Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Robert Groves (arts 139)


· We need to understand how the increase in public spending has benefited the Arts. A study is required to learn from past mistakes and benefit from the successes.

· The Arts Council has to consider so many factors that they are not able to support any of the areas they control effectively.

· New art is watered down by the Arts Council.

· New institutions have been established that will require funding to survive. New facilities can not be built as a result.

· Creative businesses have suffered in recent years by looking to secure funding and not to access other sustainable income streams.

· Creative industries have a bright future as technology levels the playing field and opens up new markets.

· Community Arts will suffer most by a further blanket cut to regularly funded organisations and must be avoided.

· The arts in education need to be fair.

· Many of the high arts are supported by public money. They have become unable to generate other income streams.

· The Arts Council has a big influence. This needs to be reviewed.

I am a music producer living in Manchester. I have released music in different genres and on many formats. I left university to set up a recording studio, and I learned about business and the music industry and came into contact with lots of publicly funded organisations. I worked in schools and community projects as well as private organisations. I also make films and have experience in other creative fields. I wanted to use my experience to help the committee make informed decisions.

(1) Full data analysis of the newly released government spending figures needs to take place in order to decipher and track the way public money has been spent. It needs to be made clear to the public how their money is distributed. It is a difficult task due to the complexity of the current system. It would be possible to find volunteers to do much of this work but a proper study needs to be coordinated. We must learn from the mistakes and champion the successes. The increase in public money for the arts over the last 15 years has had an impact in many areas. Judging this impact independently and impartially will show clear areas to cut and restructure and practices that should be repeated and expanded.

(2) Looking closely at the effectiveness of the Arts Council is vital. The Arts council has had a lot of money to spend and there are numerous other funding streams that have to be considered. At the moment the arts council have not had to be accountable to public demand. This inevitably has an effect on its performance. The Arts Council recognised this problem in a 2006 paper:

They suggested that a 'value framework' is needed to show why the Arts Council spends in the way it does. Most of the documents they produce and indeed emails and website copy present the organisation in a glowing light. It is the responsibility of the DCMS to hold them to account in much the same way the arts council do with the regularly funded organisations.

(3) The current funding system is extremely complex and as a result it is inefficient. The arts council for example aims to support new art, guide creative business, help communities and socially excluded groups, educate , preserve our arts heritage and increase engagement with the arts. This is a difficult task as these areas all require a different approach. In trying to deliver these objectives the Arts Council have blurred the boundaries between these distinct areas. Unfortunately none of these areas get the specialist attention that they require. This adds to the overall inefficiency of the Arts Council and has a profound effect on the organisations, communities and individuals they support. A project that satisfies all of these areas will be looked upon more favourably than a project specialising in one area and as a result will secure higher future funding. The regularly funded organisations and those applying for one off grants therefore tailor their services to match these criteria. The criteria are is similar for other forms of funding.

(4) People who wish to create new art have to look at fulfilling some of the other criteria. This inevitably waters down the artistic integrity of the the art they produce. They are no longer concentrating on art for arts sake. Innovation and pure creativity drive the whole sector. Like concept cars or couture fashion these forward thinking ideas push the boundaries and eventually filter down and enhance our society. Public funds can stimulate new art in many ways. Helping with the cost of materials and workspace, and providing networking support can allow for artists to develop ideas more quickly. It is an essential area to fund because it is very difficult to raise finance for this without again sacrificing integrity. In order to asses the quality of a proposal panel of judges should be specialists in this field alone.

(5) Those looking to develop facilities to showcase new art would require specialists in other areas to asses the quality of their proposals. Large sums of public money has been spent on these projects. In every city there are a multitude of ways to engage with the arts. It has had a very positive impact on British life. It is unlikely that many new facilities will secure funding over the next few years and cutting this area of funding will save a lot of money. Money will be needed to sustain existing projects. There has been lots of publicity about projects that have failed and gone considerably over budget. We have time to learn from these mistakes and build on successes over the next few years. The organisations and authorities that distribute public funds have to be held to account and develop ways of ensuring mistakes are not repeated. It happened because there was too much money available and ineffective management of that money. It is important to try and recoup money on failed projects and not continue to fund the organisations that do not fulfil their purpose. These new institutions need assessing and advising to enable them to be successful.

(6) As a result of the impending cuts the Arts Council have been making their case on the premise they are value for money. They quote figures about the value added to the British economy by the creative industries. It is very true that revenue from the arts have grown in recent years and this contributes a lot to our economy. Is this a result of the public sector spending or are other factors involved? In recent years there has been more disposable income so this would increase revenue for creative enterprises. Technological factors and TV trends have also played a key role in our international success. It is important to see the Arts Councils role in this in perspective.

