Just how much do the Arts contribute to the UK economy? You’ll be surprised

21st June 2020

I have been told many times that the creative industries, which includes theatre, is not as important as other industries because they don’t contribute to the UK’s economy as greatly. 

Knowing that this is completely untrue, I wanted to give you a few facts and figures to show you just how significant our industry is. To start, I want to share this article with you from last April (2019) from The Guardian. It is entitled ‘Arts contribute more to UK economy than agriculture’. This followed the publication of Arts Council England’s study on ‘the contribution of arts and culture to the UK’s GDP’. The report stated that the arts and culture sector added £10.8bn to the economy at the last count in 2016, £390m more than the previous year, more than the agricultural sector and roughly equal to cities such as Liverpool and Sheffield.’

The article also noted that not only was the arts and culture industry affected by funding cuts at this time, but also between 2009 and 2016 its productivity was greater than the wider UK economy. Just think what could have achieved with the right financial support.

Looking at just theatre now - in 2018, theatres all over the UK (including London) had a combined audience total of 34m and a ticket revenue of nearly £1.2bn. But did you know that the West End’s revenue alone was £765m, generating over £127m in VAT for the Treasury?

In 2019, 15.3m audience members visited The West End, which is almost 1m higher than New York’s Broadway. But did you know that our capital made £799m in box office revenue, generating over £133m in VAT for the Treasury?

Seeing these facts and figures (even if it is just for the West End) show, in my opinion, the policy makers don’t know the value of theatres or perhaps don’t understand the problems we continually face. Why aren’t we shouting about these figures more, and why is it the theatre industry that continues to have its funding cut if we have great results like this? 

Another piece of information for you - according to Society of London Theatres (SOLT), did you know that more people see a theatre show each year than attend all annual UK League football matches?

It isn’t only UK residents who are watching the performances either. We are building a reputation of having world leading theatre and with that we are bringing new audiences from all over the globe – along with fantastic artists, costumer designers, technicians and more. 

With world class theatre right here in the UK, with an abundance of skill sets, it is fundamental that the industry and its people are nurtured, cared for and invested in. Surely? 

Outside of London, our 1200 regional theatres are contributing too. Did you know that the Royal and Derngate Theatre in Northampton is worth around £30m to the local economy?

BUT not only is local theatre contributing millions of pounds to the economy, but it is also playing an important part in enriching the lives of their community.

Local theatres and theatre groups are a powerful contribution to our communities. Theatre groups mean something different to everyone. For some it is a place where they can learn to become an artist or find their confidence, for others it is a safe place or somewhere to express themselves. It is inclusive no matter who you are, your background or financial situation – everyone is welcome.

The same goes for local theatre. Positive collaborative relationships between the theatre, community and local authorities is key for local theatre to be viable. Along with producing a variety of performances ensuring there is something for all, creating an unforgettable audience experience and providing job opportunities for local individuals.

Losing venues or groups through lack of funding or a shortage of community support, would be an absolutely travesty. I’m aware it is happening to so many local theatres during this dark and heart-breaking time, but we must keep supporting them as best we can.  

I’ve only noted a handful of reasons, but as I’m sure you know there are so many more as to why theatre, whether regional, National or West End, is a valuable asset. It has a hugely influential factor on our lives, no matter who we are.  We need to keep lobbying the Government, so they start listening and investing in our beloved industry. We also need to start actively promoting this information and the results far and wide, so other industries can see just how much of an impact our industry has on the UK’s economy from our sizeable contribution.