Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by The Place (arts 106)


1. The Place has promoted the development of contemporary dance in the UK for over 40 years, supported by a mix of public and private funding. We believe that this mixed funding model is the right one to protect the necessary diversity of our arts ecology. We believe that organisations like The Place, supported by this funding mix, can lead the development of arts provision to enhance and enrich more people’s lives, including through integrating arts and education provision, and collaborating effectively with artists. We believe that there is a need for continued investment in a national infrastructure for dance to make the most of the art form’s growing popularity among audiences and participants.

About The Place

2. The Place is an organisation that promotes the development of contemporary dance. We combine a dance theatre, a dance school and a touring dance company, and engage in education, participation and professional development work.

3. The Place has been in existence for over forty years. Founded through the vision and philanthropy of one man – the late Robin Howard – we have grown and developed our work with the support over many years of funding partners. Our work in the dance profession and the local community is supported by Arts Council England and the London Borough of Camden; our degree-level training is supported by the Higher Education Funding Council of England. 93% of our turnover is spent on frontline delivery of education, performances and productions, and 4% on maintenance of our premises.

4. Our income from statutory sources is supplemented by fundraised income from trusts and foundations, private individuals and corporate sponsors (who include Bloomberg and Deutsche Bank) and earned income for sale of our goods and services – though as our market is predominantly young people and independent artists with low and erratic incomes, many of our good and services are provided at low or no cost to consumers.

5. During its first three decades, The Place’s existence was a precarious one, with long-term planning and growth impeded by short-term financial challenges. Over the last 10 years, increased, longer-term funding has supported our expansion and development of new income streams. Today, our annual Arts Council grant of just over £2million represents 30% of our total turnover of £6.5million; in 2000, our Arts Council grant of £1.2million was equal to 40% of our turnover of £3million.

The need for bio-diversity in the arts

6. The resilience of the arts cannot be taken for granted. Just as current knowledge about bio-diversity highlights the vital role of smaller plants and organisms (and their vulnerability) and the interdependence of different parts of the ecology, so the arts sector has both larger and smaller organisations that are mutually dependent in their service to the arts. At a time when ever greater efficiency is required, careful consideration should be given to maintaining a balanced ecology and in doing so it is vital that the fundamental role that organisations such as The Place play within that ecology is both recognised and understood.

7. Our organisation is a haven of bio-diversity, embracing a mixed ecology of funding from public and private sources, and opportunity for artists, dance enthusiasts, participants and audiences. Much of this activity happens away from the public spotlight but is nevertheless crucial to the development of the art form, most particularly in the area of professional development for artists.

8. The Place plays trains, nurtures and supports artists – hundreds benefit from such opportunities each year. With this support some of these artists will become established as artists of Sadler’s Wells or The Royal Opera House, for example, and use the support they receive from The Place as a springboard to the next stage of their careers. It is The Place that is uniquely positioned to identify the potential of an artist like Hofesh Shechter, to devise a scheme like the London Escalator and to form a partnership with Southbank Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Audiences London and Arts Council England to propel him to the success which he has enjoyed.

9. The identification, nurturing and development of potential are crucial leadership roles of national importance, and ones which are not necessarily best served by marriage to commercial imperatives. Providing artists with the room to fail, the space to develop at a natural pace, and the encouragement to take risks is part of the fundamental role The Place has to play in developing inspirational and high quality art within a sustainable, resilient dance ecology. At the same time The Place will continue to support artists to be entrepreneurial in the way they seek to build audiences and generate further financial support for their work.

10. A great deal has been achieved over the past 13 years with increased Government investment in the arts. Much of that achievement may be at risk from decreased investment. The mixed arts economy begins with subsidy, because to begin with, at the beginning of their careers, there is simply no way for artists to make both art and money. Inoculating young art from the pressure of the market helps both to develop great art and to make it accessible to everyone (through cheap ticket prices, for example). Planning and funding needs to be long-term, enabling stability and forward planning for those organisations which develop the arts.

11. Audience development and arts education practice in England are well-developed, but they are long-term initiatives, often with little promise of financial return for the organisations which invest in them. The arts also face a huge challenge in adapting to be relevant for and make the most of the opportunities offered by the digital age. The Place has the access to content and audiences that could create an exponential increase in the numbers of people it reaches, but does not yet have the infrastructure or seed capital to bring that content and audience together.

The relationship of arts and education

12. The Place is both an arts organisation and an education institution; we operate in permanent and constantly evolving collaboration. We understand the symbiotic relationship between education and the arts, and one can feed the other, to the benefit of both.

