Colin Tweedy (Chief Executive, Arts & Business UK)

18.02.2011 - Interview conducted by Moushumi Bhadra & Ashley Fitzpatrick

Q1. Recently, the government has cut funding to the arts budget. How do you think these funding cuts will be detrimental to the promotion of British arts abroad?

I think it will be very detrimental, because, inevitably, the budget for all arts organisations is going to be reduced. You’ll begin to see much less in way of cultural diplomacy internationally, because people will start focusing more on protecting domestic art.

Q2. So it’s going to be a difficult time for international exchange?

I would imagine so. I don’t think the present government is very interested in that - although they are focusing quite a bit on India and China. There is, however, no interest in Western Europe.

Q3: In the Lords’ debate on the spending cuts that took place recently, David Puttnam argued for how far the effects of the arts budget could be felt on other sectors, stating “I fear for the arts. I fear for the ill considered impact of cuts on UK tourism, on UK jobs, on UK education, on this country's sense of self-confidence and on the sustainability of its future as a culturally vibrant nation”. How much do you think this is an exaggeration?

I think it isn’t an exaggeration. For example, the government has just decided to cut funding for a lot of national forests, and wanted to sell them off. There was a huge campaign against this, which, in 3 days, had half a million signatures. The arts only could gain 67 thousand signatures in 4 months for the “Save the Arts” campaign. So basically, there is really not much support for the arts, and therefore, I don’t think they’re exaggerating, because not only the arts, but art education in schools and universities, are seeing their funding cut.

Q4: Do you think that there’s any possibility that these cuts might inspire innovation in the arts, or perhaps foster greater collaboration and creativity, such as the merging of organisations?

Yes, I think the truth is that there could be more innovation. But it means that a lot of organisations would have to be more creative, and I think there is a danger that people will just shut up shop, because the legal ownership for arts in Britain is not for profit, but charity. Most of those trustees - the owners of these charities, are mostly businesspeople these days, and those people are risk-averse, so they would rather just shut up shop than be creative. I would say that the good institutions will think of creative ideas - the National Theatre, which is very rich, is not suffering at all from the recession, and is offering to help other theatres. And yes, there should also be innovation in fundraising - arts organisations will have to be more creative about how they look for funding.

Q5: The Arts and Business Council is losing a significant amount of its funding in 2012. How will your organization have to adapt when this is implemented?

Well we’re suffering like everyone else. I shall be reducing the staffing structure - we will lose three quarters of our staff in England in 2 months time. Our budget will go from 7 million to 2 million. We have to be more innovative and creative - I’m not sure how, at the moment, but we will be restructuring and reducing our size. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland still have sizeable organisations, as their governments are separate and are continuing their funding. It’s only England that is suffering from the cuts.

Thank you for your time Mr Tweedy.