Deputy mayor for culture: ‘Criticism of London arts funding is misguided’

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The National Theatre.

London’s deputy mayor for education and culture has defended the level of arts funding given to organisations in the capital.

She claimed that criticisms over regional imbalances were a “real misreading” of the situation.

Munira Mirza praised the capital’s role as a cultural “gateway to the rest of the world”, but said that the debate around London’s separation from the regions misunderstood the cultural ecology.

“There have been lots of debates and strong feeling about London being almost a city state – removed from the rest of the country – and I think this is a real misreading of how the arts industry has tended to work,” she told an audience at a Westminster Media Forum on arts and culture in the UK.

“When the arts council funds organisations that are based in London, it is also funding activity that will then tour around the country and will have an impact around the country. I think that is an important point that is sometimes lost around the debate,” she added.

Mirza also advocated a growth in partnerships between London and the regions, claiming that the capital “relies very heavily on talent from around the country”.

“The relationship between London and the rest of the country is important both for rest of the country and for London. London would be a lot poorer were it not for those partnerships,” she said.

Earlier this year, the government and Arts Council England pledged to tackle regional divides in funding, following a select committee report on the workings of the funding body. This was prompted by the report Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, which found that Arts Council England allocated more than five times as much spending per resident to London organisations as to those outside the capital in 2012/13.

The Westminster Media Forum event was held at Glaziers Hall in central London, where Mirza spoke alongside representatives from Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Wales.

Other speakers included director of study for the Warwick Commission Jonothan Neelands and Phil Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts.

As part of a panel about the future of public subsidy, Edgar-Jones warned of the effect that cuts to the BBC could have on the Corporation’s arts output.

“If what may happen to the BBC does happen, then I think one of the first places they will retreat from is the arts,” he said.

“They do have a remit to serve broad audiences, all audiences, and with the best will in the world, the arts audience is a small, niche one. So I think they will retreat from the arts and I think that will be a great shame,” he added.


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