Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE) , Coventry University (arts 56)

 

1. Introduction

1.1 This response has been prepared by Christine Hamilton, Director of the Institute for Creative Enterprise (ICE), Coventry University, on behalf of the Institute. ICE provides the bridge between creative graduates of this university (and others in the West Midlands) and the wider creative industries. We work with those who are leaving university with a BA or MA in Performing Arts, Design and Visual Arts, Media and Communications and Industrial Design. We support the graduates to find jobs, develop their own businesses and to gain knowledge via placements, mentoring and training in the creative industries sector.

1.2 ICE also works closely with established businesses on knowledge transfer, the development of creative practice, and new skills in management and leadership. Recent projects include: developing with the Belgrade Theatre a tool for designers and technicians to create sets in a virtual 3d setting to uncover and solve problems; supporting dance companies to work with older people with memory loss; and running creative labs for businesses wishing to develop commercial projects using digital tools.

1.3 ICELab, our research arm focuses on two areas of work: Cultural Policy and Society and Capturing Creativity|Digital Culture

1.4 The comments below are in relation to the points relevant to our experience working with the arts- particularly in the interface between art an commerce.

2. Summary of our response

· The proposed cuts will not only have an effect on the creative future of artists and the subsidised sector in England, it will also damage the commercial aspects of the creative industries which rely on creative talent. This, in turn will have an effect on the global impact of the country.

· The proposed cuts will have a deeper and more long term effect in the regions of England.

· Arts organisations are already very skilled at working in partnership and while there may be further savings to be made in terms of 'back room' functions these are likely to be minimal.

· There is no ideal 'level of funding' and no international benchmarks figures which offer strict comparability. However there are differences in approach across the UK.

· The restoration of the original distribution mechanisms for the National Lottery would go some way to saving arts and heritage- although it may be too late by the time this is done.

· Businesses and philanthropists can help to support the arts, and they already do. However, there is a reluctance on the side of the philanthropist to replace public funding; and there is never going to be enough coming from this source to fill the gap which is emerging. This is a particular issue for areas which do not have HQs of large businesses or have low profile activity.

3. Response

3.1 Impact of cuts

3.1.1 At the moment we do not know the exact level of public sector cuts on the arts and heritage but the picture is gloomy. As with previous squeezes on expenditure, this affects the arts from two directions: national government support via the Arts Council and local government support. Some of our arts and heritage institutions will close with loss of jobs.

3.1.2 Our concern, however, is the hidden cost of creative artists unable to develop their work and their career whose imagination and creativity fuel a wider creative economy. J.K. Rowling wrote her first Harry Potter thanks to a grant from the Scottish Arts Council. Now she is one of the richest women in the UK and has not only supported a publishing and film industry, she is also a personal philanthropist in the area of medical research.

3.1.3 Of course not all artists are as successful as Rowling, but our music business, games and film industries, broadcasting output and design industries of all sorts, depend on the individual creative idea. In the digital world content is king and it is here where we have global impact.

3.1.4 It is our experience that those working as individual artists are also sole traders. They are flexible and creative in earning money as they are in creating work. We work day in and day out with artists who move with ease between the private and public sectors. However this is a knife edge existence and pull away the public sector organisations with which they work, and they will no longer have a sustainable existence as artists. Our research has shown the importance of networks for innovation and creativity. We have just over 1,000 people on our creative network, Emerge. The livelihoods of everyone of these people is at stake and when multiplied across the country, this is a significant

3.1.5 We also believe from our work that the proposed cuts will cause greater and longer term damage to first and second tier cities. London has to be supported to continue to be a global city in all aspects of our cultural life -- particularly in light of 2012. However, cities like Newcastle/Gateshead, Leeds, Manchester, Liverpool, Birmingham and Bristol will struggle to hold on to the great gains they have made in the infrastructure and their cultural output-- particularly on regional museums. Cities like Coventry will find it even harder in light of the size of the investment they can expect to receive in the city. Successful strategies for growth in recent years by 'second tier cities' have supported a rich cultural infrastructure but they are not mature or deep enough to survive the proposed cuts and will push many into economic gloom and set back regeneration plans.