(7) Great opportunities have been missed to support our creative enterprises. On seeking business advise creative entrepreneurs were encouraged to be unemployed to become socially excluded, and pushed towards sources of funding. They were rarely advised to concentrate on improving the product, generating capital and looking at marketing and advertising opportunities. As a result many entrepreneurs that would have developed great businesses would look for grants and establish organisations that the taxpayer funds. The available funding streams would require similar criteria to the arts council to become accessible. This led to a lot of new projects drawing public funds that would never be sustainable and in many cases would be unmanageable. Large sums of money were wasted.

(8) The job centre paid organisations to train job seekers in creative fields. Training can inspire but it is extreme to offer everyone on the new deal the option of learning music production as was the case in Manchester. Lots of people choose the free music production course but the course was very short so its effect was negligible. Large sums of money were ploughed into similar schemes across the country. This allowed the creative businesses that took advantage of this funding to flourish. As funding is withdrawn they now have to generate income in other ways. I fear many of these businesses will not survive as they have large overheads and face a difficult and unfamiliar commercial environment.

(9) I believe creative enterprises require specialist advice. This should be business advice primarily as the artistic and creative skills are the responsibility of the creative to develop. In the last decade lots of creative advice agencies funded by public money were established to advise the creative industries. Unfortunately these agencies would act more as funding signposts helping to create more organisations reliant on public money. Community Arts organisations even offer business advice. As a result of these different organisations many entrepreneurs have not set up commercial businesses which help the economy and became experts at securing public funding.. This is great for charities and community projects but not for those looking to set up a creative business. It is also not an effective way to stimulate creative enterprise.

(10) Those people did not seek or take advice and just tried to make money have had the biggest effect on our economy. They have shown new ways of working and are keeping the UK at the forefront of the creative industries. Old business models are outdated and a fit for purpose approach is the key to their success. Within the music industry there is turmoil. Large organisations are in grave difficulty. These new businesses will fill the gap and it is already showing signs that the musicians will see a much greater % of royalties as a result. It is an exciting time and I believe that new creative enterprises in all fields, will lead the way for other sectors to improve business practice. It is now possible for everyone to reach a global market.

(11) Support that is relevant to these businesses and new enterprise needs to be managed by the government with the aim of stimulating the economy and ensuring taxes are paid. This helps the creative and the economy. Business incubation schemes and strong business advice will have the biggest effect on the income the country makes from the creative sector. This is what Creative entrepreneurs require. New technologies allow for business clusters to easily form allowing for efficient management of large projects and amazing collaborations. It is also remarkably cheap to buy professional standard equipment. The future for creative enterprise is very bright and not as expensive to get a foot in the door.

(12) Community arts organisations and projects designed help socially excluded people are most at risk from cuts in public spending. They do not draw large amounts of public money and provide an essential service. The Arts Council will pass on cuts that may not severely damage the large organisations but will cripple the smaller community projects. These organisations must be judged on their value to society not the quality of the art. Those organisations that attempt to satisfy the most funding criteria will have a difficult time proving their effectiveness. It is better to analyse them properly and secure the future of successful projects than to do a cut across the board.

(13) As entrepreneurs were encouraged and guided to establish projects that helped socially excluded people they would buy equipment and in many cases get funding for building work. This also took place in the city centre of Manchester when it would have been more cost effective for these projects to use existing facilities. I saw many fail and it was very clear that the people who ran them did not have the required skills. When working with Aim Higher I was able to get an extremely low rate from one training providers to record school children. They did it because they had the downtime in the facility to spare and they wanted to help out. Creative industries like to give back to the industry and help people be creative. A substantial volunteer drive is needed from community organisations. There is an infrastructure their that could be used to effectively deliver a 'Big Society'.

(14) There are many initiatives that attempt to make the arts accessible to young people. However many schools do not offer a music GCSE. Some areas have publicly funded orchestras come to the school to perform. This is unfair and shows how we have not covered the basics of arts education. Creative industries and the arts can inspire the youth to think and be creative. Making them accessible for all is possible if equipment is chosen wisely. By using computer programs students learn the skills that are needed in the real world because they enjoy it. Allowing school children access to music making and video making equipment and materials for art projects we pave the way for a bright future. Bringing new art into schools is also essential as is allowing access to museums for school children. Developing creative thinking is an important part of education.

(15) The Arts Council is responsible for arts heritage. Some of the highest funded organisations are essentially heritage projects. Many have become unable to make money and are reliant on the large sums awarded. These organisations change their business structure and become less likely to make there own revenue. Money invested in organisations that turn a profit should be the first to stop receiving the awards. Those organisations that will always need funding need to be assessed and decisions made on their merits. The loss of larger organisations would create a lot of negative press so the Arts Council will not be very willing to do this. This needs to be looked at objectively and these organisations must all increase revenue if possible.

(16) By judging art on the number of people it engages we can sometimes exclude great art in favour of socially acceptable state art.

(17) I believe the Arts Council has had to much control and certain areas like enterprise, community projects and education could be handled more effectively by other authorities. Then they can concentrate their energy on stimulating the arts, preserving our culture and engaging the public.

September 2010