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April 26 2012

Hunt launches London 2012 Festival

From a bouncy-castle Stonehenge to Jay-Z, the Olympic festival will feature 12,000 events at 900 venues across the UK

It will include a bouncy-castle Stonehenge, a retrospective of British women's comedy, extreme sports choreography, a world record improv attempt and, organisers of the London 2012 Festival sincerely hope, the loudest national ringing of bells that has ever been heard anywhere. There will also be a cast of stars and artists that run from Damon Albarn to Jay-Z through names that will probably never again appear on the same bill including Tracey Emin, Stephen Fry, George Benjamin, Mike Leigh and Rihanna.

The £52m London 2012 Festival, which launched on Thursday, is the culmination of the cultural olympiad and is meant as a showstopper – a blinding array of arts events across the UK between 21 June and 9 September, staged in the spirit of "once in a lifetime".

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, launched the festival and its 140-page brochure at the Tower of London, and while he did not have the demeanour of a minister under siege, he spoke only about the programme and did not hang around to take questions.

"This festival is a celebration of the remarkable culture that we have in our country," said Hunt. "And in this very special year when we will be in the global spotlight as never before in our lifetimes, this festival encapsulates all that we are proud of. The range is extraordinary. There will, absolutely, be something for everyone."

Ruth Mackenzie, who was brought in two years ago to get a somewhat listing ship back on course, said it would be the largest cultural celebration of our lifetime. "I am confident that we are going to see some quite remarkable work and work that we're never going to forget.

"The challenge for our festival is to match up to the achievements of the Olympic and Paralympic Games with a once in a lifetime chance to share something with amazing artists from around the world."

The festival will involve more than 25,000 artists, with 12,000 events at 900 venues, including 130 world premieres and 86 UK premieres.

Many of the festival events were known already, but new details were announced in the pop, fashion and comedy programmes. In the last there will be a retrospective of women in British comedy, from Joyce Grenfell to Victoria Wood; a season looking at the role that the Hackney Empire has played in radical comedy since Charlie Chaplin took to the stage there more than 100 years ago; topical comedy shows at the Criterion Theatre hosted by Stephen Fry; Tim Minchin at the Eden Project in Cornwall; and Neil Mullarkey leading a world record improv attempt in Barnsley.

There will also be a barge full of comedians – called the Tales of the Riverbank Comedy Barge – travelling from London to Edinburgh with impromptu gigs and masterclasses along the way.

In fashion, the festival has paired designers and visual artists to work together for one-off commissions at the Victoria and Albert Museum. It will include Giles Deacon with Jeremy Deller, Jonathan Saunders with Jess Flood-Paddock and Stephen Jones with Cerith Wyn Evans. Mackenzie said: "It is one of our most thrilling experiments in getting artists to beyond their personal bests, as they say in the world of games."

The pop highlights will be the Radio 1 Hackney weekend, where 100,000 people are expected for a lineup that includes Jack White, Florence + The Machine, Jessie J and will.i.am. A new free festival in Newport, Busk on the Usk, will include Scritti Politti, meaning that its lead singer, Green Gartside, will perform in his own city for the first time.

There will be lots of pop-up events, said Mackenzie, not least one in the true sense of the word with artist Jeremy Deller touring the nation with a bouncy castle in the shape of and the size of Stonehenge.

Some events have had question marks over them, including the artist Martin Creed's plan to get as many people as possible to ring a bell at 8am on 27 July. There was initial scepticism from church bellringers but Mackenzie said everyone was now signed up, including the Royal Navy, which would ring ships' bells. "This is one of my favourite examples of participation and inclusion," said Mackenzie. If anyone does not have a bell they can download one for their phone.


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April 25 2012

Jeremy Hunt: Can't stop, off to Swan Lake

What has the Leveson inquiry revealed about Jeremy Hunt's taste in art? Did he get to Take That? And how big an N-Dubz fan is he?

On Monday, culture secretary Jeremy Hunt tweeted "With mirth and laughter let old wrinkles come (Gratiano, Merchant of Venice)", a celebratory quote for Shakespeare's birthday. On Tuesday, "Is this a dagger which I see before me?" might have seemed more appropriate.

Perhaps surprisingly, only two of the emails released by the Leveson inquiry this week indicated that Hunt had an interest in the arts beyond the Murdochs' BSkyB takeover bid. One, from News Corp's public affairs executive Frédéric Michel to James Murdoch, reported grabbing the culture secretary "before he went in to see Swan Lake" to discuss the bid. In another, sent later that year, Michel plaintively asked Hunt's special adviser Adam Smith whether Ed Vaizey's refusal to meet News Corp while the deal was going through meant that "you and Jeremy will not be coming to Take That on 4 July".

Between them, Take That and Swan Lake suggest that Hunt has fairly mainstream tastes – and in fact, according to the Royal Opera House, the ballet was an unusual outing; a spokesperson confirms that Hunt is not a regular. Did he or did he not see Take That at Wembley on 4 July? The band's press officer says he has no idea: "He didn't get tickets from us."

In the five years since he was made shadow culture secretary, and then culture secretary when the Tories won the 2010 election, Hunt has given the impression of someone who enjoys the arts without having a deep knowledge of – or passion for – them. To be fair, though, he seems more culturally immersed than his opposite number Harriet Harman, or the shadow culture minister Dan Jarvis.

At a meeting of the rightwing culture thinktank New Culture Forum last year, Hunt said his major policy for the arts was to encourage philanthropy. But this approach ran into trouble earlier this month, after tax relief for philanthropists was restricted in the budget. Nicholas Hytner, director of the National Theatre, said the Treasury had "completely pulled the carpet from under" Hunt's attempts to encourage rich donors.

The culture secretary appears to have an interest in pop music beyond Take That: a journalist who interviewed him for the London Evening Standard last summer (shortly before the BSkyB bid failed) reported seeing a biography of N-Dubz on Hunt's desk. "Well, Tulisa is going to be gracing our screens, isn't she?" he said, of the N-Dubz member who went on to be an X Factor judge. In 2010, he revealed his classical music preferences to Guardian arts correspondent Charlotte Higgins: "I am still early Schoenberg rather than late." He also enjoys Tchaikovsky, attending Opera North's production of The Queen of Spades and ENO's Eugene Onegin, directed by Deborah Warner.

Russian literature seems to resonate with Hunt, too. He admires the poets Osip Mandelstam and Anna Akhmatova, who were dissidents during the Soviet regime, and quoted a poem by Mandelstam in his first speech as culture secretary. Then there's his passion for Japanese culture; Hunt speaks the language after teaching English there.

Like other Tories, Hunt has spoken warmly about their star signing, Tracey Emin. He attended the private view of her retrospective at the Hayward Gallery, and in his first keynote speech on the arts, cited her grafitto "I need art like I need God", sprayed on the sea wall at Margate. "Sometimes graffiti – however objectionable and anti-social it is in principle – can be very thought-provoking," he noted.

But it was culture minister Ed Vaizey rather than Hunt who schmoozed Emin. In 2009, the Guido Fawkes website reported that the pair enjoyed a three-hour lunch at Scott's of Mayfair, and she has also dined with David Cameron at No 10. All this paid off when Emin declared her support for the Tories last year: "At the moment there is a government that actually likes the arts, appreciates the arts and appreciates culture."

Hunt is an admirer of Grayson Perry, too. He went to Perry's recent exhibition at the British Museum, and has a print by the artist on his office wall – alongside a photograph of him meeting Arnold Schwarzenegger in Los Angeles. He picked another contemporary work from the Government Art Collection for his office in 2010: a Mark Wallinger painting from a 1990s series called Brown's (42 sets of silks worn by jockeys riding for racehorse owners called Brown). Alerted to this by the Guardian, the Labour-supporting Wallinger groaned: "That is a shocker. As an artist, it's very hard to vet your patrons – they generally drift rightwards as they get older anyway."

Hunt's trips to the theatre point to a taste divided between blockbusters and political theatre. He saw David Hare's indictment of New Labour, Gethsemane, as well as Lucy Prebble's Enron; the latter might have proved an uncomfortable night for a Tory, though Hunt told New Culture Forum he considered it a prime example of why theatre should keep its subsidy. He has also seen hits such as War Horse, at the National Theatre, and Jez Butterworth's Jerusalem, which he attended on its West End transfer in the run-up to the election.

Hunt's most recent direct intervention in the arts world was his decision to fire Liz Forgan as chair of Arts Council England, saying that a new appointment was necessary in order to encourage greater private giving to the arts, and to help the arts sector "make the most of technological changes". John Tusa, Veronica Wadley and Peter Bazalgette have been mooted as possible successors. Whether Hunt will still be around to appoint one of them seems doubtful – unless, in the words of Take That, everything changes.

Correction 26/4/12. The article suggested that Hunt's opposite number is Labour's Dan Jarvis. In fact Jarvis is shadow culture minister. The shadow culture secretary is Harriet Harman. This has been corrected.


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June 16 2011

Is Jeremy Hunt right about the Broadgate centre?

While there are more important things to worry about than the demolition of this overbearing bully of a building, there is some merit to the view that the best architecture of all periods should be preserved

So the culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has overturned English Heritage's advice to list the Broadgate Estate complex in the City. His decision will allow British Land (funded by the private equity group, Blackstock) to replace it with a 700,000 foot "groundscraper" designed by the Gherkin's architect, Ken Shuttleworth.

With George Osborne busy trying to cut a deal to resolve the "British dilemma" – the City v the rest of us – and the eurozone in turmoil again, there are more important things to worry about than the demolition of a building which you can examine on Google Earth here.

But buildings matter both functionally and aesthetically; good ones can make us all feel better – and vice versa. By coincidence I was in the City and beyond yesterday and it was not a pretty sight, especially not when you consider how much money floats around the Square Mile and Canary Wharf.

It was a drizzly night and the river and landscape looked as if they had been washed in a pale brown. Looking out from the Tate Modern after inspecting its new Miró exhibition, friends and I agreed what a depressing view it offered apart from St Paul's itself, still mighty and magnificent, and possibly – there was disagreement – the Gherkin, a striking building, which I rather like.

Oh yes, we also admired the formerly "wobbly bridge" which now links the cathedral (via some fine steps) with its secular rival, Tate Mod, once Bankside power station. "The building we're in is pretty good too," I remembered to point out. You can read about Sir Giles Gilbert Scott's fine 1947 design here.

But from the City of London School on the north bank below St Paul's – there is also a hideous car-park-looking building just upstream – past what I think I must describe as apartments built in the postmodern vernacular style (were they meant to be Tudor-ish?) on to the cluster around the Gherkin. Most of it looked very third rate or worse.

One of our party said they'd once heard the Queen say she'd opened one of them, the NatWest Tower, and had to pretend to like it. "Despite my republicanism I warmed to her."

By chance I took the Dockland Light Rail to the Excel conference centre earlier in the day – right past Canary Wharf – and the sense of dynamism, so much urban regeneration going on, was badly dented by the chaotic disorder of it all. Public or private, rich or poor, there wasn't much to admire visually and it all seemed to bear little relationship to its neighbours. I retain a soft spot for the boldness of the old Millennium Dome, now the O2.

Perhaps that's it. So much restless energy devoted to the business of making money. I remember my first visit to the Isle of Dogs with a German TV crew as the Canary Wharf cluster was emerging in 1989. Freshly back from living the US, I was being asked to describe how Britain looked to a returning reporter.

If it succeeds as a financial centre – it certainly did – folk won't mind too much, but if it's flop it will also be a dreadful dog's dinner, was my provisional verdict on the new office buildings and self-important riverside flats, which looked rather vulgar and still do.

Such a shame and, more often than not, it's the story all the way upstream. There's a dubious-looking block currently rising next to Kew Bridge, a sensitive site overlooking Kew Gardens, which will join some serendipitous, mostly ugly neighbours.

It's not all gloom. I haven't made up my mind yet on the Shard, the 1,017ftbuidling that is rising above Southwark opposite the City, but it's designed by Renzo Piano, who is one of the world's top architects and my hopes are high. Conservationists and Whitehall are insisting that very tall buildings must now be justified by the quality of design.

This particular stipulation came when John Prescott was in charge. In towns and cities all over Britain we are putting up much better buildings than we did in the 60s and 70s when the country was even poorer than it felt. But New York or Chicago it ain't.

So where does this leave the proposed Grade II listing for the Broadgate Estate building, now rejected by Hunt? I don't often walk past it (it's by Liverpool St station), but when I do I don't much care for it, an overbearing bully of a building erected in the "loadsamoney" 80s.

English Heritage and the 20th Century Society think otherwise and argue that the best architecture of all periods should be preserved. It's always a good point. For its part the City has long complained – it would, wouldn't it ? – that fuddy-duddy British authorities are too keen to impede the march of progress. That must sometimes be right too.

Two things to watch out for then. How much fuss will the heritage lobby make now that it's lost? There isn't as much fuss in today's newspapers as I might have expected. And how good will the new building be when the London staff of the Swiss UBS bank – almost 7,000 of them – move under one roof?

Sir Stuart Lipton and Peter Rodgers say it's an "environmental disaster" and the worst big building in the City for 20 years. With so much competition all around, that's a pretty bold claim, and the pair were the developers of the Peter Foggo building now being pulled down.

Foggo was forced to redesign it and unhappy with the result, City planners claim. His widow denies it. Lively times, but it will be too late to put it back together again if things go wrong.


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June 09 2011

Battle for City's Broadgate site hots up

William Hill giving odds that Jeremy Hunt will not save 'historic' 1980s complex from demolition for new UBS headquarters

Expectations have increased that furious lobbying from the City is likely to prevent the listing of the 1980s-built complex in Broadgate that has become a tug of war between financiers and conservationists.

For the first time bookmaker William Hill has opened a book on a building listing and is giving 4-7 that culture secretary Jeremy Hunt will not save the complex.

English Heritage last week recommended that the entire 1980s development, designed by architect Peter Foggo, be given statutory protection at Grade II* level, dealing a major blow to British Land's plans to tear down 4 and 6 Broadgate to make way for a new "groundscraper" building that would house a £340m headquarters for Swiss bank UBS.

Although the law states that the listing decision should be made on the basis of architectural and historic factors alone, Hunt is under pressure from the City of London corporation to ignore his official adviser and choose not to list it.

The City argues that the new scheme is vital to maintain confidence in it as a banking centre. Hunt's decision on Broadgate is due in about two months' time, after submissions from British Land, the local authority and other interested parties.

A spokesman for William Hill said this was the first time it had offered odds in a listing case. "We believe this decision will be as difficult to call as a photofinish but English Heritage needs to upset the odds to come out on top."

The City of London Corporation had approved British Land's 700,000 sq ft scheme, and building was to start this summer, with UBS planning to move in by 2014. The corporation's policy chairman, Stuart Fraser, is due to meet communities secretary Eric Pickles next week to lobby for the UBS building. He said: "The Broadgate buildings aren't worth preserving or listing. They aren't of great architectural merit. Listing Broadgate will send out the wrong message. UBS would probably give up. Eric Pickles is very keen on bureaucracy not getting in the way of economic development."

Catherine Croft, director of heritage group The Twentieth Century Society, which is campaigning in favour of listing, expressed surprise at the odds. "I think it is fairly extraordinary because it suggests that William Hill thinks factors other than the accepted criteria [for listing] may affect the minister's decision," she told weekly trade paper Building Design.

"City boys do like gambling of course but Hunt needs to make his decision on the basis of architectural and historic interest. It would be very wrong for him to be affected by any other factor."

Croft added that she believed there were many other locations in the City suitable for the proposed UBS building, which has been designed by one of the architects responsible for the Gherkin, Ken Shuttleworth of Make Architects.

The planned building, at 5 Broadgate, would boast four trading floors each capable of holding 750 traders and has been described by Shuttleworth as an "engine of finance" with a design resembling an immense machine-tooled block of aluminium.

A spokesman for Hunt's Department of Culture, Media and Sport, noted that it was responsible for regulating both heritage and gambling. "It is always good to see two areas of DCMS come together but, as we always say when it comes to gambling, don't bet more than you can afford to lose," he said.


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December 08 2010

Hunt offers £80m carrot to donors

Private donations to be matched by public money as culture secretary says 2011 will be 'year of corporate philanthropy'

The culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, today announced an £80m match-funding scheme to encourage private giving to arts organisations, and launched a review "to encourage philanthopy across the whole of government" to be completed next spring.

In a speech at the headquarters of the bank JP Morgan, Hunt said 2011 would be the "year of corporate philanthropy" and the match-funding scheme, in which private donations would be matched by public money, "will unlock at least £160m for cultural organisations over the next four years".

Cultural leaders and established philanthropists have long been pressing for significant reforms to the tax regime to encourage giving to arts organisations, and to simplify ways in which donors can be recognised and rewarded. The Conservative arts manifesto, published in February last year, promised reforms to tax including simplifying Gift Aid and extending the acceptance-in-lieu scheme, which allows individuals to offer works of art instead of paying inheritance tax.

No measures of this kind were announced in Hunt's speech, but he said: "The Treasury are part of this review. We have a chancellor who is more committed to the arts than any other in my political lifetime. He goes to plays and takes his family to museums and he cares deeply about the arts."

He added: "It is not just about tax but about attitudes to asking and attitudes to giving. We are trying to change the whole culture of giving."

The £80m will come partly from Arts Council England, which will contribute around £50m, and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which will contribute £30m. The Heritage Lottery Fund had been expected to put up money, but no contribution was announced.

A spokeswoman for Arts Council England said they had yet to work out the details of how the money would be distributed, but anticipated using it in three ways: to help arts organisations establish endowments; to match monies raised through fundraising efforts; and to offer specific help to small arts organisations who often lack the capacity and manpower to employ fundraisers. She was not aware that ACE would administer the DCMS's £30m, although a spokeswoman for DCMS confirmed this was so. The scheme is expected to start in April 2011.

Lord Myners, business secretary under the Labour government and a trustee of the Tate and Glyndebourne, said of Hunt's announcement: "I think it was lacking in substance. Fine words butter no parsnips. The key message was on match funding, yet the amounts seem yet to be agreed, the criteria for inclusion are not established and the kinds of funding are not clearly defined. The money looks as if it is existing money rebadged.

"What we need is a major commitment to the promotion of lifetime giving – the most attractive benefits of giving [artworks or artefacts to museums] come after your death, which seems a high price to pay. The acceptance-in-lieu-of-taxation scheme should therefore be extended."

He added: "The banks should show they are committed to rebuilding their reputation and public trust by offering the entire charity sector completely free banking, as part of Project Merlin," referring to the proposed scheme whereby the banks would offer £1.5bn to David Cameron's "Big Society Bank".

The shadow culture secretary, Ivan Lewis, said: "Today's announcement is all spin and no substance. There is little or no new money and a clear absence of Treasury support … These proposals will do nothing to protect arts organisations from the disproportionate cuts they face over the next few years."


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October 21 2010

Space savers

The government has taken the axe to public funding of the arts, while the culture secretary says he wants American-style philanthropists to step in. But what do the donors themselves think?

Dame Vivien Duffield is drinking a cup of coffee at a desk in her office in Chelsea. Short of stature and with a merry glitter in her eye, she is a forthright kind of person in her 60s. As an heir to her financier father Charles Clore's stupendous fortune, philanthropy has been a major part of her life's work. She is a munificent giver to the arts and what she calls "Jewish social stuff". She has given masses to big institutions such as the Tate, but when we meet she is excited about a "just fabulous" Arab-Israeli dancer whose training with the Rambert Dance Company she has funded.

"That was a relatively small amount," she says. "The bigger the gift, actually, the less moved you are." Why does she give? "Well, provided one has enough to live on, and you can fly first class, and have given your children a good education, you can give away the rest. There are only so many hot meals you can eat. Especially when you are as fat as me." How much has she given away? "I'm not entirely sure," she says. "Over the years? It must be well over 100." It takes my brain a second to supply the missing word: "million".

The idea of philanthropy has never been so important politically – particularly in the arts. As the axe falls on public spending, with Arts Council England losing 30% of its budget over the next four years and national museums cut by 15% over the same period, giving by individuals has been touted as, if not a cure-all, then something that can help staunch the blood-flow. Though some cultural organisations are adept fundraisers, others have hardly given it a go: the argument is that private giving presents a barely tapped source for arts funding. Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said: "If you said to me what is the one thing I could do . . . that would make a real difference to the arts, I would say it would be to help foster an American-style culture of philanthropy to the arts and culture here in the UK."

Hunt's views on philanthropy have not been universally well-received. Some argue that whereas well-heeled metropolitan institutions are likely to be able to afford skilled fundraisers, smaller and scruffier outfits in less well-off areas may be disadvantaged. Others have pointed to practical objections – US philanthropy comes from a completely different relationship between the public sphere and the arts: the US has a bred-in-the-bone culture of giving that we lack. Our system of tax benefits to donors, which Hunt has talked about reforming, is almost universally decried as bafflingly complex. Last week, Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre, put it like this: "I think people don't know what tax breaks there are and I don't think the Treasury wants people to know."

Hytner also talked about something else: a persistent suspicion in the arts of wealthy donors. Crudely put, the fear is that philanthropists are more likely to want to fund what Marcus Romer, artistic director of York's Pilot Theatre, described in a recent Guardian podcast as "safe stuff" rather than "edgy stuff". Money, of course, buys power, and that goes for arts organisations as much as anything else. Hytner thinks such suspicion is misplaced. In his experience, "philanthropists want big, bold, risky and new", he says.

But what do philanthropists themselves think? Why do they give to the arts? How do they see their gifts in relation to public funding? How do they think philanthropy can be encouraged?

I meet Vernon Ellis at the London Coliseum, the home of English National Opera, which he put £5m into restoring. He is chairman of ENO's board, and made his money at management consultants Accenture, from which he recently retired as chairman. Besuited and stiffly formal of speech, he gradually unbends as he talks about his giving. Was he not tempted to ask that the Coliseum auditorium be named in his honour? "It was offered, but I didn't think it was appropriate," he says. Instead, the company commissioned a bust of him, but when he became chairman, he asked that it be taken down. "It's in a cupboard somewhere," he says.

He gives because of the "personal satisfaction" it brings; aside from the contribution to the Coliseum, he likes to help young singers, and composers. He supported, for instance, the Opera Group's production of George Benjamin's opera Into the Little Hill, which, he says, "enabled something that deserved to be done to happen". He clearly takes great pleasure in having commissioned composer Huw Watkins to write a piece for the Florestan Trio. I reflect that there is nothing bland or conservative about his taste. "It demeans people to slobber over givers," he says shortly. "What I get from it is a sense of community and affiliation." He tells me of his reluctance to talk publicly about his giving. There is an ambivalence about rich people in this country, he says: an idea that somehow you might be giving for the wrong reasons. Damned if you do, damned if you don't.


All the philanthropists I speak to – from Judith Portrait, a solicitor who has given "north of £100,000" over the last decade to the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne, to Duffield with her nine-figure giveaway, have donated out of an evidently deep personal attachment to their chosen artform or institution. Portrait gives because she is mad about ballet and opera (with some exceptions – she shudders at the mention of Wagner) and is frequently to be seen at performances, though "not in the 'posh' posh seats," she says when we meet in her agreeably tatty London offices, tapping her nose sagaciously.

Sir John Ritblat, the property magnate, funded the Ritblat Gallery at the British Library (where some of the institution's most celebrated treasures can by seen by the public) after he went on to its board during its difficult birthing period. "It was the most wonderful, exciting time," he tells me, sitting very upright at his desk in Mayfair in a dark suit with a natty red hankie in his top pocket. "I'm a modest bibliophile, and to me a library is a heavenly place."

Nicholas Berwin, a former investment banker in his 50s, tells me he has given £100,000-£150,000 to about 10 individuals over the last five years or so, usually artists or composers – "emerging artists who've needed private patronage to help them reach the next level," he says. Deeply marinated in the arts, Berwin spends several evenings a week at concerts, dance, opera or theatre. He is selling an Andy Warhol self-portrait at auction in New York this autumn, its estimate $3.5-$4.5m (£2.2m-£2.9m or 20 times what he paid for it a decade ago), and with the proceeds intends to set up a charitable trust.

"There is a combination of circumstances and factors that has led me to have capital beyond the needs of a reasonably comfortable life, and I am not interested in developing a luxurious lifestyle. I am much more interested in encouraging the arts, which are an essential part of my life," he says.

Berwin bought that Warhol from Anthony d'Offay, who was the best-known London dealer in contemporary art from the 1960s until 2002, when he closed his gallery. In 2008, D'Offay sold his collection of 750 works of modern and contemporary art to the Tate and the National Galleries of Scotland for £26.5m – the cost price of the collection. At the time, its real value was reckoned at £125m, so his deal effectively meant the work was sold to the nation at a discount of 79%.

I meet D'Offay in his office, a wood-panelled, book-lined room above a shop in Mayfair. A small Warhol portrait of Joseph Beuys faces me as we sip perfumed Chinese tea. "Giving is what makes you happy: not a chalet in Gstaad or an Aston Martin," he says. His collection, called Artist Rooms, is designed to reach as many parts of the country as possible; next year, chunks of it tour to places from Llandudno to Orkney. His gift was born of the belief that art can be a transforming force, even a form of salvation, if you are allowed to get to it young enough. "Some of us have tough parents and difficult backgrounds, and culture can come and rescue you. As an adolescent, I would have been lost without literature and museums."

D'Offay is, like all the philanthropists I met, surprisingly strident on the issue of government funding. "Public funding is the lifeblood of the institutions, the rock on which we built Artist Rooms." He adds: "I'm interested in the concerns of a government that does zero to curb the excess of the City, and on the other hand is talking about culling the great educational resources that are of crucial importance to the national prestige."

Ritblat, true to his calling as a property developer, is "enraged" by the way governments can neglect the fabric of its public museums, recalling the Victoria and Albert Museum back in the 1980s and 90s. "I used to go and see buckets and water pouring through the roof," he says. "If they had asked me for money, I would have laughed."


Duffield thinks "charity ought to be providing the icing on the cake, and the government should be providing the cake. I've always thought we should be doing the stuff government can't – the interesting new production, say – not paying the core expenses." She adds: "The return on the arts to the Treasury is huge. Cutting the arts is going to yield a relatively small amount and do much more damage."

Surprisingly, perhaps, Ellis tells me he believes it is right to worry about the balance of arts funding changing: "If the majority of money is raised from philanthropy, we'd be poorer on the artistic side," he says. The American system "does inform the conservatism of some of the choices made there".

