Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Merseyside Dance Initiative (MDI) (arts 72)


MDI is a strategic dance development agency committed to strengthening the dance sector in order to advance the production and presentation of dance work that has artistic integrity, that is innovative and diverse, and that engages people creatively. Working in partnership with artists, promoters and other organisations it provides access for all people to participate in create and see dance. MDI’s mission is to ‘Inspire people through dance’ and at its' heart is the nurturing, support and development of dance artists enhanced through the effective partnerships it is building both nationally and internationally.


· Dance has become increasingly entrepreneurial and the dance economy is showing steady growth through sustained investment

· Spending cuts will have a detrimental effect to both artistic and organisational development

· There is already a body evidence supporting the ability of arts organisations to work in partnership

· Public money is necessary to enable the stimulation of a mixed economy that is contributing to the development of culture in the UK

· Lottery increases should be additional resources rather than replace public subsidy

· Arm’s-length bodies act as a conduit and broker for support, information and advise to the cultural sectors that they serve

· Both business and philanthropic giving can and do play a role in funding the arts through enhancing the investment and not replacing subsidy

1. Evidence is showing that, through sustained investment the dance economy has steadily been growing in relation to participation, training, productions audiences (live and transmitted) and ticket sales. MDI this year celebrates 18 years of the Leap dance festival and with the support of Arts Council England via Grants for the Arts and Culture Liverpool has produced a yearlong dance festival programme for the first time in 2010. The investment has so far generated 10 times the original budget and within the first six months has met or surpassed targets set. So far we have reported:

· 8 Venues programming dance

· 26,000 Audiences

· £580,000 Generated in ticket sales

· 70559 Reported footfall for outdoor work

· 6500 Participants

· 62 events/performances

· 6 new events /works commissioned

· Visits have generated an estimated spend of over £ 1.9 million to the local economy

Thus far the investment of £1 has levered £10. MDI similar to a lot of dance providers/producers operates within a mixed economy and has levered funds from local authorities, trusts and foundations enabling us to provide a programme that is attracting new and existing audiences.

2. The recent reduction to an already agreed funding agreement by ACE although small (thankfully ACE was able to minimise the impact to front services), still had an impact. MDI operates to a financial strategy where additional/new sources of funding must continue to be identified in order that the organisation may grow and develop its key artistic and organisational goals, aiming for a neutral budget with full cost recovery. As annual budgets are set so to are fundraising targets, thus when a reduction at any level is incurred it automatically as a detrimental effect on the core activity and services. Be it a standstill or cut, either way it has an effect on the organisation to deliver both frontline and backroom services. MDI is in receipt of grants and private income, any short noticed spending cuts would have detrimental effect to what we can develop and achieve within the plans we have set for the next three years. Front loading cuts would be detrimental as we believe that the arts and artists have a role to play in Britain’s economic recovery, the potential publicised cuts of anything from 10%- 35% would be damaging to MDI and its work and would impact on the return we make on investments we receive.

3. Arts organisations already work closely together to minimize duplication regionally and from a dance perspective in the Northwest of England can be demonstrated in a number of ways. One example is the setting up of the Merseyside Dance Promoters Network (MDPN). Initiated in 2009 by MDI to work with all of the venues in the sub-region to increase the presentation of dance across Merseyside maximising opportunities for more people to see quality dance performances and to build new audiences through the regular promotion of all types of dance across the city. Liverpool Empire, Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse, The Bluecoat, Unity Theatre, Floral Pavilion, Rose Theatre, Black-E and Southport Arts Centre are all part of the network. Through working in partnership we have been able to produce a collective cohesive dance offer for the City and across other boroughs of Merseyside. The partnership is in its embryonic stages and this year is piloting the impact that working in this way can generate. As noted above targets are being surpassed, joint programming is taking place, clash diaries are being minimised, and cross marketing appears to be working. We won’t know the full extent of this way of working until we have fully evaluated its’ impact near year end (December 2010) but so far this model is looking promising.

4. To provide opportunities for the dance sector to thrive through: nurturing artists, supporting promoters and developing audiences across Merseyside and beyond is an essential aspect of MDI’s work. Raising the profile of the role of artists in our society is at the heart of what we do. Providing opportunities to see quality work in Merseyside enables MDI to increase and develop audiences for dance. MDI is working to maintain a high standard of artistic work that is innovative and excellent, through supporting local, regional, national and international artists and companies to create and or tour new and existing work. The development of audiences for dance on Merseyside is an ongoing process, which needs to be coordinated at a strategic level across the sub-region. While addressing the short-term objectives of getting people to watch dance performances in traditional theatre venues, and to increase participation in dance classes for social and health reasons, the development of audiences for dance needs to take a medium to long-term approach in order to build a sustainable dance economy on Merseyside. Dance as an Artform has a proven role to play in developing and impacting on the type of society we live in. Public subsidy is part of this if government agrees that the arts should be fully acknowledged and recognised for the role it plays. Public money is necessary to enable the stimulation of a mixed economy that is contributing to the development of culture in the UK. Already small the investment that exists already shows a proven return. The economic trends for dance have shown recently that it is an artform in growth1, not only in the subsidised sector but also in the broadcasting and commercial sectors.

5. The current system we have although in need of some development is a fair one. There does need to be an ability to respond to organisational growth and development and where appropriate reward and support. Increased Lottery distribution to the arts is to be encouraged however the bureaucracy needs to be addressed as to the nature of receipt of such funds due to the present structure of application, no repeat activity etc. Consider the language being used; think investment rather than subsidy, commission rather than fund.

6. National Lottery investment has enabled MDI to develop its production arm and develop more opportunities to share work in addition to acting as a seed fund to other grant givers such as Local Authorities, Trusts and Foundations. MDI welcomes the increase of Lottery to Arts and Heritage but sees this as additional resources rather than to replace public subsidy.

7. Some review of Lottery distribution policy should take place. The Lottery should not only be used for ‘new’ projects but support the added value of work that has been tested before and offers additional sustainability. Repeat activity should not exclude from funding, nor should it simply exist to fund that which has not had funding before. All areas are valid and should be explored.

8. We cannot underestimate the value and impact that such arm’s-length bodies have in acting as a conduit and broker for support, information and advise to the cultural sectors that they serve. Their ability to access additional investments and resources, in addition to their experience and expertise will effect the ability of the sector to maximise advocacy and the evidence of the role of culture in our society

9. Although MDI raises some of its funds through trusts and foundations, this has decreased and become more difficult since 2008. MDI, like most, I imagine, operates to a financial strategy where additional/new sources of funding must continue to be identified in order that the organisation may grow and develop its key artistic and organisational goals, aiming for a full cost recovery. The process of securing funds is an ongoing challenge and the ability to receive contributions from philanthropists although there has been some success over the years, takes time and resources to nurture and build the relationships, and with fewer donors appearing to be committed to artistic programming and high quality dance promotions the challenge is ever greater.

10. MDI believes that both business and philanthropic giving can play a role in funding the arts but as with Lottery funding not to replace subsidy but to enhance it. If public funding is significantly reduced, the knock-on effect will be profound and the private sector will not make up the shortfall.

11. MDI would welcome the Government’s and other partners support and encourage business and private donations

September 2010

[1] The Dance mapping report: a window on dance – at: