Maria Miller calls for arts to focus on economic case for funding

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Culture secretary Maria Miller has called on the arts to focus on making an economic argument for continued government investment in the sector.

In a keynote speech delivered at the British Museum today, Miller emphasised that the coalition government was committed to a “mixed economy model where targeted public funding will stimulate money from other sources”, but called on the arts sector to help her ‘reframe’ the argument for state funding of the arts to convince her government colleagues and the public.

She said: “I want to make it clear here, today, that I am fighting your corner as hard as I can within government. But for honesty’s sake we must be clear about the grounds on which this argument must be had and the points that will get traction, not in the press, but with my colleagues – and with the country at large.

“It is with this at the fore of my mind that I come to you today and ask you to help me reframe the argument: to hammer home the value of culture to our economy. I know this will not be to everyone’s taste but in an age of austerity, when times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture’s economic impact.”

Responding to Miller's speech Arts Council England chair Peter Bazalgette said that ACE welcomed the government's acknowledgment of the importance of public funding as "seed corn investment to help attract private money".

He added: "As well as arts and culture's crucial contribution to our quality of life, this is also an industry that delivers real economic value for our country. Research that we will publish in the coming days will demonstrate that, in return for less than one tenth of one per cent of government funding, arts and culture provides half a per cent of all employment in England and is one of its top 15 export products.

"As the Secretary of State says, we do need to make the economic case. And while doing so, we won't forget that it is not all about money. Every civilised society in man's history has felt the need to express and enjoy itself through music, through performance, storytelling or visual works of art. We are no different and the other vital return on the government's investment is that it enables this need to be met for many, not for the few."

Maria Miller's full speech is available here