U.K. Culture Minister Calls On Arts to Make Economic Argument for Subsidy

Maria Miller at London Olympics - P 2012
Rosie Hallam/Getty Images

Maria Miller at London Olympics - P 2012

Maria Miller tells a gathering of cultural bigwigs that public funding cuts will render artistic impact arguments less impactful than following the money.

LONDON -- British arts, media and culture minister Maria Miller said Wednesday the arts should be talking up the case for public funding by using economic rather than artistic value arguments.

Miller, delivering her first keynote speech since becoming culture secretary last September at the British Museum, said reps from the arts -- encompassing theater, movie and the arts must "hammer home the value of culture to our economy".

Miller said: "When times are tough and money is tight, our focus must be on culture's economic impact."

Arts organizations are facing cuts as a result of austerity measures from both the central U.K. government and local authorities.

Miller told the gathering she is "fighting" their corner "as hard as I can within government."

She said the U.K. coalition government wants participants -- not bystanders.

"I need you all to accept this fundamental premise, and work with me to develop the argument," Miller said.

She said the government is committed to "a mixed economy model" combining public and private funding for the arts.

But arts organizations were told they should "demonstrate the healthy dividends that our investment continues to pay".

Miller described British culture as "perhaps the most powerful and compelling product we have available to us", particularly in the wake of the success of the 2012 Olympics in the capital and the Paralympics last summer.

Nicholas Hytner, the National Theatre chief, told the BBC that while Miller's speech gave a nod to the arts as an engine for growth, cutting what produces growth is not a good solution.

Miller's speech came two months head of the government's all important spending review, which will give details of which departments will need to cut their spending and by how much.

Across town at the launch of this year's Sundance London film and music festival, Robert Redford mused that Britain's support of the arts is better than is currently on offer in the U.S.