London is acknowledged around the world for its tremendous arts offer, its theatres, galleries and museums. But for the arts to thrive, and for London to prosper, the London Mayor has to ensure that as many Londoners as possible have access to all forms of the arts, so that they can experience them and participate in them.
The arts are a fundamental part of ensuring London continues to thrive. Neglecting them puts at risk both jobs and the capital’s worldwide reputation as an arts centre.
Londoners’ access to the arts is under threat because of funding cuts, insurance issues for school trips, and the fact that the arts are not a core curriculum subject. As Mayor of London, Christian Wolmar would create a programme which is supported by the actor and director, Samuel West, with the aim of ensuring that many more Londoners have access to the arts at a price they can afford.
In 2013, Tory-controlled Westminster cut its arts budget by 100%. This tore the heart out of arts provision for Londoners. The Soho Theatre said that their local authority funding wasn’t central to production expenses, it was money that they used to get more diverse and disadvantaged people into the building.
Samuel West said: “Those people are not just London's future audiences, they’re people who could help run London’s cultural life. We need everyone to believe that the arts are for them. Anything the Mayor’s office can do to counteract local authority cuts would help.
“The arts are not an add-on or a hobby. They're one of our most successful international exports. That’s because adequate funding has led to a flourishing industry, with stories written, watched and performed by all sectors of society, not just the well-off. Where is the next generation of work to come from if London’s youngsters feel excluded from it?”
Samuel West said: “The creative industries are among the faster growing economic sectors for jobs in London - but they rely on the next generation of creative skilled workers and here we need to make sure every child in London gets a first-class creative education. London used to have the best music education service in the world - why not recreate this for the 21st Century offering every child in London the best creative education in the world?
“London needs a joined up digital vision to ensure that it is the next world hub for digital content - from art to games and including films, music, graphic design and television - and this needs to protect the importance of the national public service broadcasters like BBC and Channel 4. This is important for London as well as for the UK.
Christian Wolmar said: “As Mayor of London, I will work with the boroughs to persuade them to reverse cuts and where necessary my office will help to fund the gaps in provision. Eighty per cent of visitors to London cite the arts as one reason to come to the capital. Funding the arts has enormous benefits, not just in terms of helping London’s tourist business but also in terms of health and well-being of Londoners.
“Helping Londoners access the arts is key. The first priority will be to make sure every school child gets regular exposure to arts attendance and participation. I will institute a programme in conjunction with the boroughs to ensure this happens,” Christian Wolmar said.
“I will coordinate the various cheap ticket schemes to ensure that there is coverage for this scheme in outer London, as well as inner London boroughs.
“As Mayor of London, I will launch a scheme to twin schools with local arts and theatre groups to get more community involvement. This will benefit both the schools and the cultural groups.
“I will encourage arts businesses to take on staff from disadvantaged groups and create a Mayor’s award system to encourage greater take-up. And I will also support initiatives to revive run-down shopping streets by establishing an arts centre or organisation – they can act as the focus for the revival of a whole area.”
Samuel West, one of this country’s most respected actors and directors, points out that it is the poor who suffer most from cuts in arts funding: “Work with the young, the elderly and people with disabilities which help them to think creatively and independently, decrease their isolation, increase their confidence, empathy, happiness and health.
“Don’t Londoners deserve that quality of life?”