Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Rosalind Riley (arts 145)

I address the points from your consultation as follows:

· 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.

1. My credentials for addressing the issue of encouraging private philanthropy to the arts

2. Philanthropy is not a sector that can be influenced; it is a number of private individuals

3. Philanthropy is hard to access for small- to mid-scale arts organisations

4. It is difficult to create inducements for philanthropists

5. Philanthropists are independent-minded do not prioritise the Arts for their own sake; they are ignorant of the business models of the Arts world

6. Philanthropists should be consulted if they are being made part of government policy

1. I am an unusual person in this debate, with what I believe may be a unique perspective. As a Trustee of the Brook Trust I support, with my husband, both artistic and social projects with our own money. Last year our total giving was more than £700,000; the larger proportion being to social projects. I have attended and taken part in several philanthropy events at Coutt’s Bank, and will be speaking there to a large group of current and potential private arts philanthropists at the end of September 2010, on a platform which includes Kevin Spacey and Jeremy Hunt MP. As an actor and producer (Fresh Glory Productions) I work solely in small- to mid-scale theatre, and I am a member of an actors’ co-operative agency (Performance Actors’ Agency), so I see the profession from several sides, at a level which finds it hard to achieve private sponsorship or donations. Ever since the election I have held informal conversations with a range of theatre professionals and have been forming a picture of people’s hopes and fears.

2. I believe, from my recent opportunities for mixing with philanthropists and fundraisers, that the government is under a misapprehension about the nature of philanthropy. My impression is that the government believes philanthropists to constitute a "sector" which can be influenced to follow (or to indulge) government policy towards the arts. I would like to point out that philanthropists are individuals and cannot be approached, led, directed or persuaded as a group.  I mix from time to time with very large scale donors, trusts and individuals, and they are wealthy, independent people who have their own agenda and have no obligation to anyone to follow any kind of policy, nor to maintain consistency (though many do the latter ).  They can change their minds without reference to anyone.  They c an stop giving if they choose.  I do not mean to imply that all philanthropists are whimsical and unreliable, but the fact is that neither are they a solid, directed, coherent body like ACE.  They will only support the art they like or decide is a Good Thing, and this might not be, in type or quantity, what the government, or indeed the people of the UK, want.

3. In discussions with small- to mid-scale theatre practitioners, I constantly hear that the main problem with philanthropic funding is access to philanthropists, coupled with the enormous amount of time, often unpaid, they must devote to writing applications to trusts and charities. The government may see a solution through trying to make this access easier, or to streamline application procedures, but this would have to be across an enormous number of individual trusts, each run according to its own principles and timetable, and would have to be entirely at the consent of each of these individual trusts and charities, not all of whom will have sympathy with government policy (some of them may even have voted Labour). I believe Jeremy Hunt MP recently wrote to "major donors", but did not reach people like me who give in quite large amounts but to several small organisations who have no profile in government (or possibly even ACE) circles, illustrating that even Mr Hunt finds it hard to know who we are.

4. I intend to raise the question among fellow philanthropists of inducements and encouragements to give to the arts. There exists a medal, awarded by Arts and Business and sponsored by the Prince of Wales, honouring significant giving to the Arts. Although I work in the relevant areas and indeed know one of the recipients very well, I was unaware of this award until I started researching the subject. I note that the award of the medals was not covered noticeably by the national press, and has no profile among the arts practitioners with whom I mix socially and professionally. I intend to ask the philanthropists attending the Coutts event in September whether the prospect of a medal would encourage them to give more to the arts; I note meanwhile that the medal was given to a number of recipients who had given large sums over long periods without inducement, often with a local, educational or regeneration agenda.

5. Philanthropists are wealthy people, often business people, who are used to coming up with their own plans and executing them as they think fit. They will take advice and they do want to have fun. They are motivated by wanting to put something back into the world from which they have gained so much, and they have the absolute right, as private citizens, to do with their money exactly as they like. They may formalise their giving in a tax-friendly Trust, but in fact they can give in any way they choose, to any timetable, setting their own criteria. In these straitened times, with disasters at home and abroad, they may consider that they would rather cure HIV than support Chipping Norton Theatre, and indeed, as New Philanthropy Capital have said, by far the largest chunk of Trust money goes to overseas development, with social and medical work not far behind (the general public prefers children’s charities, medical charities and animal charities). The Arts are often supported as an educational tool, not for their own sake, nor simply to enhance people’s lives. In addition few philanthropists have a detailed knowledge of the whole arts world, and their giving does not take account of the complex (chaotic?) financial web that makes up, for example, the world of touring theatre. (Most people outside the "Business" have no idea that all actors are freelance, for example.) ACE has this detailed knowledge.

6. I recently detected a great deal of indignation among arts organisations about the co-opting of the arts for the Olympic bid. Our sector was touted as one of the jewels in the crown of London, without us having been consulted or persuaded on board beforehand. It seems to me that if the government is going to rely on philanthropists to fund the arts, it is the philanthropists that they should be consulting. They may simply not consent, as a number of disparate individuals, to being part of government policy, and if cuts have already been made to public funding, where is the fall-back position if they choose not to step up to the mark?

September 2010