Jo crowley, 10 January 2016

A broad discussion was had. Below is a summary of the key headline discussion had,

and area for action.

What do we mean by independent?

The notion of what we mean by ‘independent’ was explored. It was agreed that for the

purposes of this discussions independent was taken to mean artists, companies,

practitioners and producers that:

- exist both within and outside of the national portfolio, but is largely comprised of non

NPOs.

- Are artist led

- Are Autonomous

- Largely exist beyond buildings

- Are not institions and usually not building based.

- Are not just the small or emerging -scale - but work across scales, by artists across

generations and experience.

- It is the area of the industry that is largely populated by people working on a self

employed basis without regular salaries

- It was agreed that it is the independent sector is usually where creative experiments

are undertaken, where innovation is happening and where new art forms, methods

and models of business and creativity are emerging

Discussion summary:

Visibility, Understanding and a Missing Evidence Bas;

There is an enormous visibility issue for the independent sector.

Largely existing outside of NPOs' there are hundreds and hundreds of companies,

artists and producers making huge quantities of work across scale and art-forms. They

are collectively reaching enormous audiences across communities, regions and

countries. They are also vitally contributing to the ability of people in the arts being

able to maintain a (admittedly often precarious) livelyhood.

Unless this work if it is in receipt of GFTA or strategic funding it is not monitored and

there is insufficient data capture.

As a large quantity of independent work is not funded for much of it's development and

exploitation, there is a a hole in the evidence base of just how many people are

reached, the breadth of reach and the true contribution that is being made to

livelyhoods and employment and the true value of the contribiution that the arts are

making to the economy and society.

This means that there is a hole in the information being communicated to the

government, and thus the case for the arts is not as strong as it would be.

Current Funding Models;

Concern was expressed regarding current funding strands available to Artists by ACE,

that;

- current funding advice offered by ACE is perhaps out of date;

- current application processes and forms do not reflect how work is now being made

in the current climate and moment in time.

- application forms are burdensome and difficult to use (ACE officers present at the

session stressed that the application portal was about to be relaunched and it was

hoped that this would solve some of the challenges).

- the structure of funding applications makes it difficult to fully explain projects.

- strategic funds are not accessible for artists and companies with low infrastructure,

working on a project by project basis as they have reduced capacity to write such

huge unwieldy applications - despite very often having potentially very brilliant

projects;

- Strategic touring funding strand has brought about a touring problem in the country

and as a large proportion of the independent sector tour work this is hugely

problematic.

- Catalyst funding has been successful for some, but not enough has been invested in

the independent sector. The most recent catalyst fund is only available to charitable

organisations meaning that a large majority of the independent sector is not eligible to

apply, despite being the area of the sector most needing investment.

- That too little money is being spread too broadly.

Consultation with the independent sector

- ACE no longer involves representatives from the independent sector - and

specifically artists, companies and producers who are not in the National Portfolio in

consultations.

- Pre NPO, NON RFO'S were invited to ACE briefings, but no longer are. The

independent sector is increasingly feeling like it is being omitted from conversations.

This is creating a form of disenfranchisement.

ACTION ARISING: Independents would like to see a broader representation of

independents and non independents at ACE briefings. Independents attending agreed

they would be responsible for filtering knowledge and insight gained to their

independent peers and they onto theirs, and so on. So that the knowledge is spread

across the sector.

- Should venues, unions, management bodies AND independents be being consulted

and brought into conversations and consultations about funding and funding

programmes. It was noted that NESTA have good structured dialogues with grant

holders and non grant holders and ACE should look at this.

- Should Peer panels should be brought back was raised.

- Should there be a spokesperson / spokes people as a channel for communication

about what is arising in the sector - and if so what would this be?

Evidence & Data

ACTION: There needs to be a way of collecting data and evidence beyond NPOs and

GFTAs.