3.1.6 We cannot ignore the loss of a regional structure. The whole of the West Midlands has effectively been dismantled with the end of the regional development agency, the government office, the screen agency and the re--organisation of the Arts Council. In Coventry there are two universities, a world-renowned cathedral building, the largest arts centre in England, the first new civic theatre to be built post war, an award winning art gallery and museum -- and all that within 20 miles of the birthplace of our national bard. It is scarcely credible that this city could have its arts at risk because there will be no local, regional or national fund to provide the little support it requires to survive.

3.2 Partnership working

3.2.1 Along with the assumption that all artists are bad at businesses (quite the opposite) goes the idea that the problem is that arts organisations are badly run and do not share resources. We can point to several examples of partnership working here in Coventry alone:

· Theatre Absolute and Artspace working with city development department have worked to transform a post-recession city centre by taking over empty shops and converting them into art spaces.

· As mentioned above, the Belgrade Theatre working with Coventry University and a freelance artist to develop a new product for theatre technicians, ready to go to market.

· Co-production between Belgrade Theatre and Talking Birds about the time Coventry City won the FA Cup.

· Collaboration across Coventry and Warwickshire museums to bring out the treasures of the area - in collaboration with the local BBC Radio station.

· Four creative companies in Coventry rent space here at ICE and share resources in terms of meeting space, networking events etc.

3.2.2 Across the country there are many examples of collaborations, partnership working and joint initiatives. It is true to say that not many arts and heritage institutions share back room functions: payroll for example. However this is normally such a small part of their costs there is little to m=be made in teh way of savings here.

3.3 Level of funding

3.3.1 There is no 'ideal' level of funding for the arts. There is not international bench mark -- funding systems differ across the globe. Rather it is a matter of agreeing what funding will provide. The arts play hugely important role in education and supporting work in areas of health, prisons, social services etc. The arts also contribute to our tourist offer and, as already said, underpin economic growth in the creative industries and the wider knowledge economy. However perhaps least tangible is the most significant: this is something we are good at and is incalculable in terms of our national esteem and matters in global terms.

3.3.2 The Committee should be encouraged to bear in mind that, with the exception of the National Lottery, and some aspects of the support for film, all its areas of discussion apply only to England. While clearly other parts of the UK are also facing cuts in cultural funding, there is no certainty that they will be at the same level. A talent drain to Wales, Scotland or Northern Ireland may not seem, on the face of it, as a particular threat to England when viewed from London. However the regional cities of England might find this plays differently with them with challenges from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Cardiff, Belfast and now Derry.

3.4 National Lottery

3.4.1 The proposal to restore funding proportions to the arts and heritage sectors after 2012 is welcome and brings the situation back to the initial years of lottery funding. It was an early pledge by a previous Conservative Government that Lottery funding would not be used to replace public funding. (This would be in contrast to almost every state lottery from elsewhere in the world, where lottery money has been used to support government projects and in the UK we have seen public projects such as the Big Lottery and the delivery of the Olympics being lottery-sponsored). In the final analysis however, it is not the source of the money which matters but how it is spent and if additional lottery funding will help to save our arts infrastructure it should be welcomed.

3.5 Sponsorship and Philanthropy

3.5.1 There is a misunderstanding of the current position. Arts organisations work hard, and with some success, in developing sponsors.

3.5.2 From all media reports on this it seems unlikely that sponsors and philanthropists would be interested in replacing public funding. They see their role as adding to it.

3.5.3 More pertinent is the amount of money available. Bank of America Merrill Lynch spends US$40m1 globally each year,  less than Arts Council Wales.

3.5.4 An example: the Belgrade Theatre is about to re-mount a very successful show about the Coventry blitz- its third run and this time in a bigger space with potentially and audience of around 900 per night. Despite efforts, no local business has shown any interest in supporting this production -- a sure-fire success -- for 5k sponsorship, a great deal less than the initial public investment.

3.5.5 It might be possible to improve the situation with tax incentives (which do exist in the USA). However it is more of a cultural difference than a fiscal one.

September 2010


[1] http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/theatreblog/2010/aug/03/arts-funding-banks-merrill-lynch