Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by sporta (arts 20)

sporta emphasises the benefits of providing cultural services in mixed-use leisure facilities run by social enterprises at the heart of communities. We urge support this provision and encouragement for its further imaginative development through policies at national and local level.

1. sporta is the national association which represents over 100 not-for-profit organisations and social enterprises across Great Britain. Our members run sporting and cultural facilities mostly under long-term contracts with local authorities, and many also deliver additional community services. In total we operate some 900 facilities serving 210 million user visits per year and employ approximately 26,000 staff.


2. sporta welcomes this inquiry. Our submission on the issues which are raised by the Committee is focussed especially on the need to recognise the role of cultural provision and services delivered to communities by sporta members which are sometimes not seen as within the definition of "arts organisations."


3. A few sporta organisations manage regular arts and cultural venues which stand alone as part of their portfolios - theatres and museums for example. Many others provide regular and community-based cultural services in multi-purpose centres, and these services increasingly cover a wide and eclectic range.


4. Our members believe that this broad basis of provision has many benefits:


 - for young people especially it washes away what is sometimes an artificial distinction, in their minds at least, between "sport and recreation" and "arts and culture." This obviously arises in dance, but there are other areas too, including various forms of youth/alternative culture. And this is not confined to young people - elderly people can enjoy a range of active and creative pursuits which are not easily categorised, some new and some which are traditional to their communities, perhaps even things revived from their younger lives.


 - at the same time provision in sporta centres can help increase participation in more than one activity. For example, a person who attends a centre for swimming or fitness may be introduced to and find it easier to join in with a cultural activity which is run in the same place, and which they might not have otherwise considered if it required visiting an "arts" establishment. And of course this can work the other way - people visiting a centre for a more cultural experience can persuade themselves more readily to take up exercise or a sport


- cultural activities provided in this way are additionally more open to local community choice, not provider choice.

-delivery through one local social enterprise structure improves cost-effectiveness


5. When he recently opened a new sporta facility in Rochdale Sir Steve Redgrave said:

  " The new Middleton Arena is fantastic and there's a real buzz here. I really like the way the arena incorporates sport, arts and entertainment in one place."


6. The current need for expenditure cuts are of course going to inflict some damage on the ability of sporta members to provide cultural services to their communities - this is likely to be both in the straightforward loss of resources and in the tendency for local authorities to prioritise price over quality and value for money in serving local community needs. Also the dismantling or reduction in some national machinery, including that of the MLA, will detract from their ability to link in with national programmes. However, we hope that the greater emphasis on local and user-base choice will be an opportunity.


7. The vital need is for national government to maintain programmes and policies which encourage participation in the arts and culture at community level and which is accessible to a broad range of people in communities in all areas of the country – including those who not easily able to reach major national institutions.


8. Lottery and Exchequer grant funding should not be diverted excessively to the major institutions but instead be applied fairly and more imaginatively to support local provision.


9. National programmes to facilitate philanthropy should include a focus on support for a wide range of community cultural provision.


10. Local authorities who have not chosen the sporta model should be encouraged to consider this as a cost effective community-based way of delivering local cultural services, and the benefits of this model should be protected.


11. Local authorities should also be encouraged to give reasonable priority to community based culture which can have even greater beneficial impacts at times of social and personal stress.  


12. sporta is available to talk constructively with government and others about how to maintain and improve local cultural services and would welcome the Committee's support for our objectives.


August 2010