With a budget fast approaching, Arts Council England’s Chief Executive Darren Henley calls on the new Government to back up its warm words for the arts with financial support.
As I write this, I am sitting in a café just off Edinburgh’s Royal Mile. The city’s festivals are at full throttle. All around me, the streets throb with visitors from across the world, united in a desire to be amazed, entertained and challenged by what they see. They’re here to revel in the best of Britain’s creativity.
Edinburgh is a place for stories to unfold, for magic to happen, for unknown artists to take their first steps on a journey that could turn them into smash hit sensations, touring work across the globe.
International artistic success doesn’t just happen by chance though. Be in no doubt about the hard work, determination, talent and financial investment that it takes every performer to get to Edinburgh. To turn that opportunity into a hit beyond our shores relies on so much more than just getting a lucky break.
Nurturing our artists and creative producers on the international stage is important, not least because whatever the outcome of the negotiations with our European partners in the coming months, it will be the UK’s creative professionals who will take centre stage in telling our story internationally.
With much of the current political discourse centring on manufacturing and financial services, it’s all too easy to forget what our creative industries already deliver for UK plc – and the scale of the opportunity for the future.
For a relatively small island, we have long punched well above our weight when it comes to creativity and artistic innovation. Public investment in our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries means that they too are global innovators, alongside our commercial music, film, media and tech companies.
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is an important international showcasing opportunity, a real chance for our world class artists to shine. To help supercharge this, Arts Council England is investing £2.25 million in a brand new performing arts showcase for an organisation to bring artists and companies based across England, enabling them to present theatre, dance, circus and live art within the Fringe.
Of course, it does take sustained strategic financial investment for our artists and cultural organisations to continue to to innovate. And with more money, we could exponentially increase the international impact of their work.
Since taking office, our new Prime Minister has unequivocally stated his belief that arts and culture should be at the heart of our communities. And during his time as Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, our new Chancellor of the Exchequer was a strong advocate for the value of our creative industries.
With their first budget set to be unveiled in a matter of weeks, Boris Johnson and Sajid Javid clearly have tough decisions to make. They will want to spend public money in ways that deliver the greatest impact. Our artists and cultural organisations are ready to rise to the challenge, with no limit to the scale of their ambition and inventiveness. Their work increase opportunities and possibilities for individuals and communities around the country, creates enticing places for tourists to visit, and helps us to tell a story about ourselves around the world.
Make no mistake: investment in arts and culture isn’t a soft option. It makes sound business sense. We will reap the benefits at home and abroad for years to come.
ArtsProfessional is putting questions to ACE about its draft ten year strategy to encourage discussion in the sector. If you'd like to take part, email firstname.lastname@example.org ot tweet @artspro with your question or an issue you'd like us to ask the Arts Council about. ACE will publish their answers here in future weeks.