Duffield also believes that there is more giving to be done – and better. Proportionately, she says disapprovingly, "the poor give more than the rich", and "there is a lot of untapped money. Look down those lists of donors, and most of the names are Jewish. What about the Asians, the Russians?" Portrait cocks her thumb east: "I expect my colleagues in the City to give, but they're a mean old lot." There are wealthy people, says Ellis, who "fritter away tens of thousands on a holiday" and yet are reluctant to give.

Everyone agrees that the tax system must be simplified, but no one offers an easy way to tap more money from the rich: habits die hard. Meanwhile, the economic climate is not helping. "We're doing frightfully badly. We've got to cut back and prioritise," says Duffield of her foundation. In a time of general cutbacks, there will also, she points out, be more causes. "Can I really sponsor a new ballet when your local school is closing down its library?" she asks.

Wiry, energetic and fast-talking, Lord Stevenson of Coddenham, former chairman of HBOS, who resigned after the government bailout of 2008, flings himself into a sofa in his Westminster office. He is chair of Aldeburgh Music, which runs Aldeburgh festival, and he tells me he and his wife give away about a "tithe" of their income. We debate what I perceive as a problem with Hunt's thinking on philanthropy: that it is just much harder for small organisations in poor parts of the country to raise money. He disagrees. "Of course it's more difficult in Hull than Knightsbridge. But in the most far-off places there are always wealthy or high-income folk. Not enough arts organisations use their noodle, still less their shoe-leather to secure funds." It is within everyone's capabilities to "build up a list of well-off families locally, work out how they could form a syndicate to fund a production or exhibition, and hustle".

In a recession or out of it, arts organisations should learn how to sustain themselves. "My wife and I would no more give money to an organisation incapable of fundraising than jump over the moon," he says. I am still nervous about this: should our society not want to protect the people who can make art, instead of forcing them to become entrepreneurs or mini-development directors?

Still, soon people may have no choice. Necessity, as they say, is the mother of invention.


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July 27 2010

Arts funding cuts reveal the government's poor business sense | Daniel Bye

The arts are affordable and profitable, costing as little to fund as half a pint of milk a week per person. The government would be idiotic to cut them

Whenever there's an economic squeeze, the arts are first to go. Ministers such as Nick Clegg and Jeremy Hunt may endorse the defence of the social, cultural, even moral value of the arts, but they cut them anyway. So inevitable do reductions seem, playwright Mark Ravenhill has even suggested the best place to start cutting.

If they're so inevitable, why bother writing those defences? Because this time it's different. This is the first time artists have had access to sound, well-evidenced arguments for the economic value of the arts. It's no longer in question: the arts are affordable and the arts are profitable. If the government is interested in saving money, it would be idiotic to cut them.

First, the annual cost of British arts subsidisation is £0.47bn – roughly 0.07% of public spending. That's 7p in every £100, which equates to 17p per person per week or less than half the cost of a pint of milk. Cutting the arts budget would therefore save next to nothing, especially as the cost of the arts vanishes when placed alongside other government spending. According to Mervyn King, the Bank of England governor, the size of the bank bailout is "breathtaking" at close to £1tn. Not many of us even realise how big a trillion is. A million seconds takes 11.5 days; a trillion takes 31,709 years.

All right – it's not as bad as it sounds. Like the arts budget, some 60 million of us share the cost of the bank bailout. Divided evenly, then, we each shoulder a one-off payment of a mere £16,666.66. Bargain. At a rate of half-a-pint a week, that would buy enough milk to last you until the year 4780. If you think about the figure in terms of distance rather than money, the gap between our weekly share of arts subsidy and our share of the bank bailout is the difference between the height of a small book and the height of three Everests. In duration, it's the difference between the time it takes to read this paragraph and the time it takes to win the Tour de France. Including sleep.

Another fun factoid. Jeremy Hunt, the culture secretary, thinks the arts should be looking to philanthropy to fund the impending shortfall. Perhaps he's volunteering. As the fourth-richest of 22 cabinet millionaires (it was 23 before David Laws resigned), he can certainly afford to. The combined personal wealth of the cabinet would easily cover the Arts Council's £58m grants budget, used to fund work by new and emerging artists. Vive la redistribution! (Artists are having fun minting comparisons like these. To find more, follow the #artsfunding hashtag on Twitter. Or, of course, discover your own.)

Somehow I think we'd all feel more secure with regular subsidy paid for by less violent reshuffling of wealth. As would the exchequer. Of all the absurdities behind the potential cuts to the arts, the greatest is that they are directly, unequivocally profitable. In 2008, Arts Council England spent £100m on theatre; VAT receipts from London theatre alone were worth £75m. But hang on – everyone knows the arts lose money. How can they be profitable? Because Arts Council money is the thin end of a wedge prising open loads more investment. Every pound from the Arts Council buys several more – most of them directly contingent on that public subsidy. So the reality of a 25% cut from central government could result in something much, much worse, especially as arts organisations struggle to meet redundancy payments for staff they can ill afford to lose. (And yes, Mark Ravenhill, marketing and development teams are earning their keep, especially outside London.)

So the arts are affordable, and the arts are profitable. Of course, the value of the arts can't be measured in pounds and pence alone – and yet they're earning their keep in pounds and pence alone. The Tories like financial strategising, so let's put it this way: cutting something that makes money is simply a poor business plan.


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July 20 2010

Mark Wallinger gets the Tory vote | Maev Kennedy

Artist Mark Wallinger has a new client in Tory culture secretary Jeremy Hunt, who has chosen a work by him from the Government Art Collection (GAC) to hang in his office. Wallinger groaned when the Diary called to break the news. "That is a shocker," he said. "As an artist, it's very hard to vet your patrons – they generally drift rightwards as they get older anyway." Hunt picked him out from thousands of other artists and later tweeted: "Proud to say Mark Wallinger will soon be gracing my office after my visit this morning." Wallinger is a lifelong Labour supporter: when the Guardian invited artists to design campaign posters ahead of May's general election, his slogans were "Who can afford to go private?" and "What school did you go to?" The GAC owns three of his works, including two paintings from a 1990s series called Brown's: 42 sets of silks worn by jockeys riding for racehorse owners called Brown. Wallinger devoutly hopes that Hunt has chosen the third: a screenprint reading in large, clear letters Mark Wallinger Is Innocent.


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July 08 2010

The arts need a really big give

With deep funding cuts on the way, our cultural institutions must learn new ways of harnessing private philanthropy

Private donors to the arts were gratified to receive a letter from the new culture minister, Jeremy Hunt, last month. He thanked them, stressed the importance of personal philanthropy and asked if they had any ideas for its furtherance. In a year of deep cuts in government expenditure, espousing private philanthropy could be seen as a counsel of convenience, if not desperation. How much our national arts spend is to fall will not be clear until the autumn spending review. But we all know it will be painful. So, however convenient it may be to talk up private giving, it is also very necessary. And because Hunt and his colleague at the department, Ed Vaizey, have thus far displayed a genuine enthusiasm for the arts I'm going to take the minister at his word and offer a few ideas.

When the retiring vice-chancellor of Cambridge University, Alison Richard, was appointed, she found an institution that needed to raise money but which was damagingly fragmented. The colleges did their own, independent fundraising, while the university lacked a coherent rationale for its "ask". Richard launched a campaign for £1bn, where any gift to a college counted towards the total, and she developed a compelling pitch for the whole university. It has been a huge success, and the £1bn target is about to be reached.

The arts sector has much to learn from this. What it now needs is an overarching appeal to individuals that creates both awareness and momentum, allowing organisations to continue their own fundraising but with additional impetus. I help with fundraising at English National Opera. Over the past three years, corporate giving has declined steeply – a direct result of the recession. During the same time, individual giving, despite the depredations of the credit crunch, has actually increased. It shows the potential that individual giving represents.

Arts & Business, an organisation that promotes partnerships between commerce and culture, estimates that individuals gave £363m to "culture" in 2008-09. It runs The Big Arts Give, an initiative that this year is hoped to raise up to £3m. But what we need now is The Really Big Arts Give. It should target a number of milestones towards an annual £1bn over, say, 10 years. All personal donations made to organisations in the sector will contribute to the total. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England need to harness and develop the brand and marketing of such a campaign so that it really takes off. This would be a departure for two organisations that have traditionally been gamekeepers – they need to adopt a poaching mentality.

As a start, the government has wholeheartedly to encourage us to pay less tax to the Treasury. Gift aid means that charities can claim a further 20% (the UK's basic tax rate) back from the state on each donation. Higher rate taxpayers also get a personal rebate. But how widely is this understood? A professional fundraiser who has worked in London and New York says the tax advantages of charitable giving are far better explained and advertised in the US. In the current austerity you may think the Treasury is as likely to back such a campaign as Fabio Capello is to play Gerrard on the right wing. But if Jeremy Hunt genuinely wishes to increase philanthropy it is axiomatic that less tax will be paid. And a beneficial tweak to the system would be for gift aid to be an opt-out, rather than an opt-in, as it is at present.

