Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Southbank Centre (arts 216)


· Southbank Centre firmly believes that a mixed economy is the best model for bringing long-term financial sustainability to cultural organisations

· Public money spent on the arts is an investment in developing audiences. A public investment in the arts often stimulates a commercial relationship

· Southbank Centre, like many arts organisations, maintains a large, historic and well-used site. We hope that the government will work with such organisations to find a way of funding these operational costs that does not undermine investment in the arts programme

· The public expect art centres to be well maintained and with a consistently excellent artistic programme. Front-loaded cuts could result in a sharp decline in our offering, which would damage the relationship with our audiences and artists in the long term

· Businesses and philanthropists have a major impact on funding of the arts, but more could be done if tax concessions were created and made more generous


2.1 Southbank Centre is the UK’s largest arts centre, occupying a 21-acre site in the midst of London’s most vibrant cultural quarter on the South Bank of the Thames. The site has an extraordinary creative and architectural history stretching back to the 1951 Festival of Britain. Southbank Centre is home to the Royal Festival Hall, Queen Elizabeth Hall, Purcell Room and the Hayward Gallery. Southbank Centre provides a public facility in the widest sense, encouraging cultural excellence, commercial entrepreneurialism and learning and participation opportunities.

2.2 Today, the arts reach ever larger audiences, and the creative industries play an increasingly central role in the UK’s economy

The CBI estimates that the creative industries contribute between 6 and 8% of GDP, account for £16bn of overseas trade each year and employ nearly two million people.

. The next few years will be crucial to the future of our sector. We need to face the challenges created by the recession and continuing social change, whilst preparing for the Olympics and building on the success that the arts currently enjoy.

2.3 Given the current economic climate in the United Kingdom and the anticipated cuts that the cultural sector will face following the Comprehensive Spending Review, as well as the wide range of essential activities that Southbank Centre undertakes, we welcome the opportunity to respond to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee’s inquiry, and to inform discussion as to how funding will best enable cultural organisations to achieve the levels of excellence and access that the public expects.


3.1 Southbank Centre strongly believes in the importance of the mixed economy. The core funding for our artistic and operational requirements comes from an ACE grant of £23 million. This support enabled us to generate a further £8.7 million through ticket sales and £9 million through commercial and development activities in 2010. This financial stability has meant that we have become an essential part of England’s arts ecology. As well as maintaining one of the best known cultural tourist sites in London, we welcome the best artistic talent from around the world; put on cutting-edge performances by emerging artists; and encourage engagement with and participation in the arts across all parts of society. Thanks to the sheer scale and quality of the artistic offering we draw millions of visitors to our site, which in turn spurs on the consistency in our commercial income and sponsorship.

3.2 Due to our physical size and the diversity of art forms we represent, we require the funding we receive from Arts Council England to work across a number of areas. We produce, programme and receive work from established and emerging artists both nationally and internationally. We engage with a broad range of people of different ages and backgrounds, and actively promote the creative talent and wellbeing of the individual. We employ a large number of staff and work with a range of commercial partners. We are actively engaged in fundraising to develop our programme.

3.3 Southbank Centre maintains a large and popular site which includes buildings of historic and architectural importance. 21.5 million people use our 21-acres of public realm each year. The area must be maintained to the highest standards in order to meet the expectations of tourists and Londoners alike. There has been a significant increase in operational costs over recent years; Southbank Centre has been assisted in meeting these costs by Arts Council England. A major review of the condition of the buildings has shown a substantial future investment is required to keep them open and operating. Keeping the site running at the standards that the public expects is more crucial than ever in the run up to the London Olympics in 2012. We hope that the government will work with organisations such as ours to find a way of funding these operational costs that does not undermine investment in the arts programme.

3.4 As well as presenting excellent artistic performances, Southbank Centre uses its public investment to take risks with new art forms that attract new customers. Arts centres must profile and celebrate work that attracts diverse audiences. This is for both social and commercial reasons. Without attracting the interest of different parts of the community to the art itself, we cannot hope to encourage new voices into the industry. We then have the opportunity to cultivate these new voices to become members of our core audience from which we derive profit. Our new festival, Alchemy, brings together UK-based artists in contemporary and classical South Asian culture with their counter-parts in the subcontinent. It also links with community celebration and neighbourhood identity and allows us all to understand the country in which we live. It brings new audiences to our site, which then allows us to communicate our wider artistic programme and begin an ongoing relationship.

