Getting Local Authority funding for theatre without strings

Mark Alexander, 9 August 2012

This conversation was in response to two original questions -
How to get Local Authorities to fund theatre and Funders' agendas - isn't good theatre enough

A mixture of practitioners and people sitting on boards of Theatre / Arts organizations agreed that in order to get public funding one usually ends up trying to fulfill criteria (tick boxes) which are peripheral to the core art form. Are there good social or educational outcomes? Enough participation and inclusivity? has it got digital content? Although everyone was happy with social benefit and inclusion it was felt that ticking the boxes first could adversely affect the artistic agenda and devalue Theatre as an art-form. Theatre can address deep issues directly without straight jacketing the process.

There was some optimism however that if the artistic vision is strong enough then it can survive playing the funding game.

One solution was to join up the strands e.g. The theatre's Outreach department should be basing their projects on and around the core work, not left outside the process doing great social work but seen by their organization just as a cash generating sideline.

We talked about the squeeze on Local Authorities' discretionary spend adding to the pressure to be seen to deliver added value outside of the arts portfolio, and the

importance of LAs still giving vocal support even when there is no cash. Other funders including ACE and commercial sponsors base their decisions on the value the community places on their theatre way beyond formal match funding agreements. It can be very difficult to convince people that there is strong local support if it is not apparent in local political support.

Artists have always got together to make their own work outside of the bigger / building based organizations and in these troubled times this seems to be on the increase.
Not only is this healthy in itself but the combination of these individuals and small groups, often across many different arts disciplines, provides a stronger lobbying voice for the place of the arts as an essential and valuable pillar of society.

Looking forward perhaps the LAs and ACE can act as ambassadors and arms length agents for commercial sponsorship should we succeed in following the long road towards a philanthropic system as advocated by some in government looking to the very different systems abroad including the USA. There was a good suggestion of a “Credit Union” for small arts projects.

In the meantime - with money too tight to mention at all levels it was felt that at least we should come together rather than compete, pooling knowledge about funding pots, mentoring new start-ups and playing the funding game with integrity and caution.

P.S. Does anyone know how ACE come up with their lists of funding criteria???


Local Authority funding, ACE funding, ticking the boxes