Twenty-six arts leaders have written to the Prime Minister requesting a meeting to discuss levels of arts investment planned for 2011 to 2014, claiming that they will “do lasting damage to the sector’s capacity to deliver the public and social benefits it can provide”. Their views were the subject for discussion at a gathering of 500 arts professionals at London’s Young Vic theatre, where theatre director Richard Eyre warned that the arts sector is risking “cultural apartheid” following funding cuts. He fears that “the already large gap between those for whom the arts are part of life and those who feel excluded from them will widen”.
Dancers from Sadler's Wells' 'Company of Elders' for retired people and Timi Jogunosimi-Raji, from youth arts organisation SE1 United, currently working with Southbank Centre, echoed his view: they spoke heatedly of the “life-changing” experiences these companies had given them, and Jogunosimi-Raji told the assembled company: “When it comes to art, I see that a lot of young people have a sense of home... if arts get cut down, then where do all the young people go?” Geoff McGarry, who has danced with Sadler's Wells since he retired ten years ago, said, “we owe so much to Sadler's Wells”.
Tim Robertson of the Koestler Trust and Chair of the Arts in Criminal Justice Alliance, described Britain as being “ahead of the world in many ways in terms of inclusion and outreach for the arts, but we have a long way to go”. There was a general fear that this work will fall by the wayside when Arts Council England and other funding bodies are working to prioritise “front-line” arts services. ‘Catherine’, who credits theatre-in-prisons company Clean Break with turning her life around, put it simply: “You can't pick up the pieces on your own. Without Clean Break society is going to suffer.” David Jubb, Co-Artistic Director of Battersea Arts Centre, started the event by asking, “Does our government get how people's lives are profoundly enhanced by continued public investment in the arts?” The mood of the meeting seems to be that it probably doesn't. As Eyre put it, “cultural life is going to be eroded by a perfect storm”.