The arts benefit the economy - official

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Students are forever being told to concentrate on sciences, mathematics and engineering and stop messing around with arty subjects. The UK's trade figures though suggest that the arts are a far-from-negligible pillar of the UK economy, generating far more cash than they absorb in public subsidies. It might be a while before politicians start demanding we train up more actors and ballet dancers but the figures at least bolster the case for subsidising artistic endeavours even in a recession.

A report by the Centre for Economics and Business Research suggests that artistic events in the UK generate at least £856 million of tourist spending in the UK economy annually. More significantly for those who claim that arts funding is a drain on the economy, the research argues that, while accounting for 0.1 percent of public funding, the arts contribute four times that amount to the UK's GDP.

It amounts to an in-your-face response to the culture secretary Maria Miller who recently demanded that the arts justify their existence in economic terms. In times of cuts across the board of public spending, the arts are a soft target but the report suggests that they are more than pulling their weight.

The chief executive of the Arts Council England, Alan Davey, said that the report backed up the body's view that "arts centres and activities transform our towns and cities and drive regeneration, making the choice to maintain investment in culture a forward-thinking one for local authorities." He also pointed out that artistic excellence encouraged the growth of creative industries and improved productivity.

It's not going to happen overnight, but perhaps there will come a time when students taking a gap year to write a novel or paint water-colours in the south of France can claim that they are doing their bit to support economic growth.

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