The arts are in a sorry state at a time when we need them most

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Sir Simon Rattle is right to express his anxiety about the state of classical music in the UK (Simon Rattle is right: Britain is becoming a cultural wasteland – and that’s a political choice, 26 April). He is worried about the future of orchestras, opera houses and large choirs as public financial subsidies dry up.

I am the secretary of a very small concert promotion company in north Hertfordshire. We too have lost the support of local authorities, but even more worrying is the dwindling size of our audience.

To survive, we need access to a congenial location with a good view and its own concert piano. So we need an audience of at least 100 people which allows us to engage professional musicians with an established reputation. There is no suitable local office, so we make do. We cannot attract an audience of more than 50 people to enjoy the standard chamber music repertoire. The elderly no longer travel. Younger people don’t appreciate a night out in unfamiliar surroundings listening to unfamiliar music played by (to them) unfamiliar musicians.

We can’t justify subsidies if we don’t attract the public. Our national federation, Making Music, focuses on encouraging amateur artists. There is little support to encourage listeners. Perhaps it is now the turn of conservatories to turn to the business of creating new young audiences, if only to employ their young musicians.
Simone Armitage
Hitchin, Hertfordshire

• As Martin Kettle says, Simon Rattle is right to lament the deplorable state of support for the arts in this country. It is an outrage that the government has chosen to view the arts sector as a drain on the nation’s resources and savagely cut off what has never been more than a meager supply to this sphere. It should celebrate what all art forms can do in terms of engaging, energizing and sustaining people’s spirits at a time when morale seems so low. When it comes to improving people’s mental health, the arts have a huge role to play.

I am old enough – and lucky – to have been able to attend Robert Meyer’s concerts at London’s Festival Hall – virtually free concerts which encouraged a love of music in children (not government funded, but organized by someone who appreciated the joy of music can bring). I also went regularly to my local repertory theater – where the talents of actors just starting out were nurtured – a system lost to financial neglect. Those concerts and plays were enriching the gifts of my life.
Ingrid Squirrel
Cheam, London

• Local parishes are the unsung heroes of the UK music scene. From evening singing in Elgar, from rock to requiems, the churches are the perfect home for amateur and professional choirs, musicians and orchestras. They’re big, they’re beautiful, and there’s one in every community. The churches have nurtured our world-class musical talent like Tasmin Little and Ed Sheeran. Live music also contributes to church revenues, so important when many struggle to raise the money needed to keep their buildings open and in good repair.
Eddie Tulasiewicz
Head of communications, the National Churches Trust

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