British Council increases arts investment

- 6 March 2013

The British Council, which five years ago had scrapped its arts funding and reinstated it after government intervention, is increasing its arts investment by £14m over two years.

The announcement came as BC chairman Sir Vernon Ellis unveiled Mark Wallinger’s The White Horse, commissioned by the artist at a cost of £100,000. Ellis said the increased investment underlined that ‘the arts are at the heart of the British Council and define who we are as seen from overseas’.

British Council director arts Graham Sheffield said the extra investment had been possible by a profit in the BC’s profit from teaching English abroad and from examinations. The extra money will be used to develop events and collaborations and to commission new work.

Mark Wallinger with BC chair Vernon Ellis

The extra funding, therefore, comes from earned income, Sheffield said, which makes up 75% of the British Council’s annual turnover of £739m.

‘This investment reflects our firm belief in the fundamental importance of the arts and creative industries in the UK, what they contribute intrinsically to the projection of the UK as a forward-thinking society, to the stability and cohesion of society itself, to personal well-being, to employability in the new economy and to growth and prosperity at home and abroad,’ Sheffield said. ‘We are an entrepreneurial public service and this investment offers support to the UK sector but also provides opportunities for people worldwide.’

The investment is seen as an essential support for the UK’s creative sector which is estimated to be worth £17bn a year to the economy.

The BC’s music initiatives in 2013 are led by the centenary of Benjamin Britten’s birth this year. Working with the Britten-Pears Foundation, an animation project inspired by A Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra will link schoolchildren in the UK, Russia and Brazil, introducing a new generation to Britten’s music. There are also to be performances of his A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Rio de Janeiro in May.

In Moscow in November, the Russian National Orchestra will perform Britten pieces under Vassily Petrenko, Sir Mark Elder and Mikhail Pletnev, and Ian Bostridge will appear at the Moscow Conservatoire singing Death in Venice. There is also to be an exhibition about Britten at the Pushkin Museum in Moscow.


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