A gala moves across the pond

Vogue’s Anna Wintour is planning a Met Gala-style event in London to support budget-depleted arts sector

UK government cuts to the arts in the British capital inspired the famed editor to take action.

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Anna Wintour and Bill Nighy arrive at the Met Gala, an annual fundraising gala held for the benefit of the Metropolitan Museum of Art's Costume Institute with this year's theme "Karl Lagerfeld: A Line of Beauty", in New York City, New York, U.S., May 1, 2023.
Photo: Andrew Kelly (Reuters)

Anna Wintour’s main residence is in New York City, but the British fashion icon has not forgotten her London roots. Vogue’s global editorial director and Condé Nast artistic director is planning to launch a Met Gala-style event to raise funds for the London arts and culture scene.

The Met Gala in New York is one of fashion’s most anticipated annual events, and it’s easy to forget about its core philanthropic mission among the glitz, glamor, and wild sartorial controversies it unfailingly provokes. The event was set up in 1948 to raise funds for the Costume Institute, which had merged with the Metropolitan Museum of Art two years earlier. It’s since become one of New York City’s biggest philanthropic events.


Anna Wintour and the Met Gala

Wintour has been chairing the Met Gala since 1995 and has a successful fundraising track record. According to Forbes, she raised more than $175 million in the first two decades of her tenure. This year, a ticket to the event reportedly cost $50,000, up from the $30,000 price tag it had held for the past few years.


One of the most powerful women in fashion and media, Wintour is now looking to use her talents, and extensive network, to support her hometown’s cultural scene. Wintour told the Guardian this week that she was inspired to organize an event in London after realizing the extent of government cuts to the arts in the British capital, which were diverted to other parts of the country.

“I read with dismay about the amount of cuts that were happening around the performing arts,” Wintour said. “The creative talent in London is unparalleled, so anything we can do to support all those creatively brilliant people, we’ll do,” she said.

Cuts to the London arts and culture scene, by the digits

£458 million ($574 million): Funds awarded yearly for the 2023-2026 period, an increase of less than 10% from its previous £409 million budget over the 2018-2022 period. The UK inflation rate in 2022 was 11%


£152 million ($190 million): Chunk of the annual funding going toward London-based institutions, the largest share of the grants by geographical area but a reduction compared to the previous budget

More than 100: London-based organizations whose government grant is left unchanged from the previous budget thus experiencing a cut in real-term funding because of inflation


£0: Amount awarded to previously-funded London venues like the Hampstead Theatre, the Gate Theatre, and the Donmar Warehouse, and the English National Opera (unless it moves away from London)

5%: decrease in annual funding of the National Theatre from circa £17 million last year to £16 million for the 2023-2026 period


11.6%: decrease in annual funding of the Royal Opera House, from £25 million last year to £22 million in the latest budget

€4.2 billion ($4.5 billion): France’s cultural budget for 2023 (a country with a similar population size to the UK, but lower GDP value)


€2.4 billion ($2.5 billion): Germany’s cultural budget for 2023 (a country with a larger population size to the UK, and higher GDP value)

Quotable: A plan not thought through

“Nowhere near enough to transform the picture in the rest of the country, but enough to devastate English National Opera, and many others.” Nicholas Hytner, a former artistic director of London’s National Theatre, commenting in a Guardian opinion piece on the government’s decision to divert £24 million ($30 million) from the London arts scene to other parts of the UK.


What we know about the Met Gala-style London event so far

📅 It will take place in September

🌟 It will feature celebrities like model Naomi Campbell, musician Stormzy, and actors Michaela Coel, and Sir Ian McKellen


🎟️ It will be ticketed and open to the public, unlike the Met Gala, with proceeds going to London-based performance arts organizations. Prices are set to start at £150 ($188), but some will be free to students

✅ It will feature a red carpet outside, a catwalk show, and live performances

📍 It will take place at the Theatre Royal Drury Lane in London’s Covent Garden area


🗺️ Similar events are planned for cities in Asia and Europe (locations to be decided)