Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Freedom Studios (arts 118)


· Disinvestment in the arts and heritage lead to a cultural and economic deficit position.

· Return to a historical default position.

· Creating a protected enclave for a non reflective Leadership for the culture offer being created in UK

· Strategic lessons learnt from Sustained Theatre

· Maintaining current levels of (reduced cuts to the) investment into the arts and heritage.

· Lib-Con Government has failed to articulate with clarity in the first instance its position on culture and the value it places as a coalition Government on a vibrant cultural economy.

· Tax breaks.

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 ;

C ontinued cuts and disinvestment in the arts and heritage from central and local Government will leave the cultural offer that has been strategically created over the past decade in this country in a deficit position (both culturally and economically).

The pace at which these cuts are being implemented fail to ackn owledge that in the past decade arts and heritage in this country has moved from the traditional notions of culture ( founded on the Eurocentric, white, male and fundamentally exclusionary aesthetic canons of Western civilization ) to a more diver se cultural offer accessible by a broader constituency of UK residents and international visitors. C ritically it must be acknowledged that the past decade has seen a small but positive step change in acknowledging the changing demographics of our country within arts and heritage and a relatively progressive attempt at the democratisation of the cultural space has begun t o be enabled . These shifts underpinned by policy decisions have been created by the intellectual and physical ownership of cultural space being enabled through subsidy and resourcing to a broader constituency of artists and consumers who engage in the cultural offer.

C ontinued cuts to arts and heritage will inevitably force funding institutions to return back to a historical default position that both protects and safeguards the bricks and mortar of flagship institutions at the cost of cultural offers that exist outside of these walls. Such a historical default position will further creat e a protected enclave for a non- reflective Leadership of the culture being created in th is country as expressed by Lyn G ardner ( in Why is British theatre still in thrall to Oxbridge?)

I am reminded by the words of the Cultural commentator and BBC broadcaster Mark Lawson who spoke enthusiastically at the very drab conference entitled British Theatre After Multiculturalism in June 2009 at Warwick University :

"In the last couple of years I’ve felt a sense of horror…..I agreed with the phrase used by a reporter that the BBC and broadcasting in general were hideously White. I think that it is impossible to argue with that and i feel a personal shame about this. I try to fight it and i do what i can ……I have looked at a weeks programming on Radio 4 in which there was no non-White contributors and i have come to the conclusion that without monitoring, without targets it never happens. There is a terrible tendency to return to the historical default."

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

A number of key learning’s were formed in Baroness Lola Young’s Whose Theatre? Report commissioned by the A rts C ouncil of E ngland that addressed the sustained growth of the Black and Minority Ethnic (BAME) theatre sector in the UK . Through Baroness Young ’s findings/conclusions key strategic frameworks were proposed to support the sustainable growth of the BAME sector. Baroness Young’s findings would lead to the creation of the BAME sector led initiative : Sustained Theatre . Baroness Lola Youngs report addressed the key areas of : leadership, archiving, internationalism, digital strategies and a series of networked spaces nationally .

The Sustained Theatre process demonstrates that artistic ambition and artistic integrity can be supported and enabled through an agreement of core values between partner organisations through strategically sharing reso urces and in turn creating best value.

A key learning from the Sustained Theatre process has been the acknowledgement that the need for further growth and engagement with the cultural offer cannot be achieved by all encompassing and unsatisfactory notions of preserving this country’s diverse cultural offer. A single industrial vision attempting to preserve the cultural offer do es not go far enough in responding to the changing demographics of the UK. The cultural ecology has to be unpacked and responded too with greater clarity and sensitivity.

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

In year cuts (2010) to the Arts Council of England have directly impacted both the organisation and those that it seeks to fund. Proposed cuts in 2011 and 2012 will see a further inevitable reduction and scaling back of output across the cultural sector. Accepting the necessary cuts that continue to take place across all Government departments both the severity and immediacy of cost saving measures leave the work of the past decade in the cultural sector at risk of being undone.

Maintaining the current levels of funding at the proposed stated levels must now be the ambition of the Government and cultural sector to safe guard the infrastructure and opportunities that have been created to date. In doing so allowing for the planning of growth over the next 10years.

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

The Arts Council of England continues to demonstrate a historical commitment to strategically supporting the growth of the cultural sector. ACE is both a vital and necessary agent for the cultural sector.

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;

The Lib-Con Government has failed to articulate with clarity in the first instance its position on culture and the value it places as a coalition Government on a vibrant cultural economy. 15 Years of sustained investment into the ACE demonstrates a history of positive impact and added value created through an investment into the arts. One infers the Lib-Con Governments position on culture as being nothing more than an adjunct to tourism. Thus failing to acknowledge the part the arts sector plays in both creating and reflecting the culture of this country to its citizens and internationally.

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

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

Business and philanthropists should be encouraged to play a role in funding arts at a national and local level but not replace the investment of Government into the cultural sector.

Tax breaks should be offered by Government to encourage investment by business and philanthropists into the arts.

One would urge the inquiry to consider how monies offered by business against potential tax breaks would be both managed and apportioned across the sector.

The potential drawback that would come with this strategy is simply the investment by business into national flagship institutions that add the greatest value to their own brand and resulting in the arts offers that exist outside the walls of institutions are left in a familiar deficit position. A balance of business and Government investment would continue to maintain a reflective cultural ecology within the UK.

September 2010