Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Craftspace (arts 61)

Deirdre Figueiredo MBE, FRSA, Director of Craftspace; an arts organisation and educational charity. Ms Figueiredo is also a steering group member of CraftNet the national crafts leadership network.


· The arts ecology is diverse reaching through a spectrum of economic, commercial, social and environmental activity. It interacts at once with the most deeply marginalized and the most aspirational, entrepreneurial and affluent in society, often enabling transformation from one to the other. The arts have achieved valuable outcomes for society at great at relatively little cost with every penny being stretched. A cut to the arts will have a disproportionate effect for a relatively tiny saving to the public purse.

1. What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level;

1.1 Investing in the core costs of arts organisations so that they exist enables them to go out and work in partnership to lever additional funds which are significantly more than the public investment. If the severity of spending cuts reduces this leverage capacity then the economy will feel the impact because far less will be spent on direct and ancillary services (for example transport, catering, artists fees, construction, materials, print etc). Local communities will see a significant reduction in the quality of the cultural offer.

1.2 Whilst 10% cuts could be managed creatively by most in the arts, cuts of 25% or more will severely diminish the ability of many arts organisations to survive this difficult economic period. From a business point of view there is a point at which the operating models of many organisations will have to be radically reappraised. Organisations that provide creative activity to the most marginalised and excluded in society for free at the point of delivery will not be able to sustain that work because they will have to commercialise their activities in order to seek income from those who can afford it.

1.3 Loss of infrastructure that has been strengthened over the last 10 years will be have a knock on effect on quality of life and local and regional economies. The arts are used to tackle social cohesion and other issues poor health and crime. Will we see an erosion of the gains made through arts intervention for example in youth offending?

1.4 The subsidised arts afford a precious testing and training ground feeding people and ideas into the commercial sector where they then make huge impact on the economy. Sometimes it is just that all important space and time to think profoundly – JK Rowling received a grant from the Scottish Arts Council at a time when she was unwaged, suffering from depression, surviving through state benefits and a single parent. It enabled her to focus on writing. The benefits reaped are glaringly obvious not only in terms of the economy but in terms of the philanthropy she now shows to others.

1.5 The cost of the Olympics has diverted lottery funding from the arts and so the next three years will continue to see a diminished pot from which to draw. Additional cuts from central government on top of this context plus the downturn in the fortunes of businesses that might otherwise sponsor the arts will severely affect our ability to survive let alone thrive.

2. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale;

2.1 We should proceed with some caution on this suggestion. It may be a false economy to think that by merging organisations there will somehow be a consequential saving in costs, particularly operational. Arts organisations are not ‘services’ that are replicated across the country. They emerge, develop and evolve for very particular and specific reasons and operate in necessarily different ways. Whilst ticketed venues can invest in shared box office systems, Visual Arts organisations and venues are largely unticketed and often have a very specific offer.

2.2 Organisations could perhaps work together more to share investment in development marketing tools for digital platforms to increase market share and widen their reach. They could also jointly commission research so that there is no duplication in these costs. They could also jointly invest in social impact studies which provide data that can be shared instead of individually commissioning.

3. What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable;

3.1 Currently it costs 17p a week per person - less than half the price of a pint of milk to fund the arts at a level sufficient to maintain the infrastructure. For every £1 that is invested, an additional £2 is generated from private and commercial sources, totalling £3 income. At a local level this investment can lever five times its worth. Local authorities buy into arts that Arts Council England invests therefore there is an important synergy in funding. The increases in VAT and the cost of new legislative requirements will also affect arts organisations in the same way as the private sector and so financial resources will be stretched in the next few years. Some growth in investment in line with inflation and increases in the cost of living would therefore be preferable if the arts is to thrive and not just survive.

4. Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

4.1 The Arts Council has recently undertaken a review and consultation about better ways to distribute its funds in more flexible ways. The sector has responded constructively so that a range of agreements can be drawn up. Current systems are rather rigid and can lead to a static portfolio based on a 60 year old system of rather traditionally modeled arts businesses. New funding systems should take into account emerging and entrepreneurial business models and ways of producing the arts. Emergent arts are often championed by one individual who is a catalyst for innovation. Perhaps we should also invest in regularly funded individuals who don’t have the same baggage as organisations with buildings and bureaucracy.

4.2 Funding should come centrally through an Arts Council who can have an overview and invest strategically but structurally it should have people working at grass roots to understand the local contexts, spot gaps in provision, spot talent that needs developing and experience the arts they invest in.

5. What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations;

5.1 The changes will be phased in over time and won’t begin to come into effect until after the Olympics. Any increase in Lottery funding will therefore not mitigate the impact of grant-in-aid cuts in these next two years. Lottery funding requires additionality and does not fund core or regular programmes therefore it is an enhancement for use by first time entrants and for doing extra work and not a substitute for government funding.

6. Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed;

6.1 If the principle of ‘additionality’ were reviewed then lottery funds could potentially be more flexibly applied.

7. Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;

7.1 Yes they could play a long-term role but their own cycles of stability cannot be guaranteed and therefore to be disproportionately or wholly reliant on their contribution and finance would be fool hardy and risk de-stabilising the whole infrastructure.

7.2 Innovation and stimulus for profound thought and change comes out of risk taking where failure is about learning what does work and what doesn’t. Businesses and philanthropists may not want to invest in risky arts practice so perhaps public subsidy is best directed at the riskiest arts practices in order to protect freedom of speech and ensure progressive arts.

7.3 Some artists and arts organisations produce very experimental or niche programmes of work that perhaps don’t appeal to business in the same way as The Royal Shakespeare Company or the big Symphony Orchestras so would be disadvantaged.

7.4 It takes a lot of time, human resource and specialist skills to pitch to businesses and negotiate the differences in culture and language. Small arts organisations don’t have this capacity because they are busy producing the artwork. Smaller organisations won’t be able to compete on a level playing field because bigger organisations staff dedicated to fundraising and sponsorship.

7.5 If there was a national pot into which businesses and philanthropists could make a contribution and organisations could bid into then this might be a fairer way of distributing the funds. Causes less favoured by businesses could then benefit. The percent for art type of scheme is a good example of bringing investment into the arts from business.

7.6 Public subsidy is given on the condition that principles of equality and diversity are observed and actively practiced and there is prioritization for certain groups in society who haven’t benefited. My experience of visiting galleries supported wholly through philanthropy in the USA was that they had no concern whatsoever for equality or diversity. They were in it for the prestige and so the organisations had no remit or need for increasing or widening access. They were exclusive rather than inclusive.

7.7 My experience of visiting the USA was that businesses and philanthropists appeared to concentrate their support mostly in the big cities. As a consequence outlying places have little or no provision or at best very ‘safe’ or popular arts practice which was unprogressive.

7.8 Businesses usually want to invest in successful companies with a proven track record and who are endorsed through public funding. The two types of funding work together and that is the strength of the current system.

8. Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations

8.1 More structural and tax incentives would be very welcome. Also where business/donors can provide physical space to artists or arts organisations to operate from that can also be incentivised. Mixed use spaces in which a world of interacting ecologies can be encouraged and facilitated would lead to a better mutual benefit, connectivity and a more sustainable environment for all.

September 2010