Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Wayne McGregor Random Dance, Akram Khan Company, Jasmin Vardimon Company, DV8 Physical Theatre, and Hofesh Schechter Company (arts 83)


· The five companies submitting this evidence to the inquiry are all led by visionary choreographers / directors, who create and tour critically acclaimed dance and physical theatre productions.

· Between them the companies have won numerous awards for their work including the Prix Italia, Rose d’Or, International Emmy, Helpmann Awards, Globe de Cristal, Green Room Awards, Prix Benois de la Danse, Laurence Olivier Awards, Time Out Awards, IMZ Dance Screen Awards, Critics Circle Awards, and South Bank Show Awards.

· The Companies range from the established to the new, with DV8 Physical Theatre formed in 1986 and Hofesh Shechter Company in 2008.

· All receive core-funding support from Arts Council England at a minimum of £200,000 per annum.

· Arts Council England funding supports the creation and touring of the Companies’ productions to venues throughout the UK, and the export of outstanding British dance internationally. This core funding also supports a wide range of other activity including dance training across statutory, vocational and University education including teacher training.

· All five companies provide significant return on this investment through earned income from commissioning, producing and presenting venues, education work, and trust and foundation support.

· Collectively the companies reach audiences in excess of 250,000 in touring years; this does not include substantial audiences across TV film, or participants in the Companies education programmes.

· All five companies successfully engage with and impact on the modern world, for example: Wayne McGregor has been engaged in over a decade of collaborative research into the nature of dance-making and the 21st Century body, particularly its cognitive and biological/ technological aspects. DV8's productions around contemporary social issues such as human rights, religion and multiculturalism have sparked debate and controversies, not least amongst the Muslim community1.

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. The dance sector is thriving as a result of sustained investment over the last 15 years. The 25 – 30% cut that DCMS is currently asking Arts Council to model would, if passed on, completely destabilise the sector. It would result in less new work being made and less access to great new dance for communities across the UK, as the funding from Arts Council England currently subsidises the commissioning of new dance productions and the touring of those productions in the UK.

2. Spending cuts are already being felt by Companies particularly through UK touring. With funding directed away from non-essential services at local levels, regional venues throughout the UK find their funding negatively impacted. Whilst venues are still booking shows there is a greater reluctance to pay existing fee levels, and less support is being provided through technical staff and resources. This results in a potential double cut to dance touring companies if funding is reduced through venue fees at a local level, and core subsidy to the companies at a national funding level.

3. Touring within the UK for Companies at this level is a loss leader whereas the Companies break even or make money from international touring. However it is vitally important that great British dance, subsidised by the British public, is toured throughout the UK to give people access to great art within their communities. The work often has a particular relevance within the UK, and historic funding increases to some of these companies were predicated on increased national touring.

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

4. This inquiry prompted an initial meeting between five companies who work on a similar economy of scale – all touring at the middle and large scale in the UK, and undertaking substantial touring internationally. There is a great willingness to explore working together but it has to be recognised that the companies are businesses with different models and different ‘product’ that in some way are in competition with each other.

5. Although discussed, it was agreed that it is inherently difficult for the companies to work closely together on education, or the sharing of talent. The education work delivered by the Companies is aligned to each choreographer’s methodologies and works. Sharing dancers assumes homogeneity to the works produced by the Companies, which is definitely not the case for the five represented here, whose differing styles and genres of works require different talent.

6. The Companies are however committed to further conversations and tangible efforts to explore working jointly on marketing & publicity; to build expertise across technical and production staff; the sharing of finance operations; and shared administration on touring and company management. It is anticipated that this could be valuable in thinking of new ways of working and sharing knowledge. The Companies were in agreement that outsourcing would not be considered as previous efforts had not proven cost effective.

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

7. The level of public funding necessary varies significantly between dance organisations with the range of models funded including producing and touring dance companies; agencies – local, regional and national; and independent choreographers, dancers and educators. However there is agreement that all organisations in receipt of regular funding from the Arts Council have a responsibility to generate between 30 – 50% of turnover from other sources.

8. Very few of the organisations within the dance sector would survive without a basic level of regular subsidy. It may be possible to tour, and perhaps deliver education programmes reactively but it would be impossible to create new work without Government investment.

9. The sustained increase in investment in dance over the last 15 years has resulted in the largest number of people ever watching and participating in dance2. With continued or increased investment, the dance sector would be able to increase distribution through being able to take greater risks in underwriting the touring of work, giving more access to audiences, and furthering audience development for dance.

10. The dance sector plays a vital role in society in bringing communities together, in positively impacting on health and wellbeing and creating work that inspires and challenges individual thinking and creativity. The dance sector generates significant return on Government investment, and contributes to the economy through job creation and income through tourism and export.

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

11. We strongly support the existence and role of Arts Council England. The organisation has a streamlined and effective funding system, providing regular ongoing funding to a wide range of arts organisations, and a simple open application-funding stream through Grants for the Arts for time limited specific projects.

12. The regular three-year funding allows organisations to plan effectively and work strategically with a wide range of partners. It is vitally important that this regular funding remains focused on core funding, which is the singular most difficult area to secure from other resources.

