Government neglect 'harming regional theatre'


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The Independent Online

The artistic director of the National Theatre (NT) yesterday warned of a "clear and present danger" for regional theatre in Britain if the Government continues to "neglect" the arts.

Sir Nicholas Hytner said at the launch of the NT's annual report that he wanted to highlight "enormous short-term issues" for regional theatres, and said further cuts would be "madness".

"The double blow suffered by regional theatres not just from Arts Council funding but Local Authority funding put them in clear and present danger," he said.

The artistic director said the NT itself has no short-term funding problems due to a string of commercial hits including War Horse and One Man, Two Guvnors. But "in the medium to long term it is fundamental that our funding level is restored to what it was before the cost cutting".

He added the Government was "neglecting the arts. It's neglect based on not looking hard enough. You have to be trying really hard to look away not to acknowledge what has happened to some."

Sir Nicholas was among those swept up in Olympic fervour of the sports and arts events of the Cultural Olympiad. "You look at the joy spread this summer. You would hope the Government's policy on arts and sport would be to find ways to capitalise on that." He continued: "Further cuts in the light of what happened this summer feels like a kind of madness."

Sir Nicholas suggested some senior members of the institution may pay a visit to Chancellor George Osborne to talk him round, adding the Olympics demonstrate that "handsome and visible investment in culture pays enormous dividends".

There had been fears that crowds would stay away from theatres during the Olympics, yet the NT thrived during the period, playing to almost 100 per cent capacity.

The annual report published yesterday covered the year to the end of March. The NT generated record income of £80m, double that of a decade ago. It put on 23 new productions and 1,746 performances in London.

Sir Nicholas has yet to meet the new Culture Secretary, Maria Miller, but believes the appointment of Peter Bazalgette as chairman of Arts Council England is positive.

"The Arts Council, under incredibly difficult circumstances not of its own making, has been doing every bit as good a job as could be expected of it. From what I know of Peter Bazalgette he will be on our side."