13. There is a direct relationship between how people’s lives are enriched by the arts, and how they are enriched by education. There are hazards, however, in taking too instrumental an approach either to addressing local authority agendas or evaluating impact. Overwhelmingly, evidence which shows us that young people value the arts for simple reasons: they are life-enhancing, life-enriching and above all enjoyable. 

14. The newly developed regional infrastructure for dance and national role for Youth Dance England have done a huge amount to improve young people’s access to dance in the past two years, and it should continue to do so. There is a need for further workforce development, and adoption of national standards to ensure the quality of dance education.

15. The routes of progression from school-age through pre-vocational and vocational training and throughout professional lives need to be firmly established, providing a solid landscape of opportunity for artists at vital times in their progression. The national network of Centres for Advanced Training, funded through the Department for Education’s Music and Dance Scheme, is a new and already vital part of this, as are the accessible and constantly-refined professional opportunities presented by initiatives like The Place’s annual Resolution! platform for 100+ new dance companies, and the Choreodrome programme of free studio time for research – models which have been disseminated and emulated nationally and internationally.

Organisations working with artists

16. There has been a danger in the dance sector, with the majority of makers reliant on applications for Lottery-funding, that bodies like Arts Council England become de facto producers (and therefore also de facto programmers of venues). We believe that organisations and individuals within the dance sector can deliver these roles better than the Arts Council – we would be keen to explore with the Arts Council how to enshrine roles for independent, entrepreneurial producing of work and development of artists.

17. Equally we would be keen to ensure that organisations that support the arts (including The Place and Arts Council England) can be guided by artists and have an open dialogue with the artistic community, a relationship based on openness and trust. We believe that this should include having more influence over the decisions to fund artists and the shape and criteria of funding programmes that support creation.

18. Artists need to be able take risks, but to do this they need the right conditions and a safety net. The extensive professional research and development opportunities offered by The Place offer such a safety net. The Place has a long history of creating the space and the opportunity for artists to take risks, whether on our stage or in the studios, away from the public spotlight. Artists continue to come back to us at all stages of their career because of the range of support and opportunities we are able to offer.

19. The artist support we give is not in a vacuum. The Place is highly networked at local level, with other organisations across London, nationally, through forums such as the National Dance Network, and internationally through well established initiatives such as Aerowaves, the European Dancehouse Network and our own ChoreoRoam programme. As such we are able to broker relationships and further support and development opportunities for artists that they would not be able to do nearly so effectively on their own. We help artists to operate and build their profile locally, nationally and internationally.

20. As Arts Council England reduces its own staff, more responsibility in delivering key strategic functions will fall to organisations such as The Place to give more direct support to artists. Organisations like The Place have the scale, facilities and expertise to deliver high quality and cost-effective professional development and – most crucially – have the trust of artists.

Infrastructure to support the development of the dance

21. Dance’s popularity – it is the second most popular physical activity amongst young people, and the fastest growing art form in terms of audiences – is sustained by investment in the artists but also in supporting the infrastructure.

22. Developing and opening up access to infrastructure remains an issue in dance, despite great improvement over the past 10 years. Whilst performances may take place in new locations, unhampered by the confines of traditional theatre spaces, and reaching and inspiring new as well as existing audiences, we still need appropriate spaces for dance to be developed in, and production and commissioning funds for experimenting and risk-taking. Dancers and dance makers need time in well-proportioned, safe studios and theatre spaces in which to develop their work. It is vital that if we are to build upon the sustained investment of Government, to maintain the level of support for and access to the infrastructure.

23. The investment in dance is a fraction of that given to other art forms. We have learnt to do a lot with not very much, but it is even more vital if we are to achieve more sustainable careers for dance artists, protect the health and well-being of dance artists, who need the same support and access to healthcare that top athletes or footballers take for granted, but many of whom can rarely afford it.

24. While we are committed to building our levels of philanthropic support, it is clear from where we are now that state subsidy is a crucial lever for that support, and organisations and individual givers do not see their gifts as a replacement for core state subsidy. The Place has significantly ramped up its private fundraising activity over the past 10 years, but in an increasingly competitive market for private funding there are decreasing marginal returns to be made on this investment. While better tax incentives would be a useful stepping stone to increasing individual and corporate philanthropy, without safeguards to ensure an equitable disbursement of all funding for the arts to all parts of the country and to artists at all stages of their careers, the delicate balance of the dance ecology will be at risk.

September 2010