Leading philanthropist: ‘Arts must make better case for private cash’

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Arts organisations need to better articulate the regeneration benefits they can bring to town and city centres when approaching private donors, according to a leading philanthropist.

Michael Oglesby, the founder and chairman of commercial property company Bruntwood, which is behind the Bruntwood Prize for Playwriting and a major supporter of the arts in Manchester, has said it is the responsibility of arts organisations to make businesses understand the revitalising effect that culture can have in towns and cities.

He told The Stage: “It is up to arts organisations to make sure that the businesses truly realise the role that they play in that society.

“There are too many [towns and cities] that don’t understand that unless a society has the breadth that the arts organisations bring then it is always going to be a narrow society and it’s going to preclude many activities that would in fact be part of regeneration.”

Northern town centres in particular are often said to be “deteriorating,” Oglesby said, adding that arts organisations should take part in changing this, and avoid being viewed as existing in an “ivory tower”.

He said there is starting to be “an understanding that the arts have a role to play in rejuvenating town centres, bringing families and the sort of people back into town centres which they desperately need, and in providing more than just retail – providing a whole experience – which is very important to the life of a town centre,” he added.

The philanthropist also suggested that prominent regional cities worked hard to become “beacons” of artistic excellence to attract private funding. He said this approach would help to increase the amount of philanthropy outside London.

“It’s first and foremost up to major cities to make themselves beacons that are going to attract the best and then spread it out from there… Arts organisations cannot expect to be supported unless they are good.”

The Bruntwood Group was the winner of The Stage award for special achievement in regional theatre in 2007 at the Theatrical Management Association Awards, now known as the Theatre Awards UK. The Manchester-based company was recognised for its charitable work and financial support of the arts.