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Rufus Norris: Theatre professionals must lobby to protect public arts funding

Rufus Norris outside the National Theatre. Photo: National Theatre Rufus Norris outside the National Theatre. Photo: National Theatre
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National Theatre director Rufus Norris has called on the sector to lobby the government to protect funding of the arts.

He said there was a tendency for people outside the arts to think that cultural bodies “suck up a load of subsidy” and said the industry would only get the respect it deserves when the government fully appreciated how important the arts are economically.

He was speaking as a new season of work was unveiled for the National Theatre, which includes a new verbatim piece inspired by the EU referendum result.

In an interview with The Stage, Norris said he was concerned about arts funding.

“It’s really important that we lobby and make the case for the creative industries. When we’re talking with any government whose first priority is to balance the books, [we have to] to make the argument that the creative industries are of enormous benefit financially, full stop. That’s just a really simple argument. London is a huge tourist draw, and all over the country our creative industries are one of few areas in which we remain world leaders,” he said.

He added: “People who are outside the arts just think we suck up a load of subsidy and that’s a load of crap. We contribute massively and the more the chancellor, the government and the rest of the country understand that contribution, the more the arts will be given the respect they deserve.”

Norris also expressed concern about the state of arts education, claiming that creative subjects were being “shoved under the carpet or pushed out the back door”.

He lamented the lack of trained drama teachers and said: “One of my brilliant associates recently pointed out to me that, if you’re doing a science subject… your teacher will have the answer to the question you’re looking at. In the arts, from the very beginning to the very end, your teacher will never know.”

As part of his new season, Norris has announced a project called My Country: A Work in Progress. It is based on interviews the NT has conducted in response to the EU referendum result. Norris has created it with Carol Ann Duffy.

“This is the biggest story thats happened to our generation, it will affect all of us. Crucially, it’s still being worked out now. If any of us believe they have a coherent plan at the moment, then we’re naive. That means that it’s really important that we as a society discuss it now,” he said.

The season also includes Olivia Colman in Mosquitoes and a new production with Headlong, called Common, about the industrial revolution.

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