Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Trestle (arts 70)


Trestle is a 29 year old theatre company with approx £700k turn over. A third of its income comes from the Arts Council, which funds Trestle Touring, a Regularly Funded Organisation which takes new physical storytelling theatre productions across England. A third comes from local government and trusts and foundations including the Heritage Lottery Fund to run Trestle Taking Part, a programme of nationwide and international participatory work. The remaining third is generated by the commercially run building from which the organisation operates, Trestle Arts Base, a local and international creative centre.

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:

Recent cuts have had an effect, but we have been able to absorb them by making cuts to our operation, rather than passing on the impact to the beneficiaries of our work. However, this streamlining has pushed our internal operation to the edge and future cuts will have a significant effect in changing the nature of our business. With cuts of more than 10%, a radical re-thinking will have to take place; national touring of new small scale theatre work will suffer as such work is impossible to make without public subsidy; the art will suffer as fewer risks can be taken as subsidy shrinks. At local and national levels we will be obliged to reduce our ability to offer engagement in participatory work. Significant spending cuts, implemented immediately, will leave many organisations unable to recover and force them to close completely. Gradual cuts, weighted towards the end of a three or four year period will allow us to plan, gradually shift focus and find ways of surviving, ensuring the arts - for which Britain is renowned throughout the world - are sustainable.

Last year saw 71 Trestle performances, 219 Trestle workshops and 689 Trestle mask sets delivered throughout England and beyond, engaging over 29,000 people with theatre and enriching their lives through art:

7,000 were audiences for our performances across the uk
3,300 were audiences at trestle arts base
4,600 took part in workshops
2,800 took part in trestle’s youth theatre

5,900 took part in community activity
5,400 used trestle masks across the world

Every £1 of arts council funding in 2009/10 generated £1.16 from other sources and, at the current level of funding, this is projected to rise to £1.82 in 2010/11. If subsidy is cut, it will fall, significantly reducing our contribution to the local and uk economy, a proportion of which is generated from outside the uk.

In a year, Trestle employs 18 staff permanently, over 50 freelance staff, at least 10 international artists and 100 UK artists and supports at least 15 community groups in regular activity and 50 community and business groups in one off activities. If subsidy is cut, significantly and immediately, redundancies will follow and our ability to support community groups and the more disadvantaged members of society - those who are least able to make a financial contribution to our work - will be greatly reduced.

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

Trestle Arts Base can use its resources to their full potential, sharing space with other creative industries and local FE and HE institutions.

Theatre companies need to re define their purpose and mission, clarify their unique offer, ensure their strengths are sustained and developed and potentially relinquish areas of weakness. However, many have already undergone this process in order to meet the spending cuts already implemented.

What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable?
To make new work that is not commercially driven, subsidy is crucial. The implementation of the creative curriculum in schools recognises that the arts play a key role in a child's development, enabling them to grow into well-balanced, confident and responsible adults. Without public subsidy for the arts, the future wellbeing of our society will suffer and the impact of cuts will be felt many years down the line.

Reports on subsidy for the arts, commissioned and published over the last ten years have highlighted the need for greater public subsidy, not less, and this subsidy has been forthcoming. If the level of subsidy were to be reduced to that of 1999 (in real terms), the arts would be at risk now, as they were then (see the Boyden report for more detail). However, at that level they may be sustainable for a few years, if Britain is able to commit to raising levels of subsidy again once the present crisis is past. To reduce them any further may well see the arts unable to recover with fewer, if any, new artists able to build the future of the arts in Britain in ten years time.

Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one
The current system needs an overhaul and the future flexibility in funding being suggested by the Arts Council is a good thing. However, if cuts in subsidy are inevitable, one has to question whether funding cuts should devolve onto those organisations using the funding to make work that has a direct and genuine impact on lives, or onto the administration of that funding. Decisions to cut public subsidy must be made with a view to minimising the costs of funding administration, allowing arts organisations to maximise the use of the remaining funding.

What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations; whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed;
In these times of recession, where it is clearly necessary to limit spending in the voluntary and public sectors, lottery funding is one of the few beacons of hope for many arts organisation, producing high quality art which enhances lives.  We face hard times and the arts have the capability to touch peoples lives, give hope where otherwise there is none, develop the confidence and life skills of children, young people and those who are disadvantaged, working alongside the NHS and Social Services in supporting health and social care in less tangible but equally vital ways.  It is crucial for the future, not only of our industry, but of a confident and contented Society, that the proportion of lottery shares given to the arts is returned to its original level and Trestle Theatre firmly supports the Draft Order to do so.

For example, Trestle Theatre is core-funded to produce and tour high-quality theatre nationally within the UK, but the organisation also runs a venue which supports emerging artists and new work, associated projects within its local community which specifically address disadvantaged groups and international residencies which bring artists from around the world to teach and learn at its creative hub.  These areas of operation support and are supported by its core-funded work, but could not take place without additional lottery funding.  By linking both types of funded project, Trestle is able to add value to both while keeping costs to a minimum, thereby maximising the impact of the funding.

The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s-length bodies - in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;
There has been no specific impact in touring theatre as yet; inevitably questions arise as to the future of the Arts Council.

Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;
It will take a long time to establish this; as with any partnership or collaboration, building and sustaining a productive relationship between an arts organisation and a business or a philanthropist is rare. Such funding generally comes with agendas and potential restrictions, which can be counter productive to the production of great art. As with all organisations, Trestle has focussed on diversifying its funding base over the past 3 years; however, it is unrealistic to believe that business and philanthropic income to the arts could replace public subsidy. A massive culture change, which will be slow to shift, will be necessary before arts organisations can rely as much on private philanthropy as they currently do on public subsidy. This will take ten or twenty years to change and will never be a realistic or immediate solution to the present crisis.

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

Yes, incentives would help; in the USA there are attractive tax breaks for philanthropists and giving is part of the ego-building of the American identity, where a society based on the commercial produces great business people who will give their money and name to the arts. Due to the essentially feudal system of the UK, this level of philanthropy is not the same and the traditional families/foundations who give are already doing so, such as The Westons, the Foyles etc. The government need to think about how to incentivise the newly moneyed people and businesses to support the arts and then promote the dissemination of this culture. This will take time and sustained effort to permeate through the whole of society to a point where it has a significant impact.

An Example of Partnership Working:

Out of Sight Out of Mind 2009-10: A professional and community project run by Trestle, Hertfordshire County Council, St Albans District Council and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund. Based on the history of Hill End Psychiatric Hospital, including a large site specific performance by 50 local people aged 8-80, consultation with over 100 people who lived and worked at the hospital, participatory work in local schools, a new archive established by the Library Service, interactive museum exhibitions and a developing website.

September 2010