Birmingham’s arts organisations will lose out to London when they are forced to bid for private investment to keep afloat amid Government cuts, Culture Minister Ed Vaizey said.
But Mr Vaizey said despite the struggle, the West Midlands’ creative community won’t get special treatment from the Government.
Mr Vaizey was speaking at a meeting organised by the CBSO and the Association of British Orchestras, which are both warning that big cuts in public funding will damage orchestras and other arts groups.
But Mr Vaizey said that instead of focusing on Government cuts, those organisations should be devising creative ways to raise money from the private sector.
He admitted, however, that attracting such philanthropy was a more difficult task outside of London.
He said: “Birmingham is known as the Second City. But I think it’s important to realise that, outside of London, it’s harder to raise money from individuals and businesses.
“The big arts organisations in the capital can tap into the city’s financial community. They can also tap into large sums of money from elsewhere, since they have an international presence.
“It’s much harder for smaller organisations outside of the capital to raise money. That’s something we have to think very hard about ways of overcoming.”
However, he did not believe this meant that Birmingham – and other cities – should be protected from cuts in the public sector.
Instead, he wanted to look at ways of encouraging more local donors to invest in the arts in the West Midlands.
“The plan is to engage with major philanthropists in and around Birmingham,” he said.
Mr Vaizey also stated that he would defend the arts. He said: “I find it quite depressing that there seems to be this feeling in the arts community that I’m just sitting back in the Treasury and offering up the arts as an easy cut. And that’s absolutely not the case.
“I don’t think creativity is going to die in this country.”
But he added: “The idea that the arts can be immune from the cuts is nonsensical.”
Stephen Maddock, chief executive of the CBSO, said that there were expectations of a ten per cent cut in funding of the CBSO, which would mean a loss of £400,000.
However, he said that the organisation was searching for alternative funding to fill the financial hole, and that everyone involved with the CBSO remained upbeat.
“At the moment the CBSO is doing so well creatively, and there is still great excitement about the work we are producing,” he said. But these are anxious times.”
But despite the looming cuts, two leading lights of the Midlands arts scene have urged local organisations to “sit tight” during tough times ahead.
Dr Anita Bhalla OBE, chairman of the Midlands Arts Centre (MAC) in Cannon Hill Park, said: “Of course, it is going to be difficult, but it is quite clear that people in Birmingham do use the arts.
“We reopened earlier this year following a £15.4 million redevelopment, we had thousands of people through our doors on the first weekend, and we still have people coming in.”
Andrew Jowett, director of Birmingham Town Hall and Symphony Hall, said: “We need to fine tune and adapt like any other business, as we are not immune from the rigours of the economic environment.
“But at the Town Hall and Symphony Hall we believe in keeping the quality of what we do firmly in focus, and there is no point in putting on a great programme if you don’t have the staff to support it.
“People see the value of arts in Birmingham and the real sense of pride of what goes on in the city will remain.”