Britain’s arts still dazzle the world – but they are being diminished by a funding crisis

The Economist

29 Feb 2024


The national picture is important, but local authorities have long been the biggest public funders of the arts in Britain, running festivals and building and maintaining museums and theatres, says Jack Gamble, director of Campaign for the Arts, a charity. Now, as more councils declare bankruptcy, arts funding is being reduced or scrapped. The amounts are paltry in terms of overall council budgets yet can leave valuable organisations close to the edge. Once they are lost, restoring them later is impossible.

Some may argue it is appropriate for local governments to reduce their investment in the arts, if basic social services are also threatened. But cutting arts funding can also damage local economies, where relatively small public investments in the arts bring outsized returns. Take Nottingham, where the council declared itself effectively bankrupt last November. It is likely to scrap arts funding soon, which amounts to less than visitors to Nottingham Playhouse contribute in parking-meter payments, says Stephanie Sirr, the theatre’s boss. With these cuts, local authority funding to the award-winning theatre will have fallen from £433,000 in 2010 to nothing in 2024.