Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Almeida Theatre Company Ltd (arts 182)

1. The Almeida Theatre Company

The Almeida is a 325 seat theatre in the heart of Islington, North London. The Almeida Theatre Company produces a diverse range of British and international drama with some of the world’s best artists and has developed a reputation as a local theatre with an international profile.

The Almeida currently receives regular annual funding from Arts Council England in order to support the costs of offering seats at accessible ticket prices, while frequently presenting large scale productions, in tandem with a high impact education and community programme (Almeida Projects).

The current Arts Council grant equates to 25% of the Almeida’s annual turnover of £3.9million, with the theatre raising another £1million each year through its wide range of fundraising activities. In order to break even each year, the theatre has to play to an average of 85%. Last year it sold 90,351 tickets.

In total, the theatre raises £2.81 for every £1 received in public subsidy.

In 2001 the theatre received £2.25million from the Arts Council Lottery to fund 50% of the overall £5.5million cost of redeveloping the theatre, which re-opened in May 2003.

2. The proposed government funding cuts

Jeremy Hunt, Secretary of State for Culture, the Olympics, Media and Sport, proposes a new system of support for the arts, following the "American model," relying much more heavily on private philanthropy.

This makes no economic sense for the following reasons:-

1) The current American system is failing; private companies are cutting back drastically on their philanthropy in the face of the global recession, resulting in the closure of countless arts bodies.

2) As any private arts donor will confirm, the incentive and desire to support diminishes in proportion to any reduction of public subsidy. They emphatically do not see themselves as the principal source of funding , but rather as an ‘add-on,’ investing in a cultural industry with a world-wide reputation.

3) Perhaps the most important of all, the arts sector is one of the highest growth industries in the country. Not only providing thousands of jobs (creating over 2m new ones between 1997 and 2007) but also returning far more to the exchequer than is invested in subsidy. The theatre in London alone paid back £76m in VAT in 2008 – as against an Arts Council spend on theatre of £54m.

These figures, set alongside the value of tourism - £86bn in 2007 – (which in huge part is due to the nations arts, culture and heritage) clearly demonstrate the counter-productive, short-sighted nature of the Government’s current proposals.

None of this of course takes into account the destructive long-term effects the proposals would have on both the nation’s culture and the health of society as a whole. There is a government funding cut "tipping point" of around 10-15%, when beyond this amount the arts landscape in England would change drastically with the loss of many arts organisations and the country losing its reputation as a world leader in the creative economy.

The considerable benefits the arts can bring in other areas - social, economic, and to general well being - begin with the quality of the art itself. And this country has invested in artistic excellence for the long term. Any repair would require significant investment more than the cuts proposed at a later date to return to the same levels of arts productivity and quality that this country should enjoy. We welcome the proposed redistribution of Lottery funds to provide a greater share to the arts in order to mitigate some of the proposed funding government shortfall.

3. Further background information – the wider London theatre landscape

The Almeida Theatre is part of a n industry -wide consortium of 12 "Off- West End " London Theatres. The consortium comprises: Almeida Theatre, Battersea Arts Centre, Bush Theatre, Donmar Warehouse, Greenwich Theatre, Hampstead Theatre, Lyric Hammersmith, Royal Court Theatre, Soho Theatre, Theatre Royal Stratford East, Tricycle Theatre and Young Vic.

In many senses, these theatres form the powerhouse of British theatre and a cornerstone of London’s reputation as a cultural capital, a role recognised in terms of public investment.

· The combined annual turnover of the consortium is £28million

· For every £1 of ACE investment, the consortium generates on average another £1.65

· The 12 consortium theatres sell around 1million tickets per year – more than the National or Royal Opera House

· 10% of London households have attended one of the consortium theatre in the past 3 years and we serve residents in all 33 London Boroughs

· The consortium employ over 1,500 people per year

· The consortium theatre’s productions feed London ’s commercial theatre, boosting the visitor economy, while our international tours and co-productions plus a strong media profile help position London as a centre of vibrant world class culture

· The consortium is already working closely together to see where theatres can work collectively to either reduce our own individual costs or increase revenue. This includes opportunities for joint purchasing, joint marketing, sharing administration, staff and resources, sharing knowledge and expertise.

September 2010