artsfunding

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 30 March 2011

What a day

I’m exhausted.

If you’ve been following me on Twitter you’ll know that I was woken up by a text from my boss to say we were not successful in our bid to be one of the Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations. The company had been regularly funded by ACE since 2008, and now has a year to get its finances in order before they whip it all away again. I’m not going to talk about that here though. It’s not really my place to. I’m also not going to give a big rundown of the ‘winners and losers’ in today’s announcements, because you can see all that information on The Guardian site, including their FRANKLY WONDERFUL liveblog, which has been as indispensable as Twitter today.

I’m going to be all gooey and talk personal stuff, because I FUCKING LOVE THE THEATRE THAT COMES OUT OF THIS COUNTRY and I’m still naive enough to want to contribute to it with the rest of my life. As you know, I came back to uni for an Arts Management degree in 2009 after doing admin for LiveNation Theatres in Manchester. Last year I completely fell in love with learning about stuff again, and my good marks told me that a career in academia wouldn’t be out of the question. I got all exciteable about my new life path and started collecting postgrad prospectuses and dreaming about the open fire I’d have in my Oxbridge office. I planned a big old-fashioned ‘thinky’ dissertation about the psychological effects of immersive theatre and imagined myself pointing at PowerPoint slides. I helped a couple of other students with some stuff and got all emotional at the thought of teaching people who want to be taught.

I’m not going to pretend, just for effect, that today’s funding news is solely responsible for my changing ideas about my future, because a whole load of stuff has happened recently that’s made me re-evaluate my priorities in life, but we’ve heard from some amazing, inspirational people today. I read Pilot Theatre’s Marcus Romer call for collaboration and mutual support within the industry before I’d had my breakfast. I read tweets and blogs from Unlimited and Fierce and Birmingham MAC who shared their good news, as well as announcements from Third Angel and Greenroom who have lost funding. I was hugely chuffed to hear that Slung Low, Coney and DreamThinkSpeak have been added to the portfolio for the first time (not to mention amazed that Slung Low weren’t already an RFO). I started to think about the apparent shift towards organisations who are pushing the envelope, creating new forms and challenging preconceptions of what theatre is. If I became an academic, these are the people I would study, dissect, write about and swear about in the pub. (Whatever happens in the future, there will undoubtedly be swearing to be done in pubs.) But today has confirmed something in my mind, and that is that I don’t just want to think about these organisations, I want to be a part of them. I want to graduate next summer, just as this new funding scheme begins in earnest, and I want to help talented people push great big fat fucking envelopes.


TAGS: artsfunding theatre arts council cuts work uni

synonymsforchurlish / posted on 8 December 2010 I woke up late this morning and, as usual, reached for the comforting presence of Twitter before even throwing back the covers.  First thing I noticed was a lot of nonsense* from the DCMS about some new match-funding scheme for philanthropic donations to the arts.  Within about 30 seconds this was criticised widely for being nothing new - the lottery funds had been earmarked for some time - but it reminded me of a thought I’ve had a fair few times in recent months.

Why don’t arts organisations operate the same low-level monthly Direct Debit schemes that charities do?  Why can I give £2 a month to Oxfam but not to a theatre company?

There are countless low-income arts lovers around who are unable to join, say, the Bush Theatre Rising Stars programme (from £30 a month), the Royal Court Friend Scheme (£25 one-off payment), the National Theatre Membership Ladder (minimum of £65), but want to respond positively to the increased need for private giving in light of recent arts cuts.  £2 a month is manageable for students, OAPs, the unemployed, and it adds up.  For some organisations, an extra couple of hundred pounds can mean research and development for a new show, a sign language interpretor to allow deaf children to attend a workshop, or a web marketing campaign. It can mean jobs. 

I wondered if these schemes are costly to administrate, but @joemuggs saw my tweet today and explained that he’s worked for the Charities Aid Foundation recently and understands that they can set up such things quite reasonably.  @jakeyoh also pointed out that Little Angel Theatre already allow regular small donations, and I found that Kneehigh Theatre allow their annual member subscription to be paid at £2.50 a month.  Later today, I received replies from @kidsinmuseums to say that they operate a £2 a month scheme and @OpenClasp to say that they use the ‘payroll giving’ system to collect as little as 50p a month.  So it’s obviously perfectly feasible for an organisation with limited resources.

I also received replies from some organisations which misunderstood me slightly.  I do not consider a Box Office option to donate an extra pound or two to be the same thing at all.  Of course one-off donations are helpful, and they are relatively painless for the customer when they are purchasing tickets already.  But, as Jeremy Hunt is so keen to remind us, it is sustained and regular donations that will keep the arts alive in this country.  Small theatre companies, who may only make one or two shows a year, need to be able to rely on their supporters month in and month out.

