Lloyd Dorfman, chairman of the foreign exchange specialist Travelex, has donated £10m to the National Theatre and urged fellow business leaders to prevent the spread of a “cultural wasteland” by giving more to the arts.
The donation will form the cornerstone of the National’s £70m redevelopment project to open up its spaces to the public. The complex in London has decided to rename its Cottesloe Theatre after Mr Dorfman when the project is completed.
Travelex has sponsored the National since 2003, when a £10 ticket scheme for certain productions was launched.
The scheme, which was recently renewed for a further three years, has been one of the decade’s most successful partnerships between business and the arts.
Last year the theatre sold its millionth Travelex £10 ticket, and revealed that 300,000 tickets had been bought by first-time visitors to the National.
Mr Dorfman praised the “energy and innovation” shown by the National under its director, Sir Nicholas Hytner, who said: “I never dreamt that [Mr Dorfman’s] involvement with the National would have such a far-reaching and transformational effect.
“I couldn’t be more grateful to him. It is entirely fitting that his family name will be associated with an auditorium which often plays host to our most innovative work.”
The latest donation comes at a time when Arts Council England is having its funding slashed by 30 per cent in the government’s spending review.
“These are difficult times,” Mr Dorfman said. “We are where we are and everyone has to take their medicine. But I hope that more individuals and corporate bodies will step forward and help support the arts.
Mr Dorfman urged private and business donors to give more to the arts.
“We don’t want a situation where the infrastructure of the arts gets neglected and then, when better times return, we will be sitting in a cultural wasteland because we didn’t invest in it enough.”
Asked if he thought business was doing enough for the arts, Mr Dorfman said: “There is room for improvement. This is the time to step forward.”
He said that quite apart from anything else, arts sponsorship was good for business.
“I still get letters from people who enjoy a [Travelex] play at the National and say, ‘Thank you, we will make sure we change our money at Travelex the next time we are at an airport’.”