Comment: ‘We can’t lose the value of what we’ve already created in the arts’ – chief executive of Writers’ Centre, Norwich

Chris Gribble at the City of Literature writers' centre. Photo: Bill Smith

Chris Gribble at the City of Literature writers' centre. Photo: Bill Smith - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

Conversations about public money being spent on the arts aren't easy at the best of times.

When money is tight it's harder still. However, it's a conversation we want and need to have, and not just with Norfolk County Council, but with everyone who lives in, works in and visits our region.

It's just too easy to view the arts as simply a 'nice extra' for people with enough money to spare.

It's a lot more complex than that. Alongside the joy, discovery, self growth and sheer fun created by engaging with excellent art, the arts as an industry are part of the deep ecosystem of our economy and self image and a crucial part of the 'product' we sell to tourists, investors and employers.

With no arts and cultural scene how many of the students who boost our regional economy would come here? How many fewer visitors would come without the festivals, events and programmes staged here? How many investors, faced with locating a business in place A or B would choose the location without a thriving cultural scene and all the good things that accompany it?

Those who take part in the arts don't do so in a vacuum.

They spend money in our shops, at our markets, on our public transport and in our hotels and guest houses. We employ thousands of people in Norfolk alone and give our advertising, marketing, PR, IT, cleaning and waste disposal contracts to local businesses.

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When public funds are used to reduce business rates or support broadband development it is called investment.

When those funds are granted to the arts it is called subsidy. I think we need to take another look at what counts as investment and be careful that we don't lose the value of what we've already created.