Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Association of Festival Organisers (arts 03)

If I could lay some evidence before the Committee on behalf of the Association of Festival Organisers; The Association of Festival Organisers (AFO) is a membership group of like-minded festival and event managers who believe in learning and teaching, sharing and networking to continuously improve the festival scene.  Created in 1987 when a small gathering of people working in the community festival business it now has hundreds of members who regularly exchange ideas, support one another help develop our sector.

In answer to the enquiry’s questions:

1.         Impact - recent and future spending cuts.
Folk music has for many years been in, what could be described as, revival i.e. the music, dance and song and tradition of these islands has been with us for centuries but only since the 1950’s has it had much public attention, since virtually dying out at the end of the 19th Century.  During this revival period, achieving funding from Government and commercial organizations has been extremely difficult but in recent years, no more than 15, there has been more serious attention paid to the saving of, research and development of folk roots and traditional music. 

In comparison to other genres it is still very small.  Where it could be said that the English folk scene survived perfectly well for over 50 years without much funding, the small amount we now have is making a difference and clearly would be seriously missed both at national and local level.  The impact is already starting to bite in major events like folk festivals some of which are losing funding and in some cases closing down.  Any future cuts in support of folk music might seem small fry to DCMS, or indeed the Arts Council but they make a major difference to the activity.

2.         I would agree that arts organizations could work more closely together to avoid duplication and indeed this is happening in the festival and folk music scene with FolkArts England and EFDSS sharing knowledge, the Association of Festival Organisers working closely with over 150 folk festivals to share our knowledge and keep each other up to date.  There are strong links into the Events industry in general.  However, the organisations with such little funding often seem like the poor version partner in these partnerships.

3.         Level of public subsidy necessary.
There is no doubt at all that Arts and Heritage organisations need public subsidy.  The economics of supporting arts development and training simply do not stack up commercially and in the current economic climate it is unlikely that commercial organisations will make any contribution.  It would be hard to judge what level would be necessary but certainly any serious reduction would have a major impact.

4.         Current System.

On behalf of the festival organisations I would say the current system has many flaws in that DCMS hand down funds to Arts Council England who have particular targets and rarely pay attention to the will, the needs and the partial successes that are available i.e. no matter how important or good the project may be, if it doesn’t fit the Arts Council criteria, it doesn’t happen.  I would suggest that more attention is paid to seeking what the organisation’s targets actually are before deciding whether they should be funded, rather than setting those targets and asking the organisation to modify to suit ACE criteria.

5.         Impact of changes to distribution.

I have little knowledge of these changes but understand that National Lottery funds are crucial to the development of the Arts.  However, central Government funds should not be replaced by National Lottery funds.  I believe there is very strong evidence to demonstrate that taxpayer’s money is extremely well invested in the arts and in particular in folk roots and traditional music.  Pound for pound it gives extremely good value and return.  Witness this through economic impact of folk festivals - see AFO research attached.

Ev not printed.

6.         Guidelines for National Lottery funding review. See above.

7.         I have no comment on the abolition of the Film Council, or the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council but would strengthen the point that DCMS should pay more attention to this nations heritage of music, dance and song without necessarily devolving on mass to the Arts Council, who then set targets reference to minority musics and art forms.

8.         Business and philanthropists.

I think in the current economic climate it is unlikely that commercial funders of the arts are likely to come forward in any great numbers.  Taxpayers money is very well used in my sector, witness the research as above.

9.         Government incentive to commercial donation.

Yes, it would be helpful but should not be seen as a way of cutting Government funding.

In closing, there is no doubt at all that the folk music scene in Great Britain has boosted tourism, assisted in community integration, developed a recognition of culture heritage and nationality.  It’s work overspills into many other areas of Government, not least of which include community life, social and economic impact, both local and national and education through music, dance and song.  Not only should funding not be cut in this area, I would suggest it be expanded and not necessarily through one central body.

August 2010