David Willetts points out in his book, The Pinch, that the large baby boomer generation is retiring and has disposable wealth. The question is, how can more of them be persuaded to join The Really Big Arts Give? Many baby boomers' wealth is concentrated in their houses. Property values have inflated hugely over the past 30 years. Legacies would therefore be an important element. How about a nifty scheme to enable charities to realise the value of a legacy now? The major banks should agree to support this. Say a legacy of £10,000 is willed by someone who owns a £250,000 home. The bank could make the £10,000 available to the arts organisation right away, and charge a fixed 2% on the sum, payable by the person's estate upon death. Simple and painless.

We also need to find ways of leveraging the benefits the sector can offer to donors. Much of the marketing of O2, Vodafone and American Express is tied to exclusive offers for their loyal customer base. Arts organisations already do this. How much more powerful it could be with access to special events across the arts and cultural world: an arts donor card offering a wealth of lectures, private views and social events pooled by participating organisations. But for this to work as an incentive there needs to be a relaxation of the very tough rules attached to benefits received for donations – above a tiny percentage, gift aid is currently stopped. Donors should be able to receive, say, £1,000 of value annually before disqualification.

We have a complex set of motives for giving: we want to see a cause prosper; we want to belong; we enjoy being thanked. The more motives the better as long as donations are made. But DCMS could certainly do more to help donors feel appreciated. The recent letters were a good start, and an annual party in Downing Street for significant supporters (say more than £10,000 in a year) could be another valuable nudge.

None of this can, or should, replace proper government support for the arts – the mark of a civilised state. In his letter, Hunt wrote: "I am keen to ensure that through sustained support from both public and private sectors we enable artistic and cultural excellence to flourish." Cuts or no cuts, we must hold the coalition to the public bit. But in the meantime, we can all raise our game.


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May 21 2010

Into the unknown

After a decade of scaling new heights, the UK's arts institutions have been bracing themselves for drastic cuts. This week culture secretary Jeremy Hunt gave his inaugural speech. We asked leading figures for their response

Charles Saumarez Smith

Royal Academy

Given the disastrous state of the public finances, Jeremy Hunt's strategy is sensible: reassure the arts community by heaping praise on the achievements of the last 10 years; lever in extra public funding by restoring the lottery to its original purposes; and then do everything that can be done to encourage private philanthropy. Since the Royal Academy is in the unusual position of not receiving any public funding, other than benefiting from government indemnity, this strategy suits us well. However, there are two issues relating to private philanthropy which he did not address. The first is the mean-spirited regulations that govern benefits to donors. These mean that if, for example, someone gave money to support our Palladio exhibition, we could not invite him or her to dinner for fear of contravening the gift aid regulations. This is ridiculous. Minor benefits oil the wheels of private philanthropy. The second is the exact nature of the tax incentives which encourage banks in most European countries (for example, Belgium, Spain and Italy) to sponsor major exhibitions. Blockbuster shows are an underestimated part of the arts economy and have a big impact on cultural tourism. He should do all he can to support them.

Dominic Cooke

Royal Court Theatre

I was encouraged to hear that Jeremy Hunt, in his inaugural speech as culture secretary, cited Jerusalem as an example of how subsidising our cultural life is one of the best investments we can make in this country.

I do hope, however, that the new government will recognise that artistic excellence isn't achieved overnight. While some plays can be written in a few weeks or months, many, such as Jerusalem, are the result of years of work; and it is only with the intervention of a continued, sustained and appropriate investment in the arts that great art such as this will ever see the light of day. I look forward to discussing with Hunt the potentially disastrous effect that the US philanthropic funding culture could have on the UK, severely reducing opportunities for playwrights to be produced.

My fear is that the government will privilege the short-term kudos of the Olympics above the long-term nourishment of sustained arts investment. Subsidised theatre is the research-and-development wing of the UK's thriving creative industries. At the Royal Court, we run 10 courses for emerging writers each year, plus an international residency. Many of these writers, such as Polly Stenham (That Face, Tusk Tusk), go on to be produced in other theatres across Britain and the world. A few, such as Lucy Prebble (Enron, Secret Diary of a Call Girl), create high-quality television series that are successfully exported. Some, such as Joe Penhall, go on to write Hollywood movies (The Road). Several are studied at GCSE and A level. The directors, designers and actors we nurture become the lifeblood of the commercial theatre, which is a prime draw for tourism in the UK.

My one request is that the government facilitates new-writing theatres to continue making a valuable contribution to British life.

Robert Robson

The Lowry

Nick Clegg stated prior to entering into coalition that his party would like to see the arts protected from spending cuts and, in his inaugural speech, Jeremy Hunt has promised more lottery funding and a drive to increase philanthropic giving, both of which would be welcome and potentially beneficial.

However, the reality is that, as the culture secretary conceded, savings will almost certainly be required of the arts sector, and one would wish to remind the government that, in these circumstances, it is usually the artistically adventurous and ambitious projects that suffer most. There tends to be less visiting international work in tough financial times – certainly in respect of drama and dance, but also in the visual arts. Would we wish our cultural life and the picture we present of it to the world to become narrower, more mainstream, more inward looking, especially in the years leading up to the Olympics?

The reach of the arts in the UK hasbeen steadily increasing and improving with each passing year of late, including genuine engagement with some of our more disadvantaged communities. At the Lowry, we participate in the Centre for Advanced Training and Youth Dance England initiatives, which offer young people across the country and from a variety of backgrounds the opportunity to take part, and gain high-quality training, in dance. One can only hope that the funding of schemes such as these, providing access and skills development for young people, is sustained.

One request: I'd simply ask that, in any decisions about arts funding, organisations that balance artistic ambition with managing their finances responsibly are looked upon favourably.

Nicholas Hytner

National Theatre

Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey are genuinely enthusiastic about their brief. They have been explicit in their belief that a flourishing arts scene is an essential part of a civilised society. They understand that by investing in the arts, they stimulate the creative economy – by common consent the most successful and fastest growing sector of the economy as a whole.

So I hope that they will be passionate advocates for us as the new government addresses the deficit. I hope that they will point out to the treasury that for much less than one thousandth part of total government expenditure, they create not just well-being but jobs; that for the pittance saved by cutting a few percentage points from our budget, the damage caused would be disproportionately savage.

I hope they will take a leaf out of FDR's book: the US Federal Art, Theatre and Music Projects were vibrantly successful components of the New Deal and the conquest of the great depression. Actually, they could look closer to home: at the start of the New Labour administration, when spending was tight, Chris Smith pushed through an arts funding package that has led directly to an explosion of creativity and confidence, and an international reputation second to none.

I hope they fight for the money to make their jobs worth doing, because it's only with the money (a drop in the ocean though it may be) that they'll be able to do anything. I think they get it – I hope I'm right.

Iwona Blazwick

Whitechapel Gallery

I'm delighted that the new government has made a strong commitment to the arts, promising us sustained support at arm's length; offering us a foundation for funding but the freedom to produce a programme of great artists and educational projects.

The economic benefits of the UK's major museums and galleries alone are estimated to be £1.5bn per year – a figure that cannot be ignored.

Josie O'Rourke

Bush Theatre

One of the most appealing and canny virtues of arts in this country is our encouragement of new people. In my field our apprenticeships, both formal and informal, seek out and kickstart the next generation.

I've just come back from directing in America, where our assistant director, a brilliant and talented man, was older than me. This wasn't because he'd come to directing late, or underachieved in any way, but because, since graduating from college, he had been on the regular and dispiritingly slow climb to a career in the unsubsidised theatre. Lack of subsidy holds back the new and the young. In the past 10 years, I've grown through a traineeship at the Donmar, an apprenticeship at the Royal Court and an associateship at Sheffield into being the artistic director of the Bush Theatre, where we're working to identify the writers and artists of tomorrow. The opportunities I've been afforded, and can now make available to others, are a clear argument for the confident funding of the arts that has taken place in this country since I began as an assistant director 10 years ago.

It's this generous and incautious spirit that makes the arts in this country exceptional. If we break this virtuous circle now, we'll lose a generation.

Daniel Evans

Sheffield theatres

There were no surprises in Hunt's speech. Irrespective of which party won the election, cuts were going to be inevitable in every area of government spending – and the arts are no exception. Accordingly, those of us who work in the arts have long fastened our seatbelts, though we still don't know exactly how bumpy the ride will be. While it's good to hear that lottery funding for the arts will eventually increase to 20%, the faith in (and encouragement to rely on) income from philanthropy is potentially very worrying, especially given the gradual disintegration of individual giving in the US. It's all well and good proselytising about how wonderful an extra £5m in philanthropic donations would be for the National Theatre, but reports show that half of London's arts organisations showed a drop in their income from such streams in the past year. It's hard to allay suspicions that any emphasis on philanthropy is a foreboding of the end of government funding for the arts in the future. However, cutting administration costs seems smart, if it means that the savings can be spent on the art itself. There is a remaining, logistical question: how will the coalition collaborate in the sphere of the arts? Here in Sheffield, we've heard the deputy prime minister speak passionately about the arts. Indeed, we know he acted at university and that Samuel Beckett is his hero. It would be good to know that this passion and belief in the intrinsic value of the arts is informing the decision-making process. Finally, I cannot hide the fact that a part of me is pleased that there is at least one surprise in Hunt's appointment: we now have a culture minister who seems to enjoy going to the theatre.

