Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, and Other Artists Sign an Open Letter Warning That the UK Could Become a ‘Cultural Wasteland’ Without Urgent Funding

More than 400 arts and culture workers are urging the government to do more.

A cyclist rides past a billboard reading 'please believe these days will pass' in Shoreditch, east London. Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images.
A cyclist rides past a billboard by the artist Mark Titchner in Shoreditch, east London. Photo by Dominic Lipinski/PA Images via Getty Images.

Anish Kapoor, Grayson Perry, and Bob and Roberta Smith are among more than 400 artists and cultural figures who are warning that the UK risks losing half of its creative businesses and becoming a “cultural wasteland” unless the government finds a better way to financially support them.

The open letter, addressed to UK chancellor Rishi Sunak and culture secretary Oliver Dowden, was penned by the head of the Creative Industries Federation, Caroline Norbury, after research showed that the existing provisions did not cover everyone. A recent survey of 2,000 institutions and individuals by the federation showed that only one in seven organizations have the resources to stay operational through the end of April, and only half can see their reserves lasting beyond June. More than half of the UK’s creative organizations and professionals have lost all of their income.

“We must act, and act fast,” Norbury writes in the letter. “We call on the government to implement urgent funding for creative and cultural organisations impacted by the fall-out of Covid-19.” The letter says that the UK’s creative industries are in “deep trouble,” and that thousands of creative organizations and freelancers are falling through the cracks of the government’s existing provisions for the sector.

Art world figures who signed the letter include Grayson Perry, Jeremy Deller, and the director of the Whitechapel Gallery, Iwona Blazwick. Other cultural leaders who signed include musicians Nick Cave and Rufus Wainwright, and actors such as Stephen Fry.

The government launched a £160 million ($199 million) emergency fund for artists and creative organizations in England in March but not everyone has been eligible to apply for the bailout. Some are facing similar issues with the chancellor’s plan to pay self-employed workers up to 80 percent of their recent earnings.

Phillipine Nguyen, the co-founder and director of the Art Night charity says that its fifth edition was cancelled because of the virus, and she is unsure they will be able to survive the crisis. “We’re a small charity, but our activities have a huge impact on our sector, audiences, freelancers, and all the ecosystem we work with,” Nguyen said.

“Arts and culture will be needed more than ever as we re-emerge and reimagine our future,” Lilli Geissendorfer, the director of the arts funding body Jerwood Arts said in a statement urging the government to step in. “Artists, curators and producers of all kinds contribute immense joy, compassion, and meaning to our communities and are critical to alleviating the social, health and wellbeing challenges of Covid-19. They are going bust now.”


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