Businesses investment in UK arts fell last year by 11%. This was despite Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt’s DCMS directive to encourage corporate philanthropy. The initiative was launched last year to take the pressure off of the Government, which has made cuts to the arts of around 30%. The figures clearly highlight the universal tightening of belts taking place in some of the most prestigious British company boardrooms. The amount of funding raised for the cultural sector last year was £144m, down from £157m the year before. This revelation comes only two months after Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt announced plans for a “year of corporate giving” to help boost private funding.
The UK recession has resulted in the lowest subsidy from businesses since 2003/4. There have been several high profile donations in the last year including Travelex founder Lloyd Dorfman’s donation of £10m to the National Theatre to support a £70m redevelopment of the Grade-II listed Cottesloe Theatre. It will now be renamed in his honour. Another high profile donation comes from the Sainsbury family whose charitable trusts have donated £25m to the British Museum. This is thought to be one of the biggest gifts to the arts for two decades. If added together, it becomes clear that the larger gifts have boosted the overall figures highlighting the sudden drop in business support.
Colin Tweedy, chief executive of Arts and Business, said: “Cultural bodies wait on tenterhooks to discover their new financial settlements following local authority cuts and less national government money. Much more is being asked of the private sector and of volunteers to create a ‘big arts society’.
Hunt stated in a BBC interview, “These companies are some of the most important companies – the majority of them should be supporting the arts in one way, shape or form,”. I am hoping another 10 of the FTSE 100 companies would enter into a regular relationship with the cultural sector and would try to “play cupid” and match businesses with arts organisations to boost funding”. He added that he thought corporate philanthropy was a good opportunity for banks to gain a better reputation. “If you are looking for ways to rehabilitate yourself in the public eye, then supporting things that really matter to society like the arts is an excellent thing to do”.
The bottom line is, only around 30% of FTSE 100 companies currently donate to the arts. Perhaps the Government should consider a program of giving away more Xeroxed Peerages to stimulate the giving.