#Artsfunding – how it actually works on the ground…

1 Nov


It can feel a little precarious out there – balancing on each others shoulders to keep upright – as our scene from our recent production of Blood + Chocolate shows…

There has been a lot of activity and online chat about the ‘Rebalancing the Cultural Capital’ publication. Here the amounts of money per head invested in arts and culture varies geographically. The headline news is that Londoners benefited from £69 of cultural spending per head, compared with just £4.50 in the rest of England. In addition, Arts Council England committed 45% of its £317m arts Lottery funding to London, meaning that Lottery players across the country funded the arts to the tune of £17.41 per person in London, but only £3.90 in the rest of England. The actual document can be found here

This of course that is not the whole story. It merely states where the funded organisations are based. For sure many of these tour, and play a national role for the benefit of the whole country. There are big national institutions, that are also obviously based in the Capital. The facts remain that it does need addressing as ACE Chief Executive Alan Davey made clear yesterday.

As the Artistic Director of a National Touring NPO based in York I think it is important to look at how artsfunding works on the ground and what the per capita spend looks like for people on whose heads it is being counted. Our recent Blood + Chocolate production was the culmination of 18 months work within our city. The building of trust withing the volunteer groups, the embedding of artists and teams withing the city to generate and support a cast of 200, and a team of designers, costume makers, builders, makers, stage managers and crew totalling 300, so that each night we could take our audience of 300 safely through the streets of York and make a transformative piece of work for participants, audience and the creative teams involved.

This took a sustained investment from ACE and the City of York Council – with additional support from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, and was built on trust and ability of the creative teams (Pilot Theatre / SlungLow / York Theatre Royal) to deliver the scale and ambition of the project. Yet even though we sold out the entire three week run to a capacity audience – this generated 45% of our total budget. The rest of the project required the remaining 55% to be found from arts funding and sponsorship to enable it to happen. Without this Blood + Chocolate would not have taken place.

This sustained investment enables our team of artists being present in communities and to be based in a city. So not just flying in with a one off tour date, a week in a theatre every couple of years, or a live or pre-recorded transmission to a paying cinema audience.

It is our mission at Pilot Theatre to make all our work at some point freely accessible to all. So that anyone regardless of any geographical, soci-economic, or other demographic reason should be able to freely access the work that we have made with our use of public money. This is our duty and my role as an Artistic Director to help make and deliver great art and culture for everyone.

So whilst it is not the same as being there – it is another way to experience the project – we delivered a live webstream of Blood + Chocolate during the run of the show – It captured the audience perspective as we used steadicam views from within the crowds as well as cranes and moving cameras. It is part of our ongoing research into how to make filmed theatre work more effectively and translate better across digital platforms. Most importantly it is available to watch and share for free below.

So, you see in a digitised world the notion of geographical area boundaries become increasingly less important in the funding debate – but we all need to shift this to ask the questions

– where is the art being made? by whom? who with ? and most importantly – who is it for?

If you want to see some of the per capita people who were involved in this project – the Flickr group by our 31 volunteer photographers have captured them rather well for you here

My thanks go to all those whole helped to make this project happen

Marcus Romer – Artistic Director – Pilot Theatre – York – England –

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