MPs will be looking at Arts Council England’s funding decisions in a Westminster Hall debate on Wednesday 18 January.
The Musicians’ Union is briefing MPs in advance both individually and through the Performers’ Alliance All Party Parliamentary Group – a group of MPs and Peers interested in the work of and challenges faced by MU, Equity and The Writers’ Guild members.
Here’s a run through some of the key facts, figures and union talking points, which you may find useful in your own conversations about arts funding with friends, colleagues and decision-makers.
Key facts and figures about arts funding
- Arts Council England (ACE) announced major cuts in public funding in November 2022. These decisions put good quality, unionised full time employed and freelance jobs at risk during a cost of living crisis.
- Government funding for the arts is down 46% in real terms since 2005.
- 49% of musicians are now considering leaving music. Highly skilled and trained musicians who have played in affected organisations will not be easily replaced if they do leave the profession: this level of playing takes many years to hone, and requires strategic long-term investment at all levels of music education and the music industry across the UK.
- While the Musicians' Union supports increased funding for arts organisations outside London and celebrates the new and additional funding given to a diverse portfolio of organisations, “levelling up” should not involve destroying other cultural institutions.
- Arts funding should be seen as a lucrative investment:
- The music industry contributed £58bn to the UK economy in 2019
- The arts and culture industry directly generated £28.3bn in turnover and £13.5bn in GVA in 2018
- The creative industries contributed more than £111bn to the UK economy in 2018 – almost £13m an hour or £306m every day.
- International tourism in London generates millions for the UK's economy and money invested in the arts brings a significant return overall.
- Many of the cuts undermine the Government’s “levelling up” agenda. For example, Glyndebourne has announced cuts to touring in 2023. This means that organisations and local economies currently supported by larger bodies will lose out on this support.
- For the MU, many of the organisations that support good quality, full time jobs and where the MU has collective bargaining agreements have not been well served in this ACE funding round. This will undoubtedly affect the standards of pay, making an unlevel playing field even worse and further damaging the idea of “levelling up”.
- It appears that ACE was instructed to remove funding from London by the previous Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, which seriously undermines ACE’s integrity as an arm’s length body.
- Where ACE National Portfolio Organisations are at risk of being cut or defunded, the MU argues that there should be longer notice periods given in future.
- The UK’s world leading arts sector needs more investment, not less, to keep it world leading and protect the working people at its heart.
Details of the funding cuts
If you’ve been following the news, opt in to the MU’s weekly member newsletter or follow the union on social media, you will already be aware of cuts to English National Opera and the campaign to protect it.
ENO is set to lose £12.8m from its annual funding and instead will receive just £17m over the next three years to “develop a new business model.” The announcement was accompanied by the recommendation that the organisation relocates from London to Manchester by 2026 – an area already covered by Opera North, which has a presence in Manchester.
The funding cut announcement is particularly shocking as ENO has exceeded many of the success criteria set for it by ACE in terms of young audience growth, increased diversity and representation, and financial stability. Its outreach work includes ENO Breathe, a programme helping people recover from Covid 19, which is available through 85 NHS Trusts.
While it has just been announced that ENO will get some National Lottery for the financial year starting in April 2023, this only gives the workforce one year’s reprieve. There is still a huge amount of uncertainty regarding ENO’s future, and the campaign to protect it continues.
Britten Sinfonia has also lost its annual grant of £400k, putting the organisation at risk. It currently serves the east of England, which is not otherwise well provided for, and has a number of highly valued community programmes in schools, prisons, hospitals and marginalised coastal communities.
Glyndebourne’s 52% cut from £1.6m to £800k a year has meant that the organisation is no longer able to tour as planned in 2023.
ACE funding cuts also affect the following organisations and their National Portfolio funding, which has been cut: Welsh National Opera (33%), London Sinfonietta (41%), Royal Opera House (13%), London Philharmonic Orchestra, London Symphony Orchestra and the Philharmonia (12%).
It’s not just funding cuts that threaten the future of music in the UK. City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO) has seen standstill funding, which over the years has led to a serious squeeze on the incomes of musicians and many unfilled seats in the orchestra.
In fact, across the Midlands region, freelance orchestras have not seen the uplifts the Union would have hoped for. Sinfonia Viva (Derby) for instance has seen its funding remain static and Orchestra Of The Swan (Stratford) was turned down altogether. There are huge swathes of the region that get no ACE funding for orchestras.
The MU will be campaigning for arts funding across the UK in the coming months
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