Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Hoipolloi Theatre (arts 179)


Hoipolloi advocates for:

· A balanced funding system with public subsidy as an essential component.

· Continued funding for innovation and experimentation in order to support art form development.

· Small arts organisations to be valued for their dynamism, creativity and flexibility.

· Partnership working and peer-to-peer learning as tools to increase cost-effectiveness.

· Arms length funding characterised by rigorous and transparent decision-making with greater involvement from artists

· More flexible funding agreements with investment linked to specific projects and timeframes.

· 20% of Lottery funding going towards the arts.

· Innovative fundraising models such as crowdfunding to be transposed into the arts.

· More incentives and schemes to encourage private donations.

1) 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.

Spending cuts will have a significant impact on the arts.

Depending on the scale of the cuts, up to 25% of those currently funded by Arts Council England as Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) are likely to lose their funding. With spending cuts across the board, organisations and individuals will be faced with an increasingly competitive environment, with greater numbers chasing reduced levels of funding.

Building based organisations or those dependent on both Arts Council England and local authorities investment as part of their mixed economies are likely to feel the impact of spending cuts particularly strongly. Some venues are already struggling to offer companies the fees required to cover production costs, threatening the viability of touring and access to live work across the country.

In a risk-averse climate, innovation and experimentation - the bedrock of art form development - could be compromised, with funding being channelled into frontline delivery rather than research and development. Protecting the latter is vital to the future health of the arts and wider society. Recognising the essential role played by small organisations, which are often more dynamic and flexible, in the wider arts sector is also important at a time when size might be confused with strength.

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

Arts organisations are by their very nature creative and entrepreneurial. Increasingly, they are forming innovative partnerships in order to achieve their goals. Hoipolloi’s next piece of new theatre will be co-produced by the Barbican Centre in London and National Theatre Wales amongst others - an example of organisations of different sizes, scales and locations joining together in order to deliver a project of the highest quality with an eye to value for money.

Encouraging peer-to-peer learning and sharing of knowledge will help to increase cost-effectiveness - for example, Hoipolloi has been commissioned to create ‘digital diaries’ explaining how the company has harnessed digital technology to engage more directly with audiences. These will be disseminated to others in the sector enabling peers to learn from Hoipolloi’s experiences as they implement their own digital strategies.

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

Sustained investment in the arts over the past 15 years has produced a rich diversity of arts activity which inspires, engages and connects with audiences and participants of all ages as well as a sector which fuels the creative industries, helps to generate jobs, contributes towards a wider sense of wellbeing and is celebrated internationally - all of this achieved on very modest amounts of funding (the arts budget costs each person just 17p a week).

Public subsidy levers additional support into the arts. For every £1 that Arts Council England invests, an additional £2 is generated from private and commercial sources. Many organisations have evolved complex mixed economy models which bring together public funding and private enterprise; these in turn feed the commercial arts sector and the creative economy with ideas, knowledge and skills. Maintaining a balanced funding system with public subsidy as an essential component will be crucial to the future health of the arts.

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

It is essential to have an organisation at arms-length from the government with a clear responsibility for supporting art and artists. The McMaster Review underlined the need to involve artists more in decisions regarding funding distribution while the McIntosh Report highlighted the need for rigour and transparency in Arts Council England’s decision making around its investment process - these are both important points for the Arts Council to consider when deciding how to distribute its funding. The introduction of more flexible funding agreements which link investment to specific projects but which recognise the needs, timeframes and strategic ambitions of each artist or organisation would be welcomed.

5) What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations

Hoipolloi supports the reinstating of the share of Lottery funding going to the arts, heritage and sport to 20% each. The company has benefited significantly from Lottery funding through Arts Council England’s Grants for the Arts programme. Hoipolloi’s annual grant, currently c£122k, contributes towards core costs but does not cover any production or project costs. The company is dependent on raising funding from a mix of public and private sources to ensure that it is able to deliver its artistic ambitions. Since 2006/07, Grants for the Arts funding has played a crucial role in this, with four significant awards of between £40k and £150k secured to support a range of artistic, audience, digital and organisational activities.

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

The classic business model in the arts since the 1980s has been a mixed economy, with arts organisations dependent on an often delicate balance of funding from public and private sources. Businesses and philanthropists have been a part of this and should continue to have a vested interest and involvement in supporting artistic excellence and audience engagement. Rather than placing undue emphasis on generating private sector funding via old-style sponsorship packages and donations, Hoipolloi is interested in how more innovative funding models such as crowdfunding can be transposed across to the arts.

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

Incentives could be introduced to encourage higher tax payers in particular to make charitable donations.

Some of the schemes run by Arts & Business in the past such as the Pairing Scheme and New Partners programme were instrumental in encouraging businesses to engage in arts sponsorship for the first time. It would be timely to refresh and re-launch these schemes in order to support business investment.

Founded in 1994 and based in Cambridge, Hoipolloi is supported by Arts Council England as a Regularly Funded Organisation. From its origins as a small scale touring company, Hoipolloi has established a strong reputation for making original and refreshing new theatre work which is toured live - nationally and internationally - and also distributed online. In 2009/10, the company reached around 50,000 people through live performances, workshops and online interaction

September 2010