I am a student. I receive about £6,000 a year from Student Finance, and another £400 a month from a part-time job.  I reckon I could afford to spend £10 a month on philanthropy.  At the moment, I could decide who to give that £10 to and hope that they have an option to send a one-off payment.  If they didn’t accept online payments, I suppose I could write a cheque and post it with a note explaining that I wanted to help them out, but I’m not sure I trust myself to be bothered.  

If I could spend that £10 on an ongoing commitment to the five organisations that had impressed my the most in the last twelve months, I’d probably choose Sound & Fury, Jane Packman, DreamThinkSpeak, maybe even The Royal Court and The National Theatre.  Those organisations would get my £2 today, and they would know another £2 was coming in a few weeks.  Which is more than anyone can say for cash coming from the Arts Council.


*It’s just been pointed out to me that this isn’t a fair way to talk about the new match-funding thing.  I want to make it clear that I don’t think the scheme itself is nonsense, more that the way the DCMS were presenting it as some kind of magical sector-saving initiative felt a bit laughable.  I agree that match-funding is a good, incentivising idea, but this isn’t a new pot of money.  Sorry if I sounded like I was pissing all over it unnecessarily.

I woke up late this morning and, as usual, reached for the comforting presence of Twitter before even throwing back the covers. First thing I noticed was a lot of nonsense* from the DCMS about some new match-funding scheme for philanthropic donations to the arts. Within about 30 seconds this was criticised widely for being nothing new - the lottery funds had been earmarked for some time - but it reminded me of a thought I’ve had a fair few times in recent months.

Why don’t arts organisations operate the same low-level monthly Direct Debit schemes that charities do? Why can I give £2 a month to Oxfam but not to a theatre company?

There are countless low-income arts lovers around who are unable to join, say, the Bush Theatre Rising Stars programme (from £30 a month), the Royal Court Friend Scheme (£25 one-off payment), the National Theatre Membership Ladder (minimum of £65), but want to respond positively to the increased need for private giving in light of recent arts cuts. £2 a month is manageable for students, OAPs, the unemployed, and it adds up. For some organisations, an extra couple of hundred pounds can mean research and development for a new show, a sign language interpretor to allow deaf children to attend a workshop, or a web marketing campaign. It can mean jobs.

I wondered if these schemes are costly to administrate, but @joemuggs saw my tweet today and explained that he’s worked for the Charities Aid Foundation recently and understands that they can set up such things quite reasonably. @jakeyoh also pointed out that Little Angel Theatre already allow regular small donations, and I found that Kneehigh Theatre allow their annual member subscription to be paid at £2.50 a month. Later today, I received replies from @kidsinmuseums to say that they operate a £2 a month scheme and @OpenClasp to say that they use the ‘payroll giving’ system to collect as little as 50p a month. So it’s obviously perfectly feasible for an organisation with limited resources.

I also received replies from some organisations which misunderstood me slightly. I do not consider a Box Office option to donate an extra pound or two to be the same thing at all. Of course one-off donations are helpful, and they are relatively painless for the customer when they are purchasing tickets already. But, as Jeremy Hunt is so keen to remind us, it is sustained and regular donations that will keep the arts alive in this country. Small theatre companies, who may only make one or two shows a year, need to be able to rely on their supporters month in and month out.

I am a student. I receive about £6,000 a year from Student Finance, and another £400 a month from a part-time job. I reckon I could afford to spend £10 a month on philanthropy. At the moment, I could decide who to give that £10 to and hope that they have an option to send a one-off payment. If they didn’t accept online payments, I suppose I could write a cheque and post it with a note explaining that I wanted to help them out, but I’m not sure I trust myself to be bothered.

If I could spend that £10 on an ongoing commitment to the five organisations that had impressed my the most in the last twelve months, I’d probably choose Sound & Fury, Jane Packman, DreamThinkSpeak, maybe even The Royal Court and The National Theatre. Those organisations would get my £2 today, and they would know another £2 was coming in a few weeks. Which is more than anyone can say for cash coming from the Arts Council.


*It’s just been pointed out to me that this isn’t a fair way to talk about the new match-funding thing. I want to make it clear that I don’t think the scheme itself is nonsense, more that the way the DCMS were presenting it as some kind of magical sector-saving initiative felt a bit laughable. I agree that match-funding is a good, incentivising idea, but this isn’t a new pot of money. Sorry if I sounded like I was pissing all over it unnecessarily.


TAGS: arts artsfunding