Artsfunding and understanding touring #brewhouse

23 Feb

What happened at the Brewhouse was clearly a terrible blow for the town, the staff and their audiences.

But also for the whole wider arts ecology and infrastructure. There are companies and artists who are owed thousands of pounds – and some who date back to early October last year who have not been paid.

It is highly unlikely that any of these individuals and organisations will see any of their money as they now all count as unsecured creditors.

At Pilot Theatre we know this only too well, as this is the second time this has happened to us.

I want to place our story in context. As you will be aware we have been very active on issues of artsfunding

I set up the artsfunding.ning.com site almost 3 years ago, when I could see the shifts that were looming and happening.

So when Somerset announced its 100% cut to its arts budget we were very active in raising this issue as a pending crisis.

So wanting to stand shoulder to shoulder with venues and to continue our commitment to deliver great art for everyone – we agreed to continue to bring our work to the county.

In so doing we also agreed to a significant reduction in our fee to be able to support the audiences and the venue.

Our Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner production was booked into the Brewhouse to play in November 2012.

For those who don’t realise the cost for us keeping a show with 10 actors, 4 tech team, staff director, transport, wages and marketing costs us about 14/15k per week.

Our fee normally covers this and we aim to break even.

In this particular case we agreed a lower fee of 8.7k from the Brewhouse – as we wanted to play there, and to utilise our subsidy to support them in difficult times.

So again seeing that our role as a national touring NPO was going to reach those audiences who would not have ordinarily had the chance to see the work.

This is part of our joined up strategic touring plan at Pilot Theatre.

So you can see – we have still had all our costs, and of course will not receive our reduced fee to help offset our budget line.

There are questions to be asked. At what point did the Brewhouse realise they could not pay their artists? October? November?

In which case who did they prioritise payments to? Who did get paid after October? November? December?

I have heard from companies and individual artists who have not been paid. Some of this is clearly their own money and is affecting them greatly.

So, this is a very regrettable situation and it damages the whole sector and its reputation.

We run a very tight ship at Pilot Theatre – we are a small organisation – we have to. We are all too aware of our responsibility with public money and we have a very strong and committed Board who oversees our fiscal planning and reserves policy.

As a charity our Board are personally financially liable – if we were found to be wrongfully trading when insolvent – it would be they who would have to address this.

My question is to the Board of the Brewhouse – when did you become aware of the situation?

A solution I would like to put forward is that venues and companies use escrow payments – where the agreed fee is held in an escrow account – they use this in the film industry and it would be one way the Arts Council could protect its investment in NPO’s and artists it funds – rather than leaving them to the behest of insolvency law

Marcus Romer
Artistic Director
Pilot Theatre

4 Responses to “Artsfunding and understanding touring #brewhouse”

  1. Roger Tomlinson February 23, 2013 at 9:53 am #

    This is a very sad situation but has disturbing elements, not least for just who will suffer from the consequences.
    When I was Drama Director for the Arts Council of Wales, in a previous time of government generated crisis, we were given insolvency practice training to help arts organisations cope and if possible to help rescue the publicly funded assets. The most chilling realisation was that the “limited liability” protection relied on by Board members and Trustees is removed if it is found that the company was trading insolently, essentially continuing to trade when it knows it cannot repay its debts when they fall due.
    You clearly state that you visited the Brewhouse in November 2012 and the convention is that settlement is due immediately at the end of the run. If the Brewhouse could not settle with Pilot Theatre then, unfortunately that points to the Board continuing to trade when they were insolvent. If they have written to you and referred to your loss of income as “collateral damage” then that seems to confirm the earlier recognition of insolvency. Clearly action can be taken against Board members. In this situation you would expect the stakeholders to step in to discharge the debts to protect everyone.
    Unfortunately this has not happened at the Byre in St Andrews, which only needed another month to be taken over by Fife.

  2. cultureuk March 6, 2013 at 9:04 am #

    Reblogged this on cultureactiveuk and commented:
    The Domino effect of 100% arts cuts:
    mismanagement, mismanagement, mismanagement…

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. A chilling future for new theatre? | Matthew Linley's Blog - February 23, 2013

    […] and its heritage allow it to happen?) whilst one of the brewhouse creditors Pilot Theatre’s Marcus Romer posted his view here.’What happened at the Brewhouse was clearly a terrible blow for the town, the staff and their […]

  2. cultureactiveuk - March 6, 2013

    […] Reblogged from Marcus Romer's Blog: […]

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