Government backs £166m national film centre

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A new £166 million national film centre will be created in London, boosted by a Government cash injection announced by Prime Minister Gordon Brown today.

The Government pledged £45 million towards the state-of-the art project on the South Bank, expected to be built by 2015.

The British Film Institute (BFI) National Film Centre promises to showcase "the best of British and world cinema" across five screens, as well as creating a new space for exhibitions, cultural events, research and study.

Mr Brown said: "Britain has achieved worldwide respect for its innovative and vibrant film industry, exceptional arts and rich cultural heritage.

"This project creates a new home for British film right at the heart of London's cultural centre on the South Bank.

"These are challenging economic times but with backing from the public and private sector, the commitment to the new BFI National Film Centre demonstrates the Government's continuing support for the arts in Britain, and our determination to invest in leading creative industries as part of our economic recovery.

"This is a great British success story and shows what can be achieved with a Government that backs talent and gets behind industry."

Despite years of lobbying for the project, there had been fears that the scheme could have been squeezed by spending cuts.

London Mayor Boris Johnson also announced £5 million funding for the proposed new centre.

Mr Johnson said: "The BFI is a one of the jewels in the crown for cinema, for the country, and across the whole world.

"It offers an unparalleled variety of films, old and new, and its archive, library and burgeoning digital activities are second to none."

The total cost of the National Film Centre is expected to be £166 million, with the BFI meeting the balance through fundraising.

The film centre investment comes on top of £25 million that the Government has already committed to preserve the BFI's film collection, as well as other collections held in regional archives.

London is one of the top cities in the world for making movies, with 75 per cent of the UK's film-making activity based there.

The city's production industries contribute an estimated £13.6 billion annually to the capital's economy.

The Government also confirmed its commitment to investment in a raft of other arts projects, including £10 million for a new visitor centre at Stonehenge.

Culture Secretary Ben Bradshaw said: "Stonehenge is one of our best known historic attractions, but facilities for visitors are below par.

"This will mean Stonehenge will be ready to cope with all the extra visitors expected because of the Olympics."

Funding will also include £50 million towards the extension of Tate Modern, £22.5 million towards the creation of the British Museum's World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre and £33 million to help secure the future of the British Library's newspaper archive.

The British Library collects a copy of every local, regional and national newspaper published in the UK, plus 250 international titles.

The "unparalleled" newspaper collection contains more than 750 million pages and is used for research by 30,000 people every year.

The collection is used for books, TV shows, films, academic papers and family trees.

The British Library said that the collection is housed in "dilapidated" conditions in Colindale, north London, where 15 per cent of the collection is already beyond use and 19 per cent is in peril.

The investment will allow the collection to be moved to Boston Spa, Yorkshire, while allowing digital and microfilm access to the collection from the British Library's flagship building at St Pancras, London.

President of the Newspaper Society David Fordham said he was "delighted".

He said: "The collection is a most remarkable asset to the country and has in it an unrivalled richness and depth of interest to millions of people."