Entertainment & Arts

Andrew Lloyd Webber: Arts at risk over austerity cuts

Andrew Lloyd Webber
Image caption Lord Lloyd-Webber was speaking at a debate in the House of Lords

Andrew Lloyd Webber has accused the government of "turning its back" on the arts.

Speaking at the House of Lords, Lord Lloyd-Webber said the sector was being put at risk by policies introduced in the wake of the recession.

He added Britain's creative industries were being "strangled" due to the government's lack of funding strategy.

He warned ministers could not rely on benefactors indefinitely and urged them to invest in nurturing British talent.

During the debate, on whether the government had a long-term strategy in place, the composer said arts funding was under "unimaginable strain".

He cited the end of the Film Council and the closure of the University of East Anglia's music department as evidence of the impact of cuts.

"I can't help feel that in this cult of austerity Britain, the government is turning its back on one if its most promising and extraordinary world-leading sectors," Lord Lloyd-Webber said.

"There is a simple truth that should lie at the heart of this debate - Britain still leads the world in the creative industries. And if Austerity Britain ignores that fact we will surely live to regret it."

'Home truths'

He added: "We need to challenge the mind set of government.

"Without the private funding and support of many private individuals and institutions up and down the country the situation that I describe would be so much worse, in fact in many ways it would be irretrievable."

Speaking for the government during the debate, Viscount Younger praised Lord Lloyd-Webber's "incomparable support" for arts and culture but said he did not entirely share his views on the current situation.

He said the government's overarching strategy was to see a "thriving and resilient" arts and cultural sector, drawing from a range of funding sources.

However he stressed the need for some "home truths" on finance, insisting the government's first priority should be to create financial stability.

"This means, regrettably, the sharing of some pain - in some cases considerable pain - across all sectors of society. It would be unrealistic for cuts to be made in all other parts of the public sector except the arts."

Responding to the debate, a DCMS spokesman told the BBC: "Over the life of this Parliament, the government is investing £2.3bn in the arts.

"We have also reformed the National Lottery, increasing the share to the arts, so the Arts Council's overall budget in 2015 will be reduced by less than 5% in real terms, compared to 2010.

"This is a remarkably good deal and part of our comprehensive strategy to set the arts and cultural sectors up for a healthy and resilient future."

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