Nicholas Hytner – ‘economic argument is not sole justification for arts subsidy’

Nicholas Hytner, who has won the annual Critics' Circle services to the arts award. Photo: Charlotte MacMillan
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Public funding for the arts should not be justified solely because of its economic benefit, according to National Theatre artistic director Nicholas Hytner.

Hytner said that the “economic argument” should not be the “primary justification” for spending money on the arts in the first place.

Speaking at a press conference at the National where he announced this year’s programme, he said: “I’m not saying that the reason for public investment in the arts is that it is an economically productive investment. That’s not why you invest in the first place. You invest in the first place because you have a vision of what kind of society and what kind of community you want us to be.”

The economic argument is one specifically for now, Hytner said, following the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s “explicit acceptance” that the arts contribute to the creative and tourist economy.

He said: “I do not want to misrepresent the argument for investment in the arts in the first place.

“The initial arts council investment is because these are things worth having and things it is worth spending an extremely modest mount of public money on. These are things it is worth giving the tax payer back in return for the taxes they pay.”