Nick Ahad: Our theatres are riding the cuts but investment in our culture is vital

With the always controversial Turner Prize announced this week, the arts are in the headlines again. It can sometimes seem that only when there is controversy do the arts appear in the news pages. Let's tackle that.

Word reaches me this week of an story unlikely to make many front pages, mainly because of a lack of the aforementioned controversy. It is, however, worth sharing: &Co is a Leeds-based cultural marketing company which has announced this week that in the last year a group of 13 leading Yorkshire theatres have seen more than two million people through their doors and seen those two million people spend more than 32m on tickets.

House Lights is an &Co project set up in 2005, designed to record theatre visitors in Yorkshire on an annual basis. The project allows theatres to compare their year-on-year performance not just within their organisations, but with other similar organisations too. That way York Theatre Royal, for example, can see how it's performing against West Yorkshire Playhouse and Bradford Alhambra against the Grand Theatre in Leeds.

As useful as theatres might find the information for business purposes, we can take interest in the findings too.

According to &Co "this year's report confirms Yorkshire's strong reputation for theatre... ten per cent of households come to Yorkshire theatres from outside the region".

At this time of year many families will be making an annual visit to the theatre to see panto – and that's great. What many of those families, who only make one visit each year to the theatre, might not realise, is that they are a vital part of a whole ecology that really is worth celebrating.

People come from outside of Yorkshire to visit our theatres. Consider that for a moment.

West Yorkshire Playhouse's A Christmas Carol, York's annual panto, Stephen Joseph Theatre's Christmas shows – these are things produced in our region that bring people into Yorkshire, where they spend money and fuel the economy.

There's been far too much doom and gloom this year when discussing our theatres – and with good reason. They are riding out the cuts at the minute, but next year some organisations will go to the wall, make no mistake.

Investment in our culture is vital – Yorkshire Sculpture Park's fantastic news of new investment (see Page 4 for details) shows that there are some organisations out there that understand that money for the arts is not a subsidy, but a key to supporting a whole infrastructure, one without which we would all be much poorer.

The two million people who came to our theatres last year know that. It might not make headlines, but isn't that worth celebrating?