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Arts Council chair Nicholas Serota defends ‘very small’ funding pot

Nicholas Serota. Photo: Hugh Glendinning Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England. Photo: Hugh Glendinning
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Nicholas Serota has justified Arts Council England’s £622 million annual government funding, saying that it is a “very, very small” investment.

Responding to a question about opposition to ACE’s public funding, Serota told BBC Radio 4’s Front Row programme that the figure “is a large sum by anyone’s standards, but it’s a small sum in the national budget”.

In his first interview since taking up the role of ACE chair, Serota said: “When you look at what it creates in terms of enriching people’s lives, when you look at what it creates in terms of economic benefit, when you think about the international reputation of British artists and arts organisations across the world, it’s a very, very small investment.”

He added: “The last chancellor of the exchequer declared it as such in parliament, saying that it was one of the best investments he made.”

Presenter John Wilson also asked whether Serota, “as a white, middle-class male, the epitome of someone from the core of the arts establishment”, was the best person for the job. The former Tate director replied: “It’s worse than that, I’m a white, middle-class, male Londoner.”

Highlighting the fact that the arts sector “lags behind the banks and major sectors of industry” in the diversity of the people running organisations, Serota said: “If, as at the Tate, I hand over to someone in Maria Balshaw who represents both a new generation and is female then I will have done my job. I can’t do everything but I might be able to do that.”

The interview came on the day that Serota made his first public speech as Arts Council chair, in which he announced a major new research project into the impact of arts and culture on children.

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