Tony Hall

Royal Opera House

It's important to recognise that a decade of sustained investment in arts and culture has made Britain's cultural life the envy of the world and a significant contributor to the UK economy – £5bn per year. The global spotlight will be on us in 2012 and we can showcase just how culturally rich this country is.

This sustained government support has enabled organisations of all sizes to have a robust foundation on which to build, to become cultural entrepreneurs and find new revenue streams.

If there have to be savings, the question for both government and cultural organisations is: how do you make the savings without hitting the funds available to frontline arts organisations? It would be such a waste of what has been achieved to take money from where it counts – on stages and in concert halls and galleries.

Three things in Jeremy Hunt's speech gave me particular encouragement. First, he announced plans to restore the lottery to its rightful place funding arts and culture. Second, he talked of practical ways in which this government will encourage philanthropy. We look forward to conversations as to how this can best be achieved. Already the growth in cultural philanthropy in this country has enabled arts organisations to increase the quality and reach of their work. Finally, his proposal for longer-term financial arrangements. At the Royal Opera House we schedule up to five years ahead, and to have that sense of security would enable us to deliver even better value for money.

Seventy-six per cent of the population now actively participates in the arts; 96% say they will attend again. Arts projects have been proven to play an integral role in regeneration projects. We can see the difference the arts make – aspirations are raised, communities come together and lives are changed. This success story must continue.

Ian Brown

Yorkshire Playhouse

I want to be reasonably optimistic. The Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats both seem to recognise the importance of the creative industries and the value, both economically and socially, that the arts bring to this country. Jeremy Hunt seems to be passionate about maintaining and supporting the creative sector. However, I have some fears. Hunt has made it very clear that the arts will not be exempt from the impending massive spending cuts. A 20% cut to the sector could do enormous damage and make very little dent in the deficit.

I would like to remind our new government that there is no real substitute for public investment in the arts. That as attractive as private investment might be, philanthropists are thin on the ground outside London, particularly in the current financial climate. As for the idea of endowments, I cannot see how these could pay the kind of interest that would keep a theatre open. If grants become dependent on matched private funding, then the success of the last 10 years will soon be decimated and theatres closed.

I am reassured by his announcement that lottery funding is to be restored to the arts. This is vital to the growth and development of the industry over the next 20 years. There is a real possibility of a "double whammy" of cuts which could have a very serious impact on cultural industries. Therefore it is vital that local authorities and Arts Council England remain in close contact.

My big wish is that the government trusts the Arts Council to deliver and has faith in its knowledge and expertise. I am all for cutting spending where it is not required, such as on unnecessary administration costs and unaccountable quangos, and possibly trimming the cultural Olympiad (I don't think the country expects or wants an Olympic cultural event we cannot afford).

Finally I would like to say to Jeremy Hunt: remember that the arts are something the UK does brilliantly. It may also be an important part of keeping our society together through these tough times.

Dominic Dromgoole

Shakespeare's Globe

Even from the perspective of an unsubsidised theatre, it would seem perilous to the point of lunacy to lessen the amount of overall subsidy in our culture. The Globe manages to run an ambitious programme of Shakespeare and new plays, as well as a far-reaching educational operation, without a single penny of subsidy, yet all the skills, experience and passion that we build our achievements on would not exist without the subsidised network of theatres. It is long proven that the creative industries know how to turn a penny into a pound with more flair and efficiency than almost any other, an uncanny ability which they exhibit both in their own theatres and in the national economy. If the new coalition wants to be sophisticated about how it cuts, it would seem injudicious to cut in an arena that takes so little and gives so much.

Questions should be asked about where the subsidy goes, and they should be rigorous. Are we spreading money all around the country without bias? Are we satisfying all audiences, including, most crucially, those who are already interested, and not just the nonexistent fantasy audience of the Arts Council's imagination? Are we putting the money into the art and the artists, and not just into bloated, staff-happy infrastructures of arts administrators? And are we funding real risk and real adventure and real, ugly, awkward dissent, as we should be, and not spending large amounts on institutions which should be perfectly commercially viable on their own? To shy away from such questions at a time when others are having to make painful and difficult sacrifices would be self-indulgent. But if the process of asking and answering such questions did not reveal to any sane, unprejudiced mind the necessity and the virtue of subsidy, then I would eat my desk.

Liz Forgan

Arts Council England

The arts earn our living, but for 17p a week per head they also lift our spirits, challenge our dullness and make sense of the world. We won't get through the next five years as a sane nation without a functioning creative life, and public investment in artists and arts organisations is essential to that.

My fear is that a desperate policy of flat percentage cuts everywhere will do fatal damage to the new, the brave, the difficult and the unpopular. The government is determined to act quickly, but if there is no time to be skilful in the way we make savings we will be guilty of unnecessary atrocities. And if public money dries up it will be 10 times harder to sustain the support of the private sector, which is our essential partner. The arts have survived the recession extraordinarily well so far, thanks to this plural funding system and their own resourcefulness. Two years before a great Olympic festival is not the time to deal them a fatal blow.

My request would be to each and every member of the government to go out and actually experience an arts event, preferably somewhere that is suffering from industrial decline, poverty, depression, alienation, or social dislocation, and preferably in the company of someone under 12.

Jude Kelly

Southbank Centre

The cultural sector judges its government representatives on their knowledge, enthusiasm and willingness to speak boldly about why arts and heritage are fundamental to our society – and, when necessary, to thump the table to be heard.

Most politicians find it difficult to "come out" about their love of and belief in the arts, despite living in one of the most culturally active nations in the world. So the fact that Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey were effusive about culture while in opposition – and talked the talk so conscientiously – has won them many friends. We want Hunt and his team to argue for people's human right to participate in the cultural life of their community and to enjoy the arts. This should be a major consideration for the coalition government as it debates the ambition and practical scope of the "big society".

Victoria Sharp

London Music Masters

Jeremy Hunt's firm expression of commitment to the arts on all levels, from local to national, is enormously encouraging. In particular, greater support for high-quality grassroots educational efforts will provide the early inspiration which translates to lifetime aspiration in the broadest sense.

I am heartened to see the significant focus on voluntary and community efforts. These are vital in the undertakings made by many smaller arts organisations, such as the Bridge Project of London Music Masters, which provides music education in south London primary schools. Nurtured students and their communities of today are the audiences and community leaders of tomorrow. I have also seen how larger arts entities, such as the Southbank Centre and the London Philharmonic Orchestra, work successfully in educational partnerships with smaller, local organisations to this very important end. Equally exciting is the indication that more provision, not less, will be given to the arts. The nod to the enhancement of gift aid is a step in the right direction. However, a more creative approach to developing all-important philanthropic support would be a revolutionary development.

John Leighton

National Galleries of Scotland

The arts and heritage are devolved matters, so it falls to government in Edinburgh to show the lead in questions of policy and funding for the arts in Scotland. Nevertheless, the direction taken by the new administration in London is bound to have a profound impact on the arts sector north of the border. Will the new coalition government understand that we invest in, rather than spend on, art, culture and heritage in the UK?

The development of a vibrant museums sector has been one of the great British success stories of recent decades. The total worth of museums and galleries to the Scottish economy alone has been calculated at over £800m every year. With evidence of the benefits to urban and rural regeneration, of benefits to education, health and well-being, ministers, politicians and community leaders are increasingly aware that museums can be a part of the solution to many of the pressing social and economic challenges that we face in Scotland today.

Museums across the UK have been successful in attracting enormous support from the private sector. However, it is public subsidy that unlocks private support, and the whole-hearted commitment of government has been essential to attracting this extra investment. The Conservative arts manifesto was thin and unconvincing in this regard, with, for example, vague indications of a new emphasis on "endowments". The private sector will not rush to fill the void created by diminishing subsidies. The balance is fragile and the threat of a spiral of decline is not an idle one.

One request? Don't ignore the regions. In common with the rest of the UK, England is blessed with a diverse and high-quality museums sector that has been nurtured in recent years through excellent schemes such as the "Renaissance in the regions" funding. Commit to extending this.

