Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by sinfonia ViVA (arts 162)

What impact recent and future spending cuts from central and local government will have on the arts at a national and local level?

· Because Arts organisations are adept at adapting to changing financial circumstances the effects of cuts in income can appear to be minimal in the short term. It is only in the medium and long term that the effect on the development of the art form and its practice can be felt.

Some arts organisations will thrive in this environment of cuts – they will find ways to take managed risks and will continue to develop and move their practice forward as a result. However, for many organisations this will not be possible and the perceived risk of investment and development will be too high and therefore they will stand still.

· There is no national answer to this. There must be an understanding that metropolitan and high profile organisations are better equipped to cope with reductions in public funding due to the nature of their connections to individuals and the high visibility and acceptance of their work. It is the more rural and social enterprise organisations which will find it harder in the more straightened times.

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

· This question infers that there is an awful lot of fat in each organisation. Certainly in regional Arts organisations this is not the case and there is not a huge lot of duplication in "back office" operations. Indeed five Derby regularly funded organisations have been working over the summer to explore economies by working together and have not managed to find any savings of any significance.

Having said that, the initiative driven culture of the last 10 or so years means there are a lot of organisations running within each art form on a regional basis which are not under an overall strategy for that region. So for instance there is Sing Up, Youth Music and Music Leader active as individual programmes along with professional orchestras in most regions. One idea would be to look at these individual sections on a regional basis and put them under one umbrella and give the whole lot an overarching strategy. Possible savings in administration and other overhead costs, and a more effective delivery organisation.

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

· This is almost impossible to answer. Surely we should be asking what kind of sector we want, how we build it and how much we are prepared to pay for it. What role do the Arts play in the society we want to live and work in?

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

· There must remain a local voice in distribution of public funding. There should also be a degree of accountability for those organisations in receipt of public money. There is a need for the distribution to be done in a way that removes any notion of political influence or ambition. Therefore the Arts Council seems a sensible way of distributing the money.

· If we agree that the Arts Council is the best method for distributing public funding then it alone should be responsible for all arts spend and when appropriate work in association with other government departments. It should not, therefore, be sidelined by other departments delivering arts activity.

· Should caution about reverting back to too much initiative driven work. Need to give organisations a sense of ongoing viability. Need to build partnerships, confidence and audiences and all that takes time.

Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed

· The key here is to get the Lottery back to its original purposes and ethos.

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

· They do, but only as part of a set of funders. However, smaller, more local organisations will need to work harder to engage new funders of significant value in the short term. The key words here are the long term – any change needs to be thought about over a long period, putting in place the tools first then allowing time to work on increasing other forms of funding before a change in public funding is made.

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

· Government needs to do more to incentivise giving and support of the Arts. Yes it is about money, but it is also about association with the organisations themselves. Private organisations and individuals often want to be associated with things that are seen to be of importance. How frequently do we see MPs at cultural events, supporting them in public. Big stuff gets this, but how much local work gets the benefit if interest from major politicians. People want to be associated with sports events, but the Arts seem to be less attractive.

Once this level of importance is acknowledged then others will follow.

· Individual givers like to be part of a plural funding structure. Indeed it is dangerous for any organisation to be too reliant on one source or individual. Public money is key to this plural funding structure for a large number of organisations across the country. The will to give comes first followed by consideration of tax benefits etc.

· Needs to work with organisations to develop this business and individual support. Skills in organisations need developing. Government should not look like it is opting out of supporting the Arts. On the contrary it should be seen as helping to unlock more money and changing the way people think about giving.

· The private sector needs confidence about the agenda for the Arts and the government must demonstrate its strategy clearly. It feels like we have been asked to build a new house, but have not been given the plans to work to.

September 2010