Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Dance Consortium (arts 105)

Dance Consortium is a unique network of nineteen large-scale theatres across the UK, established to bring world-class contemporary dance from around the world to audiences across the UK.

In 2009/10, Dance Consortium presented 43 performances of companies from the USA, the Netherlands and Cuba to audiences in excess of 36,500; 22% were new to dance, 16% were new to the theatre and 12% were young people, and average attendance across all the performances was almost 70% of theatre capacity.

Dance Consortium enables more efficient and effective touring than would be possible by theatres acting alone. It is building the capacity of the theatres to engage audiences with vibrant arts experiences that challenge and inspire. Over the last decade, Dance Consortium has presented 23 tours of large-scale international contemporary dance that have engaged over 400,000 people.


· The UK has an enviable international reputation for the diversity and quality of its arts and heritage; public funding has played a critical role in bringing this about.

· Public subsidy for the arts results in a range of benefits for the state, communities and individuals and is a critical and integral part of the mixed economy of the arts that includes earned, contributed and commercial elements.

· Public subsidy enables organisations to work collaboratively and innovatively as demonstrated by, for example, Dance Consortium.

· The prospect of cuts of 30% over 2011/12 would be regressive and have a serious impact on the arts economy, for example the knock-on effect could result in Dance Consortium no longer being viable.

· In the context of the tiny proportion of public expenditure spent on the arts and the extensive benefits this brings, it is argued that public funding of the arts is excellent value for money and that cuts should be minimised. Businesses and philanthropists are unable to replace public funding or play a significant role in the long-term funding of the arts, as demonstrated by the experience of America.

· The specialist focus of the current structure is appropriate to the distinct nature of the different disciplines of the arts and heritage businesses.

The impact of recent and future spending cuts

1. For Dance Consortium the cut of 0.5% in the current year could be absorbed, but the impact of projected cuts of 30% over 2011/14 would directly result in a cut in the number of tours we would be able to present. Over the last three years we have presented 9 tours, thanks to funding additional to our RFO allocation through Grants for the arts and Sustain funding to address the impact of the recession on international currency exchange rates, in particular with the dollar. We estimate that the projected cuts would reduce the number of tours from 9 to 6 over 2011/14.

2. The impact of this reduction would extend far beyond reducing opportunities for audiences and limiting the diversity and vibrancy of our cultural live. It would threaten the existence of Dance Consortium by minimising the diversity of the tours we would be able to provide for the theatres that in turn would halt the momentum that has been built up over the last decade. We anticipate that some theatres would consider membership of Dance Consortium to be no longer viable, and the loss of any theatre would reduce the regional reach of Dance Consortium. Being reliant on freelance experts is efficient at current levels of activity, but requires a sufficient volume of work to sustain. The knock-on effect of projected cuts could result in Dance Consortium being no longer viable, but any significant reduction in activity would be regressive and would result in a loss of confidence and faith that is unlikely to be recovered.

3. A number of the theatres are facing cuts in their local authority funding and experiencing price-resistance due to the economic difficulties being faced by their audiences. This means that Dance Consortium tours are increasingly important to the quality and diversity of the programmes they are able to offer their local populations.

4. In the current economic circumstances, there are no viable alternatives to Arts Council funding.

Working together

5. Dance Consortium is an example of arts organisations working together to enhance the diversity and vibrancy of our cultural life, creating opportunities for the public that could not be achieved by working alone. Public funding is crucial to such achievements.

6. Founded in 2000, Dance Consortium tours have been made possible by funding from Arts Council England, initially through Grants for the arts. This provided a period for the testing and development of new ways of working that led to Dance Consortium becoming a regularly funded organisation of Arts Council England (RFO) in 2008. It is registered as a company with charitable status and, as a consortium, is able to operate without the overhead expenditure of a permanent office and staff. Experts are engaged on a freelance basis to undertake specific tasks such as tour management and website, marketing and technical support. This way of working keeps overheads to a minimum, and is only possible through the commitment and efforts of a voluntary Board of Directors.

Public subsidy for the arts and heritage

7. A good society is characterised by the value it affords to its arts and heritage. The UK has an enviable international reputation for the diversity and quality of its arts and heritage; public funding has played a critical role in bringing this about.

8. Funding for the arts and heritage is tiny in the context of total government spending, but its impact is extensive. There are economic benefits, for example in the payment of VAT and other taxes, promoting tourism, and attracting inward investment to disadvantaged areas. According to the DCMS figures published in February 2010, the creative industries contributed 6.2% of the UK’s Gross Value Added in 2007 and 4.5% of all good and services exported. There are also benefits for education, health, social cohesion, raising aspiration, promoting volunteering and social cohesion, creating communities of interest, promoting our international reputation and cultural diplomacy. The public value of subsidy lies in the capacity of the arts and heritage to do many things at the same time. They tap into individual passions, bring people together and present a vibrant image of the UK that is the envy of the world.

9. Public funding is part of the dynamic mix of the arts economy. It is the engine that drives the generation of earned and contributed income for many organisations, and integral to a sector that can boast a vibrant commercial aspect. Public funding may provide the research, training and testing ground for commercial success; it may enable the provision of cutting-edge and high quality work that could not be commercially viable but that creates impact and builds reputation. It also enables organisations to collaborate, share expertise and experience to continually improve efficiency and effectiveness.

10. For all these reasons, public subsidy is essential to the arts economy. Any reduction in current levels of funding would have a negative impact on the wider economy

The current system and structure of funding distribution

11. There are many benefits in the specialist focus of the current structure. The production, distribution and business of the arts are different to those of heritage, and there are significant differences between the arts disciplines. So, having a government department responsible for culture (a term that includes media and sport) working through specialist non-governmental department bodies such as Arts Council England is the right structure.

National Lottery funds

12. In the arts, National Lottery funds has created a number of world-class buildings and enabled a wide range of projects that have had a major impact, such as in the development of Dance Consortium. However, the arts have suffered from the reduction in National Lottery funds, and the intention to reinstate the proportion of funds distributed to the arts, heritage and sport is welcome.

September 2010