The independent sector consider this vital, to show just how large a part of the entire

theatre industry is made up of the independent sector. Most shows that play on our

stages in the UK and beyond are made by independent artists and companies, but the

statistics of;

- how many people are being reached;

- how many people are being employed;

- financial impact and economic contribution;

- level of export and cultural diplomacy for the UK;

Is not being sufficiently monitored or captured. This needs urgent addressing.

New business models & new funding programmes

- Artists, companies, producers etc operating in the independent sector are fully aware

that funding is limited. Most are simply no longer aspiring to be NPO's or RFO's - that

is an old model. Instead they are innovating and runnig business models that light

weight, fleet of foot and not weighted in huge infrastructure,, staff or bureaucracy.

- Artists, companies, producers etc are genuinely wanting to be free to take risks,

experiment, pursue opportunities and not be held to over burdensome funding

requirements and bureaucracy.

- However it was noted that at key points of artists and companies development there

will be a vital necessity for an injection of infrastructural investment across multiple

years. This infrastructural investment would differ to organisational development and

be used to contribute to basic and unavoidable core costs , growing capacity to realise

work and raise funding for future years.

- It was discussed that this was particularly important for independent artists and

companies making quality work of scale and ambition, that exist outside of the

National Portfolio.

- ACE representatives expressed that multi-year funding applications can be submitted

through GFTA. However independents at the session stressed that in their experience

they were usually advised by ACE that such applications would not be considered as

they looked too much like NPO funding. It was also emphasised that with limited funds

available, the independent sector feels it has a responsibilty to it's peers to ensure that

they are not placing enormous applications in, to ensure the money available can be

spread as far as possible.

- ACTION: A new strand of funding for artists and companies is needed specifically for

core infrastructure. A ring - fenced infrastructural investment fund towards backbones

of infrastructure is urgently needed.

- The previous model of fixed term funding in the early 2000's where a number of

performance companies and artists were provided with seed infrastructural funding

across 3 year periods to support costs, but still able to apply for GFTA for projects was

a good model to re-explore.

An atomised industry?

How can we work with ACE and other partners to de-atomise the independent sector.

How can we find ways of bringing independents into broader industry conversations

and dialogues?

It was emphasised that the principle barrier to this is resource - artists and

independents are struggling with basic resource and lead very precarious livelyhoods,

earning a low level of income and thus do not have organisational or personal

resource to support attendenace at industry conversations, meetings and events. This

adds to the lack of visibility of the sector and the potential for the independent sector to

contribute to important cross sector dialogue.

Bursaries that are in some instances offered to solve this issue are too few, too limited

and often only for emerging artists or specific age groups. This exposes further the

industry wide mis-understanding of the independent sector as being only where the

emerging artists are. This is not the case. The independent sector is where the artists,

makers and producers of theatre and the art that plays in our theatres and on our

stages are. They are cross generational. But across scale and generation the lack of

infrastructure and resource remains.

Building understanding & visibility of the Independent sector

It is felt that there is a lack of understanding of the indpdent sector on the part of

funders.

That funders are not sufficiently engaging with the sector and exploring the models of

operation and most importantly how theatre is being made (ACE noted it is currently

undertaking research into the area of theatre making).

Although many individuals do, as a body, ACE does not know what is going on beyond

what it funds. And whist for eg the commercial sector is monitored by the likes of

SOLT and UK theatre the independent sector is not monitored.

How can we find a way to grow understanding, knowledge and data?

ACTION: A mapping project of the UK independent sector and how work is made is

urgently needed.

Gathering of evidence would need to be part of a mapping process. The evidence

base built could be galvanised to engage with the public, government and the broader

industry in an effort to see what they understand about this sector.

Lewisham Arts Service mapping of work the arts industry in their area was suggested

as an active example of a model to look at for mapping.

Puppet Animation Scotlands mapping of the Scottish puppetry sector and their reach

was also suggested as an example.

ACTION: Post meeting Action - Jo Crowley & Natalie Querol are interested in seeing

an Independent Theatre Census. Is anyone interested in working with us on this and

helping to resource this - if so please email cr[email protected]