Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arts World Sounds Calm Note over Gloomy Report

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Arts World Sounds Calm Note over Gloomy Report

Article excerpt


A NEW study suggesting fewer people are patronising the arts despite higher public spending on them doesn't tell the whole story, key players in the industry warn.

The study showed that between 1993 and 1999 there was an eight per cent decline in attendance of arts and cultural events, while the amount of public money spent on the arts rose by more than [pound]1 billion. The figures were based on annual surveys carried out by the Arts Council.

Sara Selwood, editor of the report by the Policy Studies Institute, said: "It looks like we have reached a point in which public spending on the arts is going up and attendance is going down."

But leading figures in the arts world say the reality is far more complex, with some venues and sectors pulling in the crowds while others struggle to find the cash needed to put on events that attract audiences.

Theatre visits fell by eight per cent, but Rupert Rhymes, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre, said: "One has to take into account that a lot of venues were undergoing refurbishment towards the end of the period we are looking at, due to Lottery funds being made available.

"The figures for people who don't go to the theatre may well have gone up because it was impossible to go.

"It's awfully dangerous to draw any farreaching conclusions from these things: there are so many permutations of factors one ought to take into account."

Roberta Doyle, who sits on the Theatre Management Association's marketing committee, said: "I am certainly not aware of an avalanche of overinvestment.

There may have been modest increases, but those have had to be spread amongst an increasing number of clients and developments, so on the whole only a little more money has had to go around lots more arts organisations.

"It is a case of under, not over, investment. In the case of the performing arts that has led to a decrease in the total amount of performances put on, which leads to fewer people attending - it is a Catch 22 situation the statistics don't expose. …

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