Patrick Stewart takes arts campaign to Downing Street
Patrick Stewart, Maxine Peake, Samuel West and Penelope Wilton have delivered a letter to 10 Downing Street on behalf of Equity calling on David Cameron to organise an arts summit.
It marks the first time in almost 20 years that the union has taken one of its campaigns to the prime minister’s home.
The letter, which is signed by the four performers as well as Equity president Malcolm Sinclair and Christine Payne, the union’s general secretary, states: “Those working in the sector recognise that decisions about funding have been taken and that our task now is to do the best that we can to preserve the UK’s status as a world leader in culture and the arts during this period of budgetary restraint.
“Today we appeal to you to convene a summit of leaders in our sector to discuss with political leaders the way forward for public investment in the arts and to consider policies to increase this investment once this present period of austerity has passed.”
The letter states that the six signatories represent Equity’s 36,500 members and describes recent months as being “turbulent” for the sector.
Speaking to The Stage, Stewart said: “This is now no longer about the cuts – they have happened. I personally think, and this does not necessarily represent the opinion of Equity or the others who are with me this morning, that none of those cuts should have happened to the arts. The arts are an ongoing success story in the UK.
“We’re here to present a letter urging the prime minister and the government to co-ordinate a series of meetings which would begin to formulate a coherent policy for the arts in the UK [. . . ] In what way do they see the government being able to support, encourage and develop the success story of the arts.”
Silk actress Peake added: “Personally, not speaking on behalf of Equity, I am very concerned about this government, I am concerned that the strategy is just cut, cut, cut. I think it is a very bleak future we have got and all the unions have to pull together.”
General secretary Payne said that Equity’s delegation was different from the meeting about the future of arts funding convened by the Young Vic a fortnight ago. She said: “It’s slightly different because I think that meeting tended to accept the cuts as inevitable, we never have.” However, she added that both were forward-looking action being taken from within the sector.
Payne said: “Once the decisions had been made and we got a better understanding of what it meant, we thought we have to go to the highest authority, we have to go directly to the prime minister to demonstrate that, the decisions having been made, this isn’t the end of it. It’s the beginning because now we have to look to the future.”