Select Committee on Culture, Media and Sport Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by the Theatrical Management Association


  I am pleased to respond on behalf of the Theatrical Management Association (TMA) to the Committee's invitation to submit a memorandum on how the Association views the plans formulated by the Arts Council of England for the reorganisation of the arts funding system in England so as to create a single national funding body with nine regional offices in place of the 10 present, independently constituted Regional Arts Boards.

  The Arts Council's Prospectus for Change, published in the Spring of 2001, came as a considerable surprise to TMA members as to most other arts organisations. Their reaction varied greatly: some of our members issued immediate statements in support of the overall objective of the reorganisation; some remained neutral; yet others expressed either strong reservations or outright opposition. This was a reflection partly of differences in outlook and philosophy among the artistic directors and/or chief executives of our individual member organisations and partly of the particular experiences which they had had over the years of the Arts Council itself and of their own Regional Arts Boards. In the circumstances, the Association did not seek to establish any kind of consensus among its membership on this issue—and indeed, had it done so, it is doubtful whether it could have succeeded.

  The Arts Council's publication in July 2001 of Working Together for the Arts appeared to allay some of the concerns of some members, but there remained strong differences of view, as there are still today.

  The Committee asks the Association to comment in particular on the Arts Council's "ability to fulfil its claims" in a number of detailed respects. In principle, the aims which the Committee cites are unexceptionable. Few could argue, for example, with simplifying funding schemes or with releasing additional funding for the arts by cutting down on wasteful duplication of administration. Moreover, there can be little doubt that such aims could be achieved within the broad framework of reorganisation which the Arts Council intends. What remains to be seen is whether its detailed implementation will indeed yield those benefits in practice. As was evident from the Arts Council's appearance before the Committee on 15 January, there are many critical issues still to settle; and there has so far been too little information to enable those outside the funding system itself to form a considered judgment.

  It may assist the Committee to make reference to one further matter. The reorganisation has now pre-occupied the funding system (and particularly those at the most senior levels within it) for almost a year. The fact that uncertainty has continued for so long is having an increasingly destabilising effect. In particular, it is encouraging officers working within the system to look for career opportunities elsewhere, and indeed some of the most highly regarded have already left. There has accordingly been a growing feeling within the Association's membership that, whatever the strength of the case for reorganisation, there is now an urgent need for decisive action in order to cut through the argument and, in colloquial terms, "to get on with it". Neither theatre nor the other arts can afford their funders to concentrate their energies on internal debate for much longer.

  I hope that this is helpful to the Committee. No doubt you will let me know if the TMA can be of any further assistance.

6 February 2002

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