kevin Spacey have today warned about the effect of investment cuts on arts and culture during the current economic downturn.
With many businesses facing tough times, corporate investment in the capital’s cultural output is down 7% in the last year, and there are concerns it may not rise again until at least 2011. As the majority of London’s visitors cite arts and culture as a reason for visiting, and with tourism contributing £16 billion to London’s economy, the health of the city’s subsidised arts institutions are of huge importance.
“We have to rise to the challenge brought about by the downturn,” Johnson said earlier today. “Arts and culture are not a luxury, they are part of this city’s DNA, its USP. It is why people want to live and work here and seven out of ten tourists say it is a reason for their visit. At a time of recession it is more important than ever to invest in the arts. We need to support new talent and those creative individuals whose innovation will ensure London remains dynamic and successful.
Spacey added: “I believe that far from being a luxury in our lives, the arts and culture are a necessity. The creative industries lead the UK economy and are the envy of the world. Having lived here for seven years I genuinely believe that the UK’s pre-eminence in arts and culture constitutes one of the nation’s most powerful natural resources. But many arts institutions are suffering, and without political will and both corporate and public support some will struggle to survive.
“The economists may be seeing the first green shoots of recovery, but it is clear that the impact of the downturn will be felt for years to come – certainly in terms of sponsorship budgets and corporate philanthropy. If we don’t act now, we risk allowing our rich cultural life to be diminished.”
Johnson, who has recently returned from a trip to New York to promote London as a destination, has reaffirmed the commitment of the Greater London Authority to supporting the arts through a range of schemes including festivals, an extension to the Tate Modern and £5 million for the BFI’s proposed film centre.
Both Johnson and Spacey will be delivering key note speeches at an event to be held this evening bringing together leading figures from arts, business and public sector.