Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Sherborne House Trust (arts 40)

This contribution concerns the relevance of volunteer support particularly in a regional context. It particularly addresses the question - Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one?

· I suggest the need for effective cultural leadership particularly to support volunteers and philanthropy.

· I highlight the diversity of urban and rural culture and suggest that collective organization should encompass culture, sport and leisure and interact creatively with the support for good causes.

· I argue that some funding support needs to be focused on developing appropriate leadership and structures for collective working.

I work in education and across a broad range of visual arts agencies and organisations in rural areas.

Sherborne House Trust is a charitable foundation set up to restore a seventeenth century building containing a mural by Sir James Thornhill. The trust seeks to establish a contemporary visual art space for the interpretation of the work of Elizabeth Frink. The archive of the Frink estate is to be accessible from the House. The Trust currently delivers a contemporary arts programme in venues and spaces elsewhere in the region.

1. Organisations such as Sherborne House exist on enthusiasm and vision but have no paid professionals monitoring structure and quality or articulating direction and acting as advocates. In the contexts where I work audiences accessibility to visual culture promotes tolerance , exchange , enrichment , pluralism, learning and understanding.

2. Groups run on volunteer support interface across communities but require organisational leadership by cultural professionals to persist and to deliver programmes of ambition, relevance and breadth. It will be challenging to sustain the volunteer support enjoyed by smaller organisations in the new environment for culture funding. The culture sector identifies and enhances communal identity.

3. Groups promoting and delivering culture activity in local contexts interact with and benefit from good will and small-scale support from local and national/international business based locally - a supplement to modest state support.

· Small business interests represent a nascent basis of philanthropy for regional organisations.

· The profit motivated businesses have no experience of the economic advantages that cultural activity can bring. Present and future spending cuts will act against the possibility of attracting philanthropic funding from regional business, particularly in the long term; unless organisations, such as, Arts and Business, exist to actively encourage awareness of the potential of associations with culture independently to local agencies (with specific local interest, understanding and connections).

· Incentives make it easier for businesses to justify supporting culture but it is effective cultural leaders who communicate specific advantages in terms that can be translated into publicly conscientious business.

4. Business models do not correspond to the aspirations, nor to the management and board structures of not for profit and culturally driven organisations. Efficiencies, such as brand diversification, and a sales ethos are anathema to volunteers driven by integrity – who seek opportunities for artists and audiences that will enrich and celebrate the local, through independence, diversification and ethical value.

5. Volunteer effort and agency can only be galvanised and focused by supported professionals. There is nothing to attract such leaders to non-urban areas as funding and potential future funding is drawn to legitimate international activity that by definition conceives the local, and the vernacular, as exotic. Radically different cultural issues face urban and rural communities but productive and democratic discourse is suggested by the interface between developed and the ‘natural’ cultural economies.

6. It is vital for arts organisations to work collectively. The arts are a very competitive field and it is inevitable that competitive individuals and their organisations will assert their interests unless structures are in place to facilitate democratic consensus. While the current system for funding the arts has its drawbacks it is undesirable for interest configurations to wield influence unless they can be embedded in structures that are audience and opportunity directed.

7. Collective cultural enterprise is built on trust, this will not be a short term gain but should be developed in the longer term. Structures and skills are needed for organizations to work together to generate more ambitious outcomes .

8. Culture organisations should not be conceived as isolated from other leisure, sport and media configurations. Economic efficiencies must encompass dialogue between these zones of activity. Stadiums, fields, auditoriums, theatres, heritage places, museums, contemporary art sites and projects would benefit from more unified regional administration and structures to support the exploration of mutual aims and funding interchange.

9. Close dialogue should take place between cultural delivery and the support and awareness of funded good causes. There is scope to develop interaction for mutual benefit and support.

10. The UK cultural sector is happier to interact with Western European partners than with North America because, beyond high prestige institutions, attracting grand public support and attendant corporate support, organisations and audiences have not traditionally worked in a ‘free market’ environment but in a mixed economy with inspirational social and cultural programs where the example of cultural institutions educates children, young learners and adults. In the US a move towards market efficiencies originated in the 1970s and has yet to deliver sustainability for cultural access on the level of most European countries. It remains, notably, ineffective in providing for marginalised, challenging and controversial work and in bringing the arts to areas outside the larger urban conurbations. Supporting the diversity of cultural practice is valuable in suggesting enrichment and dialogue for the diversified communities found in the UK.

11. Recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government may suggest just a few monolithic cultural institutions in urban centres. To avoid this support must be directed:

· To promote effective cultural leadership in small or marginal contexts.

· To develop democratic structures where organisations and agencies, across leisure and culture, work together.

· To insist that cultural leaders promote the good will that ties communities and business to relevant cultural activity.

September 2010