How the arts benefit both the economy and the public
Interim Chief Executive Sally O'Neill reflects on a report finding that the arts contribute £5.9 billion annually to economy.
It has been revealed in a report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) that the arts contributes an estimated £5.9 billion of value to the economy annually, and nationally is a £12.4-billion industry making a significant impact on employment and tourism.
The research comes as no surprise. Here at the Royal Opera House we’re experiencing huge public interest in opera and ballet. So far this Season, The Royal Ballet and The Royal Opera have played to houses averaging 97% attendance with – to use just one production as an example – 108,000 people seeing The Nutcracker either here or in their local cinema. We’re not alone either: despite the challenging economic climate, across the UK, the number of people who experience and/or take part in the arts each year has risen to a record 78%.
We continue to broaden our audiences because we believe that the arts inspire, uplift and (above all) enrich people’s lives. But we also recognize the responsibility that prestigious and iconic cultural organizations carry to grow the visitor economy and seizing international opportunities.
Roberta Marquez of The Royal Ballet at an Afroreggae workshop in Rio, Brazil © Luiz Guilherme Guerreiro, 2013
The CEBR report reveals that 32% of visits to the UK involved some engagement with the arts and culture, with an annual additional impact of £856m. Through cinemas (we broadcast to 900 screens across 32 countries), digital activity (such as the recent Royal Opera LIVE streaming day) and initiatives such as our recent visits to Brazil and Tasmania, we continue to fly the flag for UK culture.
All this is possible through consistent investment from Arts Council England and through the revenues we generate through ticket sales, commercial activity and generous private philanthropy (just over £3 for every £1 of public support).
The report also touches on the valuable contribution that cultural organizations can make to revitalizing communities. It is possible to rebalance economies that have seen traditional industry decline and move towards a knowledge-based economic model. As we’re seeing in Thurrock and the Thames Gateway since the creation of the High House Production Park, and since the establishment of ROH Bridge; placing the arts at the heart of a community can raise aspirations, foster community cohesion and open up new opportunities. It’s vital that we continue to lobby for the inclusion of the arts in the curriculum and inspire young people about careers both in front of and behind the curtain, regardless of their economic or cultural background.
The arts truly are a reminder of what makes Britain ‘Great’, and long may that continue.