Rachel Briscoe, 26 January 2013

CONVENER: Rachel Briscoe

PEOPLE WHO CAME: Poppy Burton-Morgan, Anna Coombes, Amelia from Gomito,

Claire Saddleton, Flora, Emma Adams, Jonathan Petherbridge, Fergus Evans, Clara

Giraud and a man whose name I can't read who works in Winchester.

I called the session because I realised that I had never considered there to be any

alternative to the ‘progression’ from ACE project funding to becoming an NPO, and

that not having considered the alternatives wasn't a strong position from which to think

about whether this was what I actually wanted for my company.

We started off by making a list of pluses and minuses of being an NPO.


- stability

- status (see below as this was discussed further)

- the resources to make large scale work (it was proposed that it was hard to do so

without core funding, as this sort of project has a long lead-in)

- so much free work goes into the project by project model (i.e. artistic directors doing

lots of the fundraising and admin without being paid)

- not the same cash flow problems as project by project


- being offered less than you currently get through grant funding (as a new NPO,

realistically needing to apply for quite a low amount)

- having to spend all your NPO money on staff to fulfill reporting obligations and having

none left for your projects

- the admin

- needing to plan so far ahead and losing that flexibility to have new ideas and act on


- developing a dependency on ACE at a time when no one really knows what the

future holds

- huge pressure to produce good work - surely the ‘space to fail’ which allows us to do

try new and risky things must subconsciously reduce?

We then talked about alternatives. There was general agreement that there weren't

many advice channels for other models.

Alternatives discussed included:

- applying to a large trust like Esme Fairburn or Paul Hamlyn for salary costs for a

General Manager or similar for an extended period like 2 years. This could be done by

a consortium of companies sharing one GM, although this would require a high level of

trust in the other companies. Amelia's company, Gomito, have started employing a

GM, which means Amelia has more time for freelance work which will earn her money,

thus removing some pressure from Gomito needing to earn her enough to live on.

(At this point, the people present shared how much they took home from their work

with their respective companies and we were all comforted, in a strange way, to find

that although these companies have good profile and make work which is

well-recieved, none of the artistic directors are making any money to speak of. Then

there was a slight digression into whether we expected to be paid for our work etc etc.)

Another alternative is to think commercially. It was suggested that perhaps we should

be encouraged to do this more. We could aim for longer runs, bigger audiences, TV

buyouts, accompanying books and other merchandise. Companies like Tall Stories

tour highly lucrative work like The Gruffalo and also make smaller shows that they are

less confident will be commercially successful - because they know one will balance

the other out.

It was agreed that friends schemes for small companies are hard to manage and often

generated more work than they were worth.

At this point we returned to the idea of status and the strongly entrenched thought

which I and others held, that transition from project funding to NPO was progress and

anything else was at worst failure and at best stagnation.

We talked about the way that ACE relate to the portfolio and to people receiving

project funding and noted a big difference - in the other funding opportunities open to

these two groups, in the way information is shared, for example employees of NPOs

can attend seminars run by the Audience Agency (in partnership with ACE) for free,

whereas non NPOs have to pay. This sort of thing entrenches a hierarchy. It was

suggested that ACE had not really intended this, that it was more about a need to

support the organisations within the portfolio effectively and lack of resources to do

more. A participant from a company who used to receive core funding from the Arts

Council confirmed this impression of hierarchy of information, commenting that the

biggest loss when they lost this status was not the money, it was the connections and


There was also a question about whether the fact that one cannot apply to GFtA for

core funding creates a bigger divide between the two funding models. It was

suggested that this was perhaps a condition of GFtA coming from lottery money,

maybe this is a restriction –which I will look into.

We talked in a broader sense about ‘progress’ and what this meant and whether we

had internalised notions of progress which were measured in scale (and therefore

money) rather than a depth of practice.

Perspectives from companies who have previously had core funding were balanced.

Things valued were independence and a more profound sense of connection with the

audience (who become a more significant funding group). Things missed were the

resources to do big projects and to plan performance projects more longterm.

We spoke about NPO status for touring companies and how the stipulation about not

being able to apply for GFtA to supplement this made things very challenging.

During the session we also spoke about finding halfway houses between GFtA

dependence and NPO: could NPOs have a company which they mentored (or some

better word that didn't make everyone cringe)? For the record, fanSHEN would like

this, if anyone is reading and would like to help us! How can companies use their

boards to better effect?

Thank you to everyone who came and contributed to what was a focused and

thoughtful conversation. Please get in touch if you weren't at D&D and have something

to add.


NPO, GFtA, Metta, Gomito, fanSHEN, Tangle, gomito, company, Funding, funding,