I really didn’t want to write this column.
I’m fed up of having to bang the drum for the fact that we need more funding for the arts and we need it in the North and we need it now. I’m fed up, too, of having to say that the London stranglehold on the arts funding that comes out of all of our pockets is unfair. It is iniquitous and it is just plain wrong.
I’ve been saying so for several years and I have been reporting on the high profile people from the arts world who have been saying so, too.
So I didn’t want to write this column. Then I realised – that’s what they want us to do. They want us to grow tired of making the argument. They want us to get fed up, to accept the status quo and allow this gradual chipping away to continue.
It’s the slow death of arts funding, but it’s important we don’t give in. We must continue to make the argument, to explain how and why the arts matter to us, to say that the overwhelming majority of funding for the arts in this country going to a single city, albeit a capital city, is damaging.
Before Christmas last year I attended a theatre conference in Bradford. The What Next? movement began in London as a response to the swingeing cuts being made on arts funding by the current government.
A group of artists in London saw the writing on the wall and began to gather to simply discuss the question “what next?”. It really was as simple as that.
The movement spread around the country and a tireless campaigner and arts worker, Al Dix, brought the conference to Bradford. There was an undercurrent of anger in the room the night I attended the conference.
It was anger at the inequity of funding and the fact that London gets an obscene – and there really is no other word for it – amount of funding for its arts activity compared to the scraps from the table the rest of the country has to fight for.
That anger hasn’t dissipated. A report out on Monday found another reason for us in the North to be furious at how undervalued we are when it comes to paying for the arts. A vast amount of spending on the arts in the UK comes from the Lottery. You pay your couple of quid for a ticket and the money raised goes to the Lottery and is dished out to arts projects.
A vast amount of money spent on the Lottery in the UK, comes from the North. The report, Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital, used a stark example to demonstrate the inequity. In County Durham the population spends £34m on the Lottery and the Lottery funding for the arts that has gone into County Durham is £12m.
In Westminster, people have spent £14.5m on the Lottery. They have benefitted from £408m Lottery money spent on the arts. It’s a disgrace and it’s right that we should be angry.