Survival strategy needed to tackle “arts emergency”, says Labour

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Cultural organisations are currently experiencing an “arts emergency” and are in need of a survival strategy led by the government, shadow culture secretary Harriet Harman has said.

Speaking today at the first major debate in the House of Commons on the arts and creative industries in more than five years, Harman said that regional organisations are suffering the most because the majority of their funding comes from local government, which is being “slashed”.

She said that celebrating the success of the arts should not “mask the reality” that the sector is facing a difficult time, especially for smaller organisations and those outside London.

Harman said: “The situation is so difficult that we have to forge a survival strategy for the arts. This is work for a broad-ranging coalition including the arts council, local government, the arts community and central government.”

The shadow culture secretary claimed that “no-one” in the arts believes that the DCMS is providing a “continued strong lead” on this at the moment.

Urging culture secretary Maria Miller to take the lead and defend the arts, Harman said she must ensure that a clear, confident strategy is delivered.

A coordinated effort from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, the Department for Education, and the Treasury is needed, said Harman. She also called upon the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills and the Department for Communities and Local Government to join forces with them.

She argued that this effort must ensure young people have access to arts education through school and apprenticeships. It must also include developing funding infrastructures for cultural organisations.

Harman added: “Britain's creative talent is a precious natural resource and must be protected – so the government must get off the fence and rigorously enforce intellectual property rights.”

Referring to recent claims that the DCMS might be dismantled, Harman said: “Britain's arts and creative industries are important for our future. They must have unequivocal backing from the government, and a strong secretary of state with a seat at the cabinet table.”