Sir Simon Rattle is right to voice his anxiety about the state of classical music in the UK (Simon Rattle is right: Britain is becoming a cultural desert – and that’s a political choice, 26 April). He is concerned for the future of orchestras, opera houses and large choirs as public financial subsidies dry up.
I am the secretary of a very small concert-promoting society in north Hertfordshire. We too have lost local authority support, but even more concerning is the diminishing size of our audiences.
To survive, we need access to a congenial venue with good sight lines and its own concert piano. Then we need an audience of at least 100 to enable us to engage professional musicians with established reputations. There is no suitable local venue, so we make do. We cannot attract audiences of more than 50 to enjoy the standard chamber music repertoire. Elderly people no longer travel. Younger people do not appreciate a night out in unfamiliar surroundings listening to unfamiliar music played by unknown (to them) musicians.
We cannot justify subsidies if we do not attract audiences. Our national federation, Making Music, concentrates on encouraging amateur performers. There is little support for encouraging listeners. Maybe it is now for the conservatoires to turn their hands to the business of creating new young audiences, if only to provide work for their young musicians.
• As Martin Kettle says, Simon Rattle is right to lament the sorry state of support for the arts in this country. It is an outrage that the government has chosen to regard the arts sector as a drain on the nation’s resources and savagely cut what was never more than measly provision for this sphere. It should be celebrating what all forms of art can do in terms of involving, energising and sustaining people’s spirits at a time when morale seems so low. In respect of improving people’s mental health, the arts have a huge role to play.
I am old – and fortunate – enough to have been able to attend the Robert Mayer concerts at London’s Festival Hall – virtually free concerts that fostered a love of music in children (not government-funded, but set up by someone who appreciated what joy music can bring). I also went regularly to my local repertory theatre – where the talents of actors just starting out were nurtured – a system lost due to financial neglect. Those concerts and theatre performances were enriching lifetime gifts for me.
• Local parish churches are the unsung heroes of the UK’s music scene. From evensong to Elgar, rock to requiems, churches are the perfect home for amateur and professional choirs, musicians and orchestras. They are large, they are beautiful and there is one in every community. Churches have nurtured our world-class musical talent such as Tasmin Little and Ed Sheeran. Live music also contributes to the income of churches, so important when many struggle to raise the money needed to keep their buildings open and in good repair.
Head of communications, the National Churches Trust