Actor and National Campaign for the Arts chair Samuel West has written an open letter to Boris Johnson, warning of the “grim” impacts of austerity on culture and urging him to recognise its importance to the UK.
West explained to the new prime minister that sustained cuts to the arts has meant its infrastructure for future talent has been “hollowed out”, and that there is a real chance of collapse unless new investment is found.
His letter addresses issues such as Brexit, declining arts education and local authority funding, and invites Johnson to discuss the “devastating decline of public sector investment” and its impact on the industry.
“It’s a grim picture. Arts and culture have so much to give, and have had so much taken away,” writes West, who has chaired the lobbying group since 2012.
The letter claims that culture has “taken a bigger hit than most in the drive for austerity”, and says: “Government tax relief of film, theatre and orchestras is very welcome, but it’s no substitute for sustained investment of the kind that made possible your pride in our world-leading creativity.”
It describes the falling numbers of young people studying the arts as one of several clouds on the horizon.
“We have to ask: ‘Where are the next generation of British world-beating creatives going to come from?’ Of course, it’s not just the arts sector that needs creative thinkers – engineering and science are crying out for them as well.”
West’s letter also makes an appeal for Johnson to recognise the arts’ role in society.
“In a divided country, the arts are social glue. Through the arts we become happier, healthier, more ourselves. We become a nation,” he says.