British towns and cities would be more enriched if the love of "Wetherspoon's and Walkabout pubs and Mario Balotelli and John Terry" was replaced with the "sense of wonder" people can get at their local theatre, Danny Boyle has said.
The creative talent behind the Olympics opening ceremony was joined by artistic directors from theatres up and down the country who fear arts cuts will rob the UK of its cultural prowess.
With the scene set for an impassioned discussion at London's National Theatre, its director Sir Nicholas Hytner said he was "delighted" to have Boyle present, before the Slumdog Millionaire director reflected on how his career began in one of the country's regional theatres.
"When Nick said about what we were going to speak about today I thought it was really important to be here, and my journey to the Olympic opening ceremony began at the Bolton Octagon whose director is here today.
"I was an usher when I was at school and I'd watched the plays there standing at the back, and the sense of wonder you got from the theatre as a young guy - you know you're obsessed with girls and whatever - but the sense of wonder you got was extraordinary and I got the bug really," he said.
Boyle describes the artistic directors attending the event as "decent, good people", and was keen to point out that there is a danger "metropolitan London" takes all the credit for the country's theatrical successes - making an example of his own success at the Olympics.
"The sense of nourishment it gave me is something that I think that theatre gives really, and you have to say it because unless you say it, especially about the Olympics opening ceremony, there's a danger that metropolitan London takes all the credit, which we're very clever at doing and I'm part of that now and it's very easy to do that.
"But it would be very wrong because it's something that very much belonged to everyone," he said.
He also urged people to "believe in" their local theatres and in those who lead them.
"They are the modest cousins of football, cinema - which I'm partly responsible for - and pop music, and what they provide is something else to believe in and we must believe in it as well or otherwise we'll lose it really.
"And it is something extraordinary that can be built - feeling positive and not just complaining about cuts because everyone is complaining about cuts - it's something positive to believe in.
"And it's something in our cities and towns that's nurtured, that's believed in, that isn't Wetherspoon's and Walkabout pubs and Mario Balotelli and John Terry and people like that, something decent to believe in, something good and nourishing for us all," he said.
Sir Nicholas said theatres need continued funding, pointing out that "0.1% of the total public spend, 0.1%, one thousandth, goes to the performing arts".
He echoed Boyle's view that a London-centric bias must not occur, that theatres all over the country must be cherished and the myths about philanthropy should be dispelled.
He said: "It's easy for us. It's easy for the British Museum, the Tate and the National Theatre. We're in London. We are handsomely subsidised. Philanthropic money tends - it doesn't tend, it does - follow public money.
"I would like, on behalf of a company that really can attract philanthropic giving and does and will, to nail that kind of wishful thinking.
"The Government's done next to nothing to encourage what it terms philanthropy."
He added: "It's really all talk - 80% of philanthropic money comes to London, 20% to the rest of the country.
"Please try to uncover a single concrete policy that has arrived over the last two and a half years to encourage philanthropy.
"The only major concrete thing that I can remember having been done over the last two and a half years that would have immediate effect was reversed, quite properly, after a few weeks because it was a discouragement of philanthropy. You'll remember that - the proposal to limit tax breaks on philanthropic giving.
"It is a pure smokescreen. It really is."
David Thacker of the Octagon Theatre in Bolton - where Boyle was bitten by the thespian bug - said regional theatres are facing "serious danger".
He said: "I don't think we're crying wolf here. What we're talking about is, the kind of theatres we're passionately committed to are in very, very serious danger at the moment.
"And a small further cut could have catastrophic effect. That's what we're all saying."
Other contributors to the discussion included Gemma Bodinetz of the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, Daniel Evans of Sheffield Theatres, Gareth Machin of Salisbury Playhouse, and Erica Whyman of Northern Stage, Newcastle.
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