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Equity and UK Theatre lead pre-election arts lobby

Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Johan Persson Nicholas Hytner. Photo: Johan Persson
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Cultural figureheads are lobbying for the arts as the race to Downing Street gets under way.

Industry bodies including Equity, UK Theatre, Drama UK and Dance UK have joined leaders including former National Theatre director Nicholas Hytner in issuing rallying calls on the next government aimed at strengthening the sector and ensuring its growth. Pleas include protecting funding for the sector, prioritising the arts in line with science, technology, engineering and mathematics subjects in schools, and ensuring the Department for Culture, Media and Sport is retained by the government.

Screen Shot 2015-04-01 at 17.05.18Hytner was part of an advisory board behind a new independent report called Leading the Field, which calls on the next government to “strongly champion the intrinsic value of the arts”. It makes a number of recommendations including carrying out a review of how arts funding is distributed between London and the regions and ensuring governing bodies of creative organisations are diverse, with an equal number of men and women. It also states there should be no further grant-in-aid reductions to bodies such as Arts Council England and that tax reliefs for the theatre sector should be maintained.

Although commissioned by Labour, it is hoped the report will inform decision making whatever the political make-up of the next government.

The report was written by former UK Film Council chief executive John Woodward, who said the current government had “diminished publicly funded cultural activity”. He added that “over time there should be a clear commitment to sustain and reinforce state support for the cultural offer”.

Meanwhile, industry body UK Theatre has outlined some “practical suggestions about how the UK government could safeguard theatre and ensure it plays an even greater cultural, economic, social and educational role”.

The organisation suggests that Gift Aid should be extended to cover tickets for charitable arts events, and calls for a fund rewarding local authorities that support cultural activities in their areas.

UK Theatre also calls on the Treasury to compensate for any drop in Lottery funding for the arts.

Elsewhere, Equity has urged its members to lobby prospective MPs over how they plan to reverse cuts that have been imposed since 2010, and how all sections of society can be represented on stage and screen.

The Federation of Entertainment Unions, which includes Equity, the Musicians’ Union, and BECTU, is also doing a series of public arts hustings around the country that will be attended by key politicians. These begin on April 9 in Manchester, with other dates in Cardiff, Birmingham, Glasgow and London.

Elsewhere, Drama UK has written a letter to the leaders of the main political parties – David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg – calling on them to pledge “contained sustainable funding for vocational training in the performing arts sector”. The body says this is required to “provide an exceptionally skilled and more richly diverse workforce in the future”.

Ian Kellgren, Drama UK chief executive, said: “To improve equal opportunities for all into careers in the performing arts… the right level of rational and equitable financial support for drama schools needs to be maintained. Any proposal by any government of whatever colour that works against this will cause irrevocable damage to our ability to supply a world-class, highly trained and increasingly diverse workforce on the international stage.”

Dance UK has also issued its own manifesto aimed at getting MPs to champion the art form and to ensure that it receives the same status as music, maths and English in education. It also calls on politicians to act to “harness the proven health and well-being benefits of dance to communities”.

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