With the general election just a few days away, the time for pre-election lobbying is over. The manifestos were published, the leaflets were door-dropped and the parties now steadfast committed to the arts pledges their respective policy units thought would chime well with the electorate.
If you’ve been following The Lowry’s social media accounts, you’ll have seen our campaign to promote the value of the arts and creative industries to the economy, its role in generating domestic and international visitor spend, and the wider social benefits they bring.
If you haven’t, allow me to recap: the creative economy in the UK is worth £27bn; art and culture specifically – £10.6bn and through tourism/visitor spend they generate a further £850m for the UK’s bottom line.
Financial matters aside, the arts can be a focal point for a community, a hook around which social cohesion can develop. And of course, it’s with the arts front and centre in the national curriculum that we can best-develop our children and young people into a creative and compassionate generation.
We’ve been encouraging our followers to challenge their local parliamentary candidates on how they personally will support the arts. And now that the time has come for all of us to cast our vote – that campaign will change to one tasked with holding the winning party to account on the funding commitments that they made. Equally, we should challenge all MPs to use their vote in the lobbies to help bring those funding promises to fruition with all possible speed.
Of course, the public purse doesn’t owe the arts a living. We, like other important sectors, must become as self-sufficient as possible in order to navigate the choppy economic landscape we face as best we can whilst providing a platform for the art we love. (But when the return on investment is so clear to see, you’d like to think we represent a strong case!)
Indeed, one of the things I’m most-proud about The Lowry is the way it has commercialised its operation without compromising on its artistic raison d’etre. Today, we operate on a public funding model of just 6% compared to an industry average of close to 40% – all the while programming and commissioning bold new work for our audiences to enjoy.
So, whichever way you choose to vote, I hope the arts can count on your support to help us continue to deliver for the UK, for our communities and for the artists of the future.
Julia Fawcett OBE is chief executive of The Lowry in Salford, Greater Manchester.