Arts Campaign: The spiritual health of the nation is at stake

The actress Emily Watson's mother starts a petition in support of our campaign
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Indy Lifestyle Online
CATHERINE WATSON, an English teacher and writer, has become so appalled by watching the perpetual struggle for money in the arts that she decided to gather public support for our campaign to stop the crisis.

Mrs Watson has collected more than 200 signatures in support of the campaign. "I've collected the names at various evening classes and from people involved and not involved in cultural activity," she said. "It's something I feel strongly about. My family is involved in the arts. It's a question of the spiritual health of the country. People I've spoken to have been terribly keen to sign up."

The Watson family's artistic credentials are indeed impeccable. Mrs Watson's daughter is the actress Emily Watson, nominated for a Best Actress Oscar last year for her role in Breaking the Waves and appearing in the film The Boxer, released this weekend.

The Independent on Sunday and Independent campaign is urging the Chancellor to simplify the tax system for those giving to the arts and make all donations tax deductible in his Budget on 17 March. This would increase the amount of money individuals give to the arts, and help end the financial crisis.

Playwright Trevor Griffiths and actor Tim Piggott-Smith are the latest figures to join the campaign. Other names signing up last week included conductor Sir Simon Rattle and composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies.

We are urging Mr Brown to use his Budget to introduce a change in taxation law to enable people to make tax-free donations to arts companies and venues. A simple system could replace the cumbersome system of tax relief through covenants and the gift aid scheme.

The system is riddled with anomalies. Some arts organisations are charities, others are not. Tax relief can only be claimed where the organisation is a charity. In addition, tax relief can only be claimed on donations above pounds 250, a deterrent to many who would like to help the arts.

The campaign has scored two significant victories. Culture Secretary Chris Smith, who cannot speak publicly about tax matters in the run-up to the Budget, was said by senior sources in his own department to be behind the campaign and to be having talks with the Chancellor about making contributions tax-deductible. And the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts expressed its support.

David Barrie, director of the National Art Collections Fund, said: "Tax incentives for individuals will encourage them to support the arts, and will do a great deal to foster a climate of giving in this country. But if the Government takes action to encourage private giving, it should not use this as an excuse to withdraw from its core funding commitments. Private donors need to feel their contributions are helping the arts to thrive.

Campaign supporters

Trevor Griffiths, playwright

Tim Pigott-Smith, actor

Emily Watson, actor

Prof Brian Cox CBE, chair, North West Arts Board

Mark White and Mrs V C White, Guildford

John Tebbs, Catherine Moore, Rosie Kay, Norwich

Kenneth Lindsay, Becky Baxter, Perth

L R Wallace, Harry Windsor-Sharpe, Raymond Monk, Leicester

Ann, Camilla and Tom Broadbent, London SE10

Pauline Phillips, Shoeburyness, Essex

Alan Pavelin, Chislehurst, Kent

Tim Foster, London SW9

K R Hopkins, Selly Oak, Birmingham

Daisy Moon, London SE5

K E Stimson, London

Mr and Mrs IL Hack, Maidstone, Kent

Nigel Hinds, London N16

P Gillespie, London N6

Val Bourne, London SW5

Mr R Dunn, Hitchin, Herts.

B J Goldsmith, Prestwich, Cheshire

Clive Robbins, Bisley, Surrey

Mary P Tamlyn and Michael Tamlyn, Topsham, Exeter

Martin and June Blaze, London NW1

C White, Christine Shepherd, Marple, Stockport

Donald Watson, Bristol

Laurent Lourson, Jacques Berthoud, London SW3

Mrs D Rowe, N J Rowe, T Rowe, Bowdon, Cheshire

David Cutting, Crawley, West Sussex

James Knott, London E7

Harry Mills, London E4

Reiko Goto, Whitstable, Kent

Christine Brennan, Yvonne Robinson, Maxine Laing, Manchester

J McMaster, James Waters, Nick Dodds, Edinburgh

J Hickson, Hitchin, Herts

Pippa, Anna and R G Lane, Hexham, Northumberland

S Smeeton, D Quinn, Royston, Herts

Mary and W G Burns, Abingdon, Oxon

Charles, Vicky and William Bennett, Chipping Campden, Glos

Kim, Alan and Eleanor Brewer, Bideford, Devon

Graham Smith, Gt Yarmouth

Steven Jones, London SW16

David Gilbert, Surbiton, Surrey

Ian Loveday, Kingston-on-Thames

David Shipston, Reading

R M Wales, Hindhead

Andy Roper, Cleethorpes

Josephine and Charles Tomson, York

Margaret Cooper, York

David Turner, London SE19

Nick, Paul and M A Fletcher, Malton, Yorks

George Goulding, Valerie Jump Brown, Salisbury

Catherine Sandbrook, Lyndhurst, Hants

Geraint Lewis, Chairman, Music Board, Arts Council of Wales

Dr John Pickard, composer and lecturer in music, University of Bristol

David Andrew Threasher, New Grove Dictionary of Music

Julian Webb, Norwich

D Bishop, Joan Morrison, Glasgow

Sarah Pearson, P Kidson, Charing, Kent

L E Ward, P M Williams, Roy Adams, Sandy Martin, Stephen Boswell, Lynda Garrod, Ipswich

A J and J R Boniface, Canterbury

Audrey Teesdale, Francis Pagan, London W1

Marian Needham, Horsham, West Sussex

Sir David Willocks, Cambridge

C J O Garrard, Cheltenham

Andrew Brettell, Whitstable

Jackie and Elinor Brown, Woodbridge, Suffolk

Margaret Ryans, David E. Ryans, Clare Ryans, Whitley Bay

Maureen Sterling, Leonard Sterling, Kidderminster

Penelope James, museum curator, Guildford

Simon Matthews, Roy Harding, Guildford

Elizabeth M L Wilson, Aberdeen

Jack McGowan, Edinburgh

Sean McKenzie, Belper, Derbyshire

We have been inundated with responses to our campaign. Next week we will print another list of supporters so please keep writing. We regret that, because of the size of the postbag, we cannot reply to your letters.

o Compiled by Mel Steel

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