James Grieve, George Perrin

Paines Plough

I'm not sure we've ever had a deputy prime minister who has performed in Krapp's Last Tape before now, so that's a positive omen. Nick Clegg's formative board-treading has left him in thrall to Beckett, and I hope that might signal an appreciation of the vibrant and flourishing contemporary playwriting culture that can confidently claim to be the best in the world. Trailblazing young talents such as Mike Bartlett, Alexi Kaye Campbell, Lucy Prebble and Polly Stenham are valuable exports to the commercial and international markets – all of them nurtured by the subsidised sector. Cuts to public spending are essential and unavoidable, and in Jeremy Hunt's pre-election words the arts sector will need to "take its share of the pain". But we urge the new government to be mindful that arts subsidy is the reason we're able to create outstanding theatre and to develop Beckett's heirs. As an industry, we have to help ourselves, too, and the political coalition is perhaps symbolic of a new spirit of unity. Here at Paines Plough we're co-producing this year with 20 other companies, we've started to co-commission writers with other companies and we're looking at creating a new small-scale touring network. All of which means we can make our public subsidy stretch much further. I'd urge Hunt to read Dominic Shellard's paper "Economic Impact Study of UK Theatre" (2004), which makes an incontrovertible case for the fiscal value of subsidised theatre in the UK. But the return on investment is not just financial. Hunt should ask Clegg about the life-long social and educational benefits of participating in theatre. It's up to the new coalition to sustain the UK's world-beating cultural offerings.

John Betty

ENO

The arts in the UK have for decades boxed above their weight and continue to pay for themselves through revenue from tourism, exports and the leveraging of private funding. My hope is that quality and artistic vision will be rewarded and organisations that are reaching out to new audiences and producing innovative work can continue to do so. Public subsidy should primarily support work that would otherwise not happen. It should enable organisations and artists to put their heads above the parapet, challenge their art forms and, in ENO's case, build relationships with smaller organisations such as Punchdrunk, Complicité, Fabulous Beast and Improbable.

My fear is that Jeremy Hunt and Ed Vaizey will underestimate the fragility of our big arts organisations and their crucial role in nurturing talent. Please continue to talk to us about this and how we are producing value for money. See for yourselves how we are very reliant on the goodwill and passion of gifted individuals. There is no fat; nothing to spare. Cutting will mean that the future Anthony Minghellas, Stephen Daldrys and Simon McBurneys of this world – all having learnt their trade in the UK subsidised arts sector – will simply not have the opportunity to flourish.

Sandy Nairne

National Portrait Gallery

Like everyone in the arts and cultural sector, I hope the new government can fully recognise the huge positive economic and educational impact of our work. Even moderate cuts in budgets would significantly reduce what we are able to offer to the public. I want to see the new government loudly celebrating the successes of the arts sector – subsidised and commercial, specialist and popular, alike. At the same time it is important to promote and maintain an appropriate degree of critical response, whether coming from young people, general audiences, arts professionals, or ministers themselves.

I would ask that the efforts going into the Cultural Olympiad and festival around 2012 are extended beyond the Games to give us major cultural development towards 2020.

David Pickard

Glyndebourne

I am delighted that Jeremy Hunt has recognised the importance of a mixed economy of private and public funding for the arts. This is central to Glyndebourne's business model. We could not maintain the artistic standards of our festival, which receives no public subsidy, without the support of our enlightened patrons and donors. On the other hand, funding from the Arts Council is crucial to our work in reaching new audiences through touring and pioneering education projects. The prospect of tax breaks for donors is welcome, but we do also have to accept that some of the most important and exciting work in the arts will never attract private support.

If I have one wish for the future, it is that Hunt's obvious enthusiasm will help to boost the arts higher up the political agenda, reflecting the contribution we can make to the broader government priorities of health and education. Let's celebrate the arts rather than apologise for them.


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May 19 2010

Hunt: arts cuts to be offset by lottery boost

Tory minister's inaugural speech woos arts community with promise of increased lottery cash – but admits the numbers don't add up

Maev Kennedy

The new culture secretary, Jeremy Hunt, has promised the arts unqualified love, more lottery money and a major drive to increase philanthropic giving – but spending cuts are almost inevitable, he admitted.

In his first public speech since taking up the post, delivered to invited representatives of quangos, museums, theatres and arts organisations at London's Roundhouse, the only solid promise of new money came from a commitment that arts, heritage and grassroots sport would receive an increased share of lottery profits, back to the levels they received when the lottery was founded in 1994. In return, all grant-givers, including the Arts Council, English Heritage and the Heritage Lottery Fund, would be expected to spend no more than 5% of their budget on administration costs.

Although he stressed repeatedly the limitations of what could be achieved in the current financial environment, Hunt reassured those in the arts community who feared disproportionate cuts. "What I can promise you is this," he said. "Culture will not be singled out as a soft target."

Another strand of Hunt's thinking emerged yesterday, when many arts organisations were surprised to get phonecalls from the department asking for the names of their top donors. Today Hunt revealed he would be writing personally to the biggest 200 philanthropists, in and outside Britain, thanking them for their support, urging them to continue, and asking for their ideas.

He also promised reform of the Gift Aid scheme, to make it simpler and less restrictive. But tax breaks for philanthropic giving, recommended years ago in the Goodison report, will almost certainly have to wait. There would be tough negotiations with the Treasury, Hunt said, but he admitted: "There isn't the money there for tax breaks now."

He also conceded that the likelihood of cuts in DCMS spending – and with it to the grant in aid to the Arts Council, English Heritage and the directly funded museums and galleries – would result in a gap in funding. "It is entirely possible that we won't be able to bridge the gap this year," he said.

Hunt's personal relish for his new brief was beyond question. "It is the most incredible privilege to do what I am doing," he said, adding: "I want you to know that this government's commitment to the arts goes right to the top." In his first five minutes he name-checked Picasso, quoted a poem by the Russian dissident Osip Mandelstam – not, he hoped, any relation of Lord Mandelson – and raved about both the play Jerusalem, and the anarchic cabaret La Clique, a show he saw at the Roundhouse.

"I wasn't thinking about creative exports or leveraged investment," he said. "I was enjoying artistic excellence. Art for art's sake. That is my starting point as secretary of state for culture."

He cited Jerusalem, which began at the small, subsidised Royal Court, went on to become a big money-earner in the West End and is to transfer to Broadway, as "a perfect example of how subsidising our cultural life is one of the best investments we can make".

He ended with words from the artist Grayson Perry, and also quoted the Guardian's chief arts writer, Charlotte Higgins, who threatened to break his legs if he hurt the arts – only hurt wasn't precisely the word she used. He promised he wouldn't.

Hunt also reassured many with a personal commitment to free museum admission – singling out the Labour secretary who introduced it, Chris Smith, for praise – and to the free public library network.

Hunt's ambition, he said, was to build more stable long-term funding for the arts.

Alistair Spalding, director of Sadlers Wells theatre, no doubt spoke for many in the room when he said to Hunt: "I am in a bit of a state of shock, because I more or less agree with everything you said."


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February 22 2010

'It is going to be tough'

Today the Tories launch their arts manifesto. Is it good news? Will its funding strategies work? Shadow culture secretary Jeremy Hunt defends it to Charlotte Higgins

Blog: Are the Tories nice or nasty for the arts? Have your say

The other day, I was chatting to the director of a major national arts ­organisation. "What do you think of Jeremy Hunt?" this person asked. "Because I think he's wonderful. Absolutely brilliant." It was like slipping into a parallel universe: Hunt is the shadow culture secretary, a Tory, for goodness sake. And it is one of Britain's articles of faith that artists, a handful of eccentrics ­notwithstanding, are on the left. So what is going on?

For the past two and a half years, Hunt, aged 43, has been diligently charming the British arts world with all the polite conscientiousness one would expect from a former head boy of Charterhouse with a first from Oxford (where he was president of its Conservative association). ­Considerably aided by culture secretary Ben ­Bradshaw's underwhelming performance, Hunt has been surprisingly successful. ­Despite his privileged background – his father was a naval officer and he grew up in Godalming, part of what is now his Surrey constituency – he lacks the Bullingdon club mien of some of his Tory colleagues. One of his tricks is to park himself at the front of a stage and address his audiences without notes. Theatre directors admit he is quite the performer.

This charm offensive reaches its climax today – with the publication of the Conservatives' arts manifesto. It has been, he tells me when we meet in a Portcullis House conference room, all about challenging the ­"assumption that Labour's good for the arts, and the Conservatives are good for ­business". A recent interview he gave to an ­in-house Conservative website put it more bluntly: "Part of my job is [...] to detoxify the Conservative brand." So that's what it's all about: the arts ­provide a forum in which to broadcast the idea that the Tories are no longer the nasty party.

So what of the contents of the Tory arts manifesto? In reality, the stated arts policies of all three major ­parties are strikingly close. It was former ­culture secretary James Purnell who commissioned, in 2007, the McMaster report, the most important Labour statement on culture in recent years. That shifted Labour policy away from valuing the arts in terms of how they might help ­fulfil social policy goals; instead, the arts were to be celebrated for their intrinsic qualities, and encouraged to strive for "excellence". That ­approach has been adopted by the Tories. ­"Excellence in everything the arts does" is one of the Tories' stated (if ­syntactically dubious) "core principles".

Hunt affirms his commitment to the principle, if not the level, of ­public ­funding. "People have had certain ­assumptions in the past about ­Conservative governments, partly because of some of the things that happened in the 1980s, and partly because of the tone of some of the debate in the 1980s that appeared to say public spending on the arts was something you might want to progressively ­reduce. That isn't where the modern Conservative party stands."

He adds: "I think it's disingenuous of Ben Bradshaw to say that arts funding is safer under Labour; the honest ­position to take is to say that it is ­going to be tough in every department." His promise is that the arts "won't be ­singled out", but he declines to go further. "We have no way of knowing what the state of the nation's books might be, and to guess a percentage cut would be ­dishonest." But, surprisingly, he does say: "I am ­confident that over the next parliament, we can increase the amount of money going into the arts."

There are two main strands to this claim. First, he says, the ­Conservatives will reform the Lottery so as to ­benefit its original good causes. With ­efficiencies and tax rejigs, he thinks it should yield another £40m per year for the arts – and, after the Olympics, "much bigger increases than that". This won't, however, be instead of regular funding: "The whole point of Lottery funding is additionality."

Second, Hunt has big plans for ­philanthropy. Organisations that take steps to build up an endowment (a large sum of money from which they can draw down interest as income) will be rewarded with longer-term funding agreements than the current three-year deals. As part of a bundle of reforms aimed to help ­museums, the ­acceptance-in-lieu scheme (which allows individuals to offer works of art instead of paying inheritance tax) would be extended. Gift aid, which gives tax relief on charitable ­donations, would be simplified. More than this, Hunt aims to engender a cultural shift. "We want to persuade people that ­giving is not just a duty, but one of life's pleasures. It chimes with David ­Cameron's ideas on social ­responsibility: if you have been successful, you should give something back."

There are problems here, not least in that it takes more than a government of a particular colour to change a nation's giving habits. In the US, endowments, an important income source for the arts, are in big trouble: failing to yield income in the current climate, they have left many organisations in crisis. "I so reject that argument," counters Hunt. ­"Saying that endowments don't work in the worst recession since 1931 is not a ­rep­resentation of what endowments can do for the arts over the next 30 years."

He adds. "I am under no illusion that this is a 20-year project. There will be no political dividends from this – at least until I am a grandpa." I ask him to sketch out what part he sees endowments playing in an ­organisation's finances. Say the National ­Theatre's income is £20m, he says, derived equally from the government, ticket sales and private donations: "Wouldn't it be great if they could get an extra £5m from endowments, so that the total income is £25m?"

Also problematic is the fact that certain arts organisations attract philanthropy more than others. In the US, high-profile outfits like the Metropolitan Opera act as magnets to the wealthy. A seat on the board of a glamorous museum or opera house is much more ­attractive to the rich than ­involvement in less glitzy establishments. My suspicion is that Tory policy favours – consciously or not – "posh arts". Tory temperament is inclined less towards, say, the avant-garde performance ­artist in a fringe venue. "That's exactly why philanthropy should never replace grant-in-aid," ­argues Hunt. "But if the Met can tap into all that wealth, then isn't it better that it should?"

In line with Tory rhetoric on other departments, Hunt is keen to see Arts Council England (ACE) and the ­Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) strip administrative costs "to the bone". He reckons ACE is "top-heavy" or "admin-heavy". He also believes that the DCMS ought to be in the arts policy "driving seat". "I want to see people with ability ­working for the DCMS and not ­thinking that the only place to go is ACE." Some ­Conservatives have, in private, ­expressed reservations about ACE chair Liz Forgan (who also chairs the Scott Trust, which owns this paper), because of her perceived ties to ­Labour. Hunt answers carefully: "We don't have an agenda to replace every boss of every quango who might be perceived to have Labour ­leanings. We will work happily with ­anyone willing to work with us."

It is traditional to enquire of MPs with culture jobs what film they last saw. In Hunt's case, there's no need: he recently wrote an admiring piece on his blog about An Education, which he and his wife Lucia, who is expecting their first child, went to see on Valentine's night. He has also tried his hand at art ­criticism, on the Van Gogh show at the Royal Academy in London.

What has he seen and hated? "Part of an otherwise excellent performance by Candoco dance company in which they mutated the national anthem into Hitler salutes. I thought it was tasteless and unnecessary." He is referring to the piece Still, by the respected choreo­grapher Nigel Charnock, a founding ­member of dance company DV8.

As for his theatre likes, he ­namechecks Gethsemane, David Hare's ­critique of New Labour; the National's hit War Horse; Jez ­Butterworth's ­Parlour Song (he says Parlour Games, but I know what he means) and ­Jerusalem. He enjoyed what he calls Doris ­Salcedo's "crack" (her ­Turbine Hall installation in Tate Modern), but a Dalí exhibition there proved "more ­challenging and I'm still not quite there with some modern abstract art". As for classical music, he says: "I am still early Schoenberg rather than late."

He says he likes poetry: "Osip ­Mendelstam and ... [he clicks his ­fingers] who's that woman Isaiah Berlin fell in love with?" At the end of the interview, he remembers: Anna Akhmatova. He liked Chaucer at school. "Whan that Aprille with his shoures soote," he quotes, and I follow: "The droghte of Marche hath perced to the roote." It's not every day you recite Middle English with a member of the shadow cabinet.

A game of pool with Tricky

At the end of the interview, Hunt brings me to his rather spartan office, and I search for more clues. There's a CD of bass-baritone Gerald Finley on the desk, a print of geishas by Koryusai (Hunt lived in Japan after university), and an 1808 ­Rowlandson and Pugin print of the House of ­Commons. "Only Tories have prints like that," he says of the latter.

Tony Blair once promised to write the arts into Labour's "core script". How important are the arts – surely a ­marginal electoral issue – to the Tories? And are there not, for every ­modernising Cameron, legions of rightwingers who would leave the arts to the vagaries of the market? "They are fundamentally important," says Hunt. "George Osborne gave a speech [last December] at the Tate about the importance of art for art's sake. We haven't heard Alistair Darling give such a speech. David Cameron has reiterated his commitment to the arts, and indeed Samantha Cameron's ­commitment, which shouldn't be underestimated as an influence on David." Samantha Cameron, a scion of the blue-blooded landed gentry, studied art at Camberwell and Bristol Polytechnic, where she used to play pool with Tricky (which somehow seems a very ­modern Tory combination of grandeur and bohemianism).

As we finish talking, I ask Hunt if he thinks his efforts to win round the arts world have succeeded. Trust in ­politicians is so low at the moment, he says, that it will all boil down to what we actually do. It will indeed. At the moment, the burning question is: "Is this guy for real?"

What the other parties offer

Labour

Since 2007, the government has had four culture secretaries: Tessa Jowell, James Purnell, Andy Burnham and Ben Bradshaw. Though no pre-election ­document on arts policy has been published, the most wide-ranging statement on Labour arts policy came when Purnell accepted the recommendations of the 2007 McMaster report. This shifted the focus away from "the achievement of simplistic targets" (on, say, social or ethnic makeup of audiences) towards "a focus on the quality of artistic ­experience". The watchword became "excellence".

In 2008, Burnham pledged schoolchildren five hours of culture a week, and announced a million free theatre ­tickets for under-26s by 2011; ­according to Arts Council England figures, 121,345 have been taken up. In 2009, he ­announced a new scheme for British cities to be dubbed capital of ­culture for a year. Bradshaw recently argued that arts funding will be safer under Labour than the Tories.

Liberal Democrats

This month, the Lib Dems set out their thinking in a document called The Power of Creativity. Unlike the other parties, they pledge to retain current levels of funding. They aim to strengthen the arts' role as a tool of "soft diplomacy" (with performances for visiting foreign ­dignitaries) and increase culture's ­visibility at No 10. National arts organisations, they say, must get out of ­London more (this was also a theme of Burnham's tenure at DCMS). Like the Tories, they want gift aid reformed and acceptance-in-lieu to be extended to lifetime ­giving. Local ­government is to be helped to use culture as a regenerative force.

Mark Lawson on how the last Tory government dealt with the arts

Thatcherites objected to the arts from various angles: political, class, moral and financial. These progressively overlapped. The critique was that money from taxpayers (through arts council grants and the BBC licence fee) was used to deliver material that was either filthy or leftwing or both. Why, asked the Tories, should we fund stuff that offends our values and attacks our principles?

So the strategy was to reduce the flow of state cash. Thatcher would make pointed visits to Glyndebourne, which funded its operas privately, while grants to the big institutions were mostly frozen or filleted.

The rejection of the "arm's-length principle" in which the state pays the bills but doesn't ­question the content, resulted in a series of attacks, either directly or through proxies such as Mary Whitehouse: Howard Brenton's The Romans in Britain at the National was attacked and there were challenges to some current ­affairs shows, such as ITV's Death on the Rock, which criticised the ­government over the shooting of IRA suspects in Gibraltar.

This punitive attitude (Thames TV lost its franchise largely because of that film) was tempered by the Major administration. But some aspects of Thatcherite policy – encouraging public companies to seek sponsorship and private cash, for example – remain prevalent 30 years later, regardless of the party in charge.


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