Chancellor: Public Investment Crucial to UK's Creative Success

January 20, 2016

Chancellor George Osborne told the Federation’s First Anniversary Celebration that the Government had “put money where it counts and where it says a lot about our country” when it decided to invest in culture.

Speaking to a packed crowd of more than 500 guests at Television Centre, west London, he said: “One of the big choices we have made is to invest in the arts.”

The Chancellor was the key speaker at the event which was attended by leaders of the UK’s arts, creative industries and cultural education – having given endorsement to the Federation and the creative industries at its launch a year ago.

He said there was a “big role” for public investment alongside private money and commercial success from ticket sales. “That’s always been part of the unique British mix.”

“When we made the decision just a month or so ago not just to increase spending on the Arts Council and on our national museums and galleries at a time when we were cutting spending in other areas, it was a conscious choice,” Mr Osborne said.

“When we made those choices I would like to pretend to you I was sitting there as your finance minister looking at the pounds and pence of the return that you get. It’s true that if you do look at the pounds and pence return you get for investing in the arts, it’s pretty impressive. You put money in, you get money out as a country.”

But he said: “ It’s not simply an economic calculation because there are other investments you can make.  It’s also an investment in who we are as a nation. Art for art’s sake is something I think is very important. And it’s not just about reports that say how many people work in that particular sector that I think should sway our decisions. We wanted to put money where it counts and put money in something that I think says a lot about our country.”

Mr Osborne offered “a big thank you” to arts and creative leaders for the choices they made in creating great works of art in a period of “incredible creativity” to rival the ambitions of the Sixties when the country was dominating world culture.

There was an “amazing” list of statistics on the UK’s creative success story. A fifth of all film awards in the world go to British films, the best play on Broadway is The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time based on a British novel, and Adele is the biggest selling singer in the world, he said. “That’s not bad for a country that has one per cent of the world’s population.

Opening the evening, Federation chief executive John Kampfner stressed the importance of the arts and creative industries at the heart of British life and what defines the country internationally. “It is the centrality argument - that the arts and creative industries are not something soft you do on a Saturday night. They are the heart of everything we do, of every community and individual’s well being. 

“For so long, perhaps because each discipline was operating in its own silo, the sector did not have the heft it deserved. We hope that, working in partnership with others – as may have been evident in the run-up to the Chancellor’s spending review – we have begun to address that.”

Katie Derham, BBC broadcaster and Strictly finalist, compered. There were performances from the Richard Alston Dance Company, performance poet Hollie McNish and the band Coasts.

The First Anniversary Celebration was supported by: BBC, Bloomberg, Google, SME London Ltd  and Stanhope.

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