Are ‘the right people’ allocating the funding ?

Convener:  Elaine Kidd

Participants:  Darren Abrahams, Adam Bennett, Ken Turner, Gillian Hambling, Danny Braverman, Ed Collier, Penny Francis, Sinead MacManus, Caroline Giammetta, Sam Howey Nunn, Lisa Hammond, Jennifer Gunstone, Wendy Buckley, Sharon Kean, Roger Hartley



Our company used to get on with producing work and for 3 years we’ve been developing business plans and our admin infrastructure at the request of the funders only not to get funding (early years project money already allocated) and not to be told real story about why not. (Preston-based)

SW Area v inefficient. Did a satirical application as a creative form of criticism and was told I wasn’t helping myself.  Why don’t funders welcome criticism to help them improve ?

Grant system now much better  - simpler, fairer.  Like absence of deadlines.

I miss the deadlines.  Don’t know when project is ‘perfect’ enough to apply now.

bac’s best box office is on the Pay What You Can nights



ACE criteria stop young people expressing themselves

Criteria make artists into the instruments of govt policies

Company’s survival at risk if it becomes about jumping through funding hoops

Northumberland has no government arts funding whatsoever

It’s often easier to get business developed – get grants to improve business/admin – rather than do the theatre itself

Young people just starting out as theatre-makers often have no idea how to go about getting funding.  It isn’t (and perhaps rightly so) on their radar.

Arts Council veers people away from being genuine artists.  Stops them asking questions like ‘What is an artist?’ and makes them instead ask questions like ‘How do I raise money?’

NT is a mafia – not open to new work.  Should be a conditioning of its funding.



If we agree that we need some kind of organisation to allocate funds from government, is the Arts Council the right body to do this?

What about a smaller grass roots body to allocate funds on their behalf who are more in touch with current practice and emerging artists ?

What happened to use of panel of practitioners reporting on their peers ? – ACE officers can’t get everywhere to see everything.

Who gets the decision-making jobs ?  Are the officers sufficiently involved in the scene to make judgments ?

How do you evaluate art ?  It’s like catching something that shouldn’t be caught.

Why government funding at all ?  What about American model of private sponsorship.  Would it work in UK ?  (No – people don’t dig that deep)

Could more earned income be generated ?  Creative Partnerships have made a big difference to companies with their work in schools for example.

How do we get LEAs to value artists ?  They’ll happily pay £700 for a consultant or legal expert – why not for art ? 

What percentage of GDP do the Arts get in the UK? Under Laing in France the French get 1 % - lots by comparison to us.

How do we get more savvy about raising money to do a show ?

What does value for money mean ?  Does it have to be about reaching large numbers ?  Isn’t true value for money about a quality experience which leaves participants in some way changed by the experience ? 

Is it difficult/appropriate for us to review colleagues (peer assessment on behalf of ACE) ?  Yes if one tries to be objective, and, with freedom of information, has to give named assessment.

Is an RFO a good model for theatre ?  Salaried people often can’t find funding for the actual projects or spend the whole of their time tracking down stuff for free.  Doesn’t it mean that people are paid to sit around not doing much ?  How can they be encouraged or even coerced not to sit on their haunches and to refresh themselves ?


Cost of Iraq war cf the Arts.  Blair shouldn’t be debating whether or not we should be a world power militarily, but a world power in terms of the Arts.

Reallocate money from new Trident to the Arts

We need more platforms for new work.  RFOs need to be pushed to present new work.

Need radical movement of artists who stop asking for ACE money and get on with own work to own agenda

Have an ACE dept who specifically gives money for radicality

Function of group like ours needs to be to lobby and support the Arts Council

Make theatre free, or get people to pay BEFORE and AFTER they’ve seen a show.  Harks back to street theatre.

March 27th – Free Theatre Day.  Make it a funding criteria that theatres facilitate this. 

Rather than just giving grants, couldn’t an Arts Council officer work with individual companies to support their fundraising ? – get to know their work, and help them to identify funding opportunities and to draft applications.

Pedal-power !

Fulfil government’s anti-obesity drive by getting audience’s to generate the electricity for the performance.  Sit ‘em all on exercise bikes with a hooter and a bell for audience participation.  If they like the show, they keep pedalling.  If they don’t, the lights go out.

Treadmill power.  What happens to all that wasted energy in the gyms that could be harnessed for something ??

And kiddie-power.  Attach a generator to kids running around in theatres.

Theatre buildings are a waste of space when not used.  So are big corporate buildings, often with health and safety conforming performance spaces within them – let’s use these.  Perhaps for the Olympics.

Encourage ethos of development time.

Use the Law of Two Feet at the theatre more.

Do an open space process with the military.

Lottery tickets – use percentage of company’s grant to buy a grand’s worth and open them in front of an audience who choose where the winnings go – variety of buckets at the front of the stage for different charities.  See if win back more than what it cost to buy tickets and put that back into the company.



ACE v different to 20 years ago – advocates early years projects, diversity, access

93 theatres funded in London to tune of 43 million, about 20 of which goes to National Theatre.  Need to look at subsidy-hungry theatres. NT probably the most progressive of them.

ACE in regular conversation with local authorities.  Speaks daily with the newly Tory-run boroughs like Wandsworth and Hammersmith to advocate for the Arts.  Scary that H’smith wants to ‘out-Wandsworth Wandsworth in offering lowest council tax in the country’

There aren’t any gender-specific funds anymore – no discrimination of this kind allowed.

Regional arts boards are now a part of ACE.  London Arts Board for example is not Arts council London.  They employ experts with a track record in different artforms as development officers.  There’s an increasing flow of practitioners into the ACE.  Majority of officers passionate about the Arts and want to do a better job.

Need a mixed ecology of offering value (quality) and value-for-money (numbers).  There are comparatives that work e.g. if A can produce B for C amount of money, why can’t Z do it ?

Peer type review is coming back with independent assessors.

Emerging artists become known through radar organisations who support them and are known to ACE e.g. Lyric, bac 

Harder to be known without this kind of venue partnership

Young Vic supports emerging artists.  David Lan model of ‘enlightened self-interest’ a good one.  ROH Linbury projects have also been successful in supporting new work.

ACE not necessarily responsive enough to entrepreneurial young people

e.g. 17 yr old hip hop artist who took over a shop front in Soho.  How can it become a more light-footed funding organisation and stop drowning in paperwork  

There’s a new programme for youth theatres (participatory work).

ACE has to prepare for different financial scenarios in 08/09.  If there were to be, for example, a 5% cut from the Treasury, how should funds be reallocated.  Group agreed that an across board 5% cut not useful as the impact of that would be unequal.  Felt important to bring in new blood, if necessary, at expense of existing funded orgs, in order to constantly refresh the Arts.  Importance of looking at individual cases.

There has been discussion about whether ACE would be subsumed within the DCMS, but no-one in government wants to do something this thorny now

DCMS does want to know how to encourage the creative health of the nation

To what extent should ACE be coercive.  e.g. Disability Access now law, but what about things like Racial Equality Action Plans ??