13. Specialist staff within the Arts Council rigorously assess this regular funding, and in principle we support that this specialist assessment can lead the Arts Council to take the difficult decision to disinvest in organisations.

14. Grants for the Arts funding supports a very wide range of activity and has simple streamed application, and processes. However we note that this funding stream has been negatively impacted by the diversion of Lottery funding to the Olympics with success rates reducing.

15. In addition to its two main funding streams we also strongly value and support Arts Council England’s role as advocate for the arts sector in the UK. It has lately been particularly excellent in informing and galvanising the sector on key issues relating to arts policy and development, and demonstrates a strong understanding of the environment and operations of arts organisations.

16. We are concerned however on recent consultation by Arts Council England to reintroduce strategic funding. We believe that the current system, of ensuring that the majority of funds are invested directly into the sector, is the most productive spend of DCMS and Lottery funds. We also believe that since the 2002 restructure, which brought the Arts Council of England together with the nine regional funding bodies, the role of ‘HQ’ has yet to work effectively. We believe that this HQ role could be managed effectively between the four regional teams.

What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organizations

17. We strongly support restoring the percentage share of Lottery funding to the arts back to 1998 levels.  With a minimal percentage of total Government funding directed to the arts, any funding increase is to be welcomed.  

18. The change has the potential to disadvantage the arts sector if the increase in Lottery funds is used to correspondingly reduce the percentage of Government funding directed to regular funding for arts organisation. Organisations who previously had to rely on Lottery funds to top up their Company’s regular grant are acutely aware of the negative impact on a Company’s ability to work strategically and plan without appropriate core grants.  Companies have to put significant human resources into the preparation of competitive applications, are unable to plan in advance with venues, and have to respond to differing reporting requirements.  This all takes up valuable staff time within companies resulting in lost time to exploit other opportunities.  A mixed economy of Arts Council funding is debilitating to organisations, and debilitating to organisations achieving Government goals for arts delivery.

19. The average audience reach of over 250,000 people across the five companies demonstrates the significant impact regular funding has on our ability to plan, particularly with venues. 

20. We believe that arts organisations will continue to work closely with the voluntary and community sectors to ensure great arts experience and participation opportunities for all.  We believe that this will mitigate against the corresponding reduction in Lottery funds directed to these groups.

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

21. We support the current National Lottery policy guidelines for the Arts Council of England.

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

22. The abolition of both these organisations without consultation within the sectors affected has created a climate of fear within the cultural sector. It is also more difficult for us to understand the Government decision behind this abolition without consultation to refer to. Whilst Government has indicated that the funding for UK film will continue to be invested through the BFI, it is not clear how the specialist expertise provided by the Film Council will be replaced or how decisions will be managed to ensure successful investment within this important British cultural sector.

23. A particular concern for the arts sector is the impact of the Film Council decision on investment in the Regional Screen Agencies. These agencies work closely with the arts sector on increasing the distribution of British art through the creation of film and installation work, and greater exposure and access to great British art through the digital screen network.

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

24. We note that the current Government regularly points to the United States arts funding model as the example for increased philanthropic giving to the Arts in the UK. There are inherent problems in using the US model as an example of how long term philanthropy could play a role in funding the arts in the UK. Direct US contemporaries of all five companies involved in this submission have been unable to achieve anywhere near the successes of the British companies in this submission, primarily as a result of solely having to rely on philanthropic giving. They have not received the same level of international acclaim or awards for their work, with limited investment in new productions, as extremely few philanthropists will invest in the making of work. They commonly have to support their Company activity with positions in dance faculties diverting time and energy away from making their own work. They tour minimally in the US with extremely limited international exports as they require greater investment than companies coming from countries with public subsidy, and they are able to provide little education and learning activity in the US. We cite Robert Moses Dance Company and Brian Brooks Moving Company as evidence of US companies surviving, not thriving as a result of no public subsidy for over 15 years.

25. In addition support for younger artists in the US is non-existent – historic US government support was partly responsible for the development of the major US dance artists we know today e.g. Merce Cunningham, Trisha Brown etc, however there is no support for the new generation of US artists coming up now. The Hofesh Schechter’s of the US do not have the opportunity to emulate the huge successes that this company has delivered to national and international audiences over the last three years. The significant successes of the five companies identified in the summary paragraph are all underpinned by sustained public funding. The most exceptional and successful dance companies in the last 20 years have thrived in countries where public arts funding is very strong such as Germany, Belgium and the UK.

26. The global economic crisis is now severely impacting on philanthropic investment in the arts in US, and efforts in the UK will be similarly hampered.

27. We also note that efforts to secure business and philanthropic investment require significant human resources to support them.

28. All this being said a number of the companies involved in this submission are actively working on philanthropic giving but it is generally acknowledged that the current financial climate is challenging for philanthropy drives. Philanthropists have also been extremely clear that they are not interested in regular funding, or plugging gaps that occur as a result of decreased Government spending in the arts.

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

29. It is difficult to change the UK tax incentive model to that of the US as the majority of people within the UK do not have to submit tax returns. However, the majority of philanthropists do and therefore allowing them to directly deduct their philanthropic giving from their income before tax is deducted (as opposed to the Charity’s claiming that back from Government) would further incentivise private donations in the UK.

September 2010