Save the Arts: Classical music's big names add their weight to campaign

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The Independent Online
Some of the biggest names from the world of British classical music have joined The Independent's campaign to end the crisis in the arts.

The conductor Sir Simon Rattle, composer Sir Peter Maxwell Davies and music director of The English National Opera, Paul Daniel, who won a Laurence Olivier Award this week for his achievements with ENO, have signed up to the campaign. The fashion designer Zandra Rhodes has also lent her support.

Sir Simon has made the City Of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra a global force since becoming music director. But despite this, it has suffered severe problems of funding. The tax breaks we are advocating for donors would provide an additional source of funding for such a popular orchestra.

The Independent and Independent On Sunday 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 individuals give to the arts, and help end the financial crisis cultural institutions are facing.

Leading lights in the arts continue to come on board the campaign. Last week, two of the biggest names in British theatre lent their support - the musicals impresario Sir Cameron Mackintosh, and the actor Ian Holm. They join a list that includes Sir Peter Hall, Alan Ayckbourn, Fiona Shaw and Harriet Walter. Readers have been writing in with their support in large numbers, showing the desire that exists in Britain to give to the arts and to end the anomalies that in effect penalise people for doing so.

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 be brought in to replace the muddled and 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 already scored two significant victories. Chris Smith, Secretary of State for Culture, 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. It includes leading businesses such as BT and BP and has on its council such arts luminaries as Lord Puttnam and Dame Diana Rigg. Its director general, Colin Tweedy, said: "Arts supporters should be left with a warm feeling, not an accounting nightmare." Many readers and celebrities who have been phoning in with their support were keen to stress, correctly, that the system of tax relief and climate of giving we are advocating should be additional to, and not a substitute for, a proper system of public subsidy.