3.5 Southbank Centre runs a significant programme of learning and participatory activity, much of which is provided to the public free of charge. Public investment allows us to operate and make artistic decisions for the public benefit. Significant and front-loaded reductions to budgets will require us to make decisions on a purely commercial basis. This will mean a significant reduction in the amount of free, participatory and innovative work here.

3.6 All these activities require significant funding. We are under no illusions about the tough times that lie ahead, and accept that the arts will bear some of the burden of the expected cuts. Income from the National Lottery could relieve some of the funding pressures that Southbank Centre is currently under in order to deliver on its aims and objectives. Additional revenue from the National Lottery will enable us to uphold the vibrancy of Southbank Centre’s artistic life whilst fulfilling the expectations of the millions of visitors to the site, the artists that perform here and all of those who benefit from our superlative participation and education programmes.


4.1 In addition to our wide range of partners on artistic projects, Southbank Centre is exploring potential efficiencies from sharing operational support services with partners in the cultural sector. We recognise that savings from shared services typically arrive after an upfront initial investment and that the approach carries some risk.

4.2 We also believe in working in close partnership with the local community to deliver our goals. Southbank Centre continues to play a leading role with the Southbank Employers Groups, Lambeth and Southwark Councils, the GLA family and our partners in the South Bank and Bankside Cultural Quarter. Working in partnership with these groups is bringing about improvements to the area, reducing duplication of efforts and improving efficiencies

Examples of our partnership work include:

· South Bank Employers Group, Shell, London Eye, Lambeth Council and local residents to deliver a new Jubilee Gardens and Trust for its ongoing management and with other landowners to improve the public spaces between Waterloo Station and the river

· Local employers to deliver better management of the area with joint security, graffiti and other cleaning, waste management, coach management and cycling.

· TfL and South Bank Employers Group (SBEG) to deliver the new Legible London signage to help visitors and local resident and workers find their way around the South Bank

· The London Development Authority and local employers to explore the potential of combined heat and power to reduce future energy costs as well as our carbon footprint.

· The Greater London Authority, Lambeth and Southwark Councils and our cultural partners to deliver a Cultural Olympiad between Jubilee Gardens and Potters Field.

September 2010


4.3 The arts sector must continue to work in partnership with other arts organisations and also other industries. Looking for synergies with sectors such as health, social justice, and education will help deliver great art to those who might benefit most.


5.1 We are actively engaged in fundraising to develop our programme and our site to ensure Southbank Centre remains a sustainable world-class destination for creative endeavour. Individuals have already had a major impact on our funding – the refurbishment of the Royal Festival Hall would not have been possible without the private generosity of major philanthropists and the 18,000 people who made donations totalling £2m. British cultural institutions operate a healthy funding model and we welcome the government’s emphasis on the growth of philanthropy in addition to the public funding provided for the cultural sector.

5.2 We now have very productive relationships with a range of corporate sponsors (for example, Shell and HSBC) who are increasingly addressing the balance of our funding constitution. These major corporate sponsors are attracted by our government investment and relative stability it can provide the larger institutions. They are also attracted to our success, our significant number of visitors and central location, and want to play a part in it.

5.3 Not all arts institutions are able to offer this level of benefits to corporate sponsors. Southbank Centre like many other national institutions relies on the health of the wider regional and local arts establishments for future talent and expertise, many of whom struggle to attract philanthropy and sponsorship.

5.4 We welcome the government’s emphasis on motivating donors and stimulating donations. There do need to be more government incentives to encourage private donations. We recommend a focus on major gifts to the cultural sector as an area of growth and potential. To establish a culture of giving, individuals can be encouraged by both tax incentives and recognition of the role they play in society. Those who gave gifts to the Royal Festival Hall did not do so purely for their own benefit but to return the building to the wide public who now enjoy it.