Presto News - 12th March 2007
The importance of government support
Here in the UK, arts funding has come back into the press in the last couple of weeks. Firstly there was announcement by English National Opera (ENO) that they would be cutting 10% of jobs. This amounts to 45 members of the company and comes just four years after a further 75 people were made redundant. ENO blamed these job losses on the threat of treasury cuts in the forthcoming Comprehensive Spending Review (read full story). This strikes me as rather odd. How can you make job cuts on the threat of funding cuts? Are they saying that if the treasury cuts don't happen then they won't lose the jobs?
The second arts story in the news was that of prime minister Tony Blair using a speech last Tuesday to play down the arts funding fear and offer reassurance that investment in the arts was very much part of the government's plans (read full story).
You might think that this would come as good news for ENO, but in reality their problems go far deeper than the threat of treasury cuts, and this excuse was just a smoke screen to try and divert attention from the years of bad management which have left them in the latest crisis.
It did start me thinking about the importance of government support of the arts in general though. For many arts organisations their income comes jointly from Arts Council funding and box office takings - the first controlled entirely by the treasury's overall level of funding, and the second controlled ultimately by the importance that the government places on music education in schools (if you don't create an audience you won't have any box office takings). This is maybe an area where political parties could score many votes if they had a strong pro-arts policy. I for one believe strongly in the power of music to change lives and would certainly be swayed by such a commitment.
Chris O'Reilly - firstname.lastname@example.org
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