Mark Gatiss has criticised “swingeing” cuts that he said are suffocating arts in the UK and preventing the development of talent from working-class backgrounds.
The actor and writer pointed to his own experience of growing up in the North East, arguing that many of the encounters with the arts he had as a young person are no longer available.
He said: “I am from a working-class background in the north east of England, and Darlington Arts Centre – which was my lifeline when I was setting out and was once the second largest arts centre after the Barbican – is gone now.
“Swingeing arts cuts have decimated the arts in this country, and unless there is representation, a lot of young people out there starting on this road will not have those opportunities.”
Gatiss was speaking at The Stage Debut Awards 2019, which celebrate emerging talent in the theatre industry and where he presented an award.
He told The Stage: “I feel very strongly about the way the arts have been suffocated in this country, they are such an easy target.
“If you don’t see that opportunity yourself you think, those jobs aren’t for me. I could never be on the TV or the stage. It’s very important to send a message, and that’s what’s exciting about this whole ceremony.”
Last month, fellow actor Samuel West – who is also the chair of the National Campaign for the Arts – wrote to prime minister Boris Johnson, warning of the impacts of austerity on culture.
He described the situation as “grim”, and claimed culture across Britain has taken a “bigger hit than most”.