THE BLOG

The Arts Landscape- From Nottingham to Tokyo

26/02/2014 17:50 GMT | Updated 28/04/2014 10:59 BST

From a recent visit to the other side of the world in Tokyo for an international cultural seminar, the UK row about funding the arts in London or the regions seems frankly silly. With colleagues Moira Sinclair from Arts Council England and Justine Simons, the Mayor of London's Head of Culture, we discover everybody in the Japanese arts world sees it is obvious that UK culture is thriving because of the relationships between London, the English regions and the nations.

I first met Justine when we worked together at Nottingham Playhouse and we have been friends ever since, part of a Nottingham Playhouse network that is replicated in arts organisations all over the regions.

I have worked in arts organisations and festivals in Bradford, Nottingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Chichester, Vienna, London and now also in Amsterdam. Like most colleagues who have lived in these cities, I know that our arts world is not limited or divided by geography.

When I worked at Nottingham Playhouse, we welcomed rising stars like Dominic Cook (who went on to run the Royal Court in London), Phelim McDermot (who is now working at the Metropolitan Opera in New York), working alongside international guests like Peter Brook, Robert Lepage and Luc Bondy. Amongst those who started their careers at Nottingham Playhouse are the current artistic and executive directors of Chichester Festival Theatre and the current technical directors of the Barbican's theatre and Birmingham Rep (indeed both their bosses also come from Nottingham Playhouse).

We invited young actors like Michael Sheen and Helena Bonham Carter to Nottingham to make new productions and it is as fun for local audiences to remember seeing all the rising stars on our stage at the beginning of their amazing careers as it was for us backstage at this time. A large part of the joy of building a company of talent in any arts organisation is the sense of pride for all in developing audiences and creative teams, growing and sharing new talent- from backstage skills to leading artists.

Sheffield, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, every major city and large arts organisation has the same story of networks of alumni who owe their careers to the support they got from a youth theatre, museum or regional orchestra, festival, theatre or arts centre. For every Danny Boyle starting in Bolton or Nick Hytner in Manchester, there are innumerable stage managers, performers and technicians moving from regions to London, from theatre to film and TV, from Bolton to Hollywood.

The subsidised arts are the entry point for many of our leading lights in the creative industries, and of course the creative industries themselves, including the arts, are one of the fastest growing sectors in the UK economy, accounting now for 1 in 12 jobs.

A constant flow between London and the regions, of staff, artists and audiences, drives local and London tourism, as well as cross fertilising artforms from performing and visual arts to film and TV.

Our museums and galleries are equally powerful models of the way that talent and audiences grow and benefit in an UK-wide ecology, in which it makes no sense to set Tate Liverpool against Tate Modern in London or the regional partners of the UK-wide Artists' Rooms against national partners in London and Edinburgh.

If you work in Germany, it is completely accepted that you need the dispersed communities of talent in museums, theatres and opera houses around the country, from Hamburg to Munich, from Berlin to Cologne, if your arts sector overall is to flourish. German colleagues cannot understand this false choice between investing in London and investing elsewhere in the UK.

The community of artists and creators in the UK is admired round the world, and the achievement of subsidised structures to grow talent and share and develop the best of the arts is the envy of many other countries around the world.

London is not a threat, it is an essential part of the arts landscape. The real threats are the next round of funding cuts faced by local authorities all over the country, including London, the decline in philanthropy since 2007- and the risk of further cuts to the Arts Council and other Government funded arts institutions. The arts must not be divided and ruled by distracting and false arguments that set London and the regions against each other when we have real and pressing dangers to fight.