‘Government must recognise business value of arts funding’

Brent Woods, chief executive of The Media Centre, Huddersfield (Picture: Matt Roberts)Brent Woods, chief executive of The Media Centre, Huddersfield (Picture: Matt Roberts)
Brent Woods, chief executive of The Media Centre, Huddersfield (Picture: Matt Roberts)
Arts and culture projects are essential to business and must not face further funding cuts, the chief executive of The Media Centre has said.

Brent Woods, head of the not-for-profit centre that supports creative and digital businesses in Huddersfield, said art helps drive innovation in wide ranging sectors, including engineering and manufacturing.

Since 2010, Arts Council England has had its Government grant cut by 37 per cent. Many local authorities have slashed arts funding due to austerity measures.

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Mr Woods said there are real concerns about the impact further cuts could have on towns like Huddersfield and the businesses within them.

He said: “We worry arts and culture is at risk, especially in smaller towns.

“It’s not just important to the creative industries. Whether you’re in the film and music industry, or you’re developing apps and software, whether you directly realise it or not, innovation and creativity comes from artists.

“There are some business people who think that’s a bit fluffy, but I absolutely believe that without it, culture doesn’t stimulate new ideas.

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“Businesses need to understand how important arts and culture is. Not just to their Saturday nights out, but to the bottom line of their businesses and the innovation they’re able to produce.”

While the Government has taken steps to boost some arts-related sectors, including offering tax credits for the film and gaming sectors, it should go further in its funding for the wider arts, he said.

Mr Woods said: “I do believe the state should fund arts and culture. It’s a great investment.

“Internationally, the UK is incredibly well known for its creativity and innovation, whether it’s in engineering, manufacturing, technology.

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“I think that is absolutely in line with our international standing for arts and culture.

“Our music, our film industry, our architects are world-leading. Those two things are absolutely linked and we mustn’t lose sight of that. And I would hope the Government doesn’t lose sight of it.”

In future, businesses may have to fill the public funding gap for culture, he added.

He said: “Maybe we do need to think about businesses coming together to find new creative ways to make sure that arts and culture funding isn’t just completely lost.”

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The Media Centre is the trading name of not-for-profit Creative Media Centres Ltd. Based in Huddersfield, it supports almost 200 businesses through its office space, services and events.

Its remit is to increase the size of the creative and digital sectors in the town, through business and education engagement.

In addition to supporting business clients, The Media Centre works extensively with young people, through schools, colleges and University of Huddersfield.

Its Code Club, which launched in October, introduces nine to 11-year-olds to programming through free sessions.

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Mr Woods said businesses and schools must engage to ensure future skills challenges are met.

He said: “Among our clients, one of the main barriers they have is getting the skills they need, especially in the digital sector.

“Businesses are waiting for the schools to come to them and say, ‘will you work on this’. I suspect in many cases, schools are a little bit nervous.

“There’s a sector divide between schools and business, but once it’s on a personal level and they’ve met that business leader, that relationship continues.

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“It is just making that introduction. That’s a really important part of what we do.”


George Osborne yesterday acknowledged the role art and culture plays in the UK, labelling it “one of the best investments we can make”.

In his Autumn Statement, the Chancellor said £1bn a year in grants adds a £250bn to the economy.

Despite cutting the Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s core budget by 20 per cent, more cash has been promised for the Arts Council, museums and galleries.