Is the National Lottery the Best Way to sustain the Theatre Sector?

Jon Morgan, 28 July 2012

Attendees: Jon Morgan, Hamish Pirie, Andy Corelli, Tina Finch, Robert Gale, Sara Harrison, Orla O'Loughlin, Naomi O'Kelly, Davey Anderson

In Scotland and England lottery revenue is becoming a bigger proportion of arts council spend in relation to government or voted funds. In Scotland by 2014 it will in fact outstrip government funding.

So, do we accept the ‘reality’ that lottery needs to be used to revenue fund artists (in fact both ACE and SAC have been blurring the lines on this for some years) or do we insist in the principle of additionality so as to hold government to account about the importance of continued government funding? In which case an increasing proportion of our artists will become project funded.

Pros and cons of project funding. Freedom to focus on producing the project BUT no opportunity to build and develop over time.

Is the huge gulf between large number of project funded orgs and the small number of revenue funded orgs sustainable?

What does additionality mean? It is only meaningful if we can define what should be ‘core’ - i.e. what government ‘should properly be funding’.

Are there examples from other sectors or lottery distributors of greater clarity between core or government responsibility and additionality?

If we argue for a change in lottery rules or a further investigation of government's role / core, is there a danger that government might conclude it does not need to directly fund anything in the arts?

It's about continuing to articulate the value of culture and the value of spending public money to support it.

The popularity of the Olympics opening ceremony (Danny Boyle, like us, is a storyteller) proves that culture is important!

Lottery money is no reliable (it can go up and down) - the arts community might end up being in favour of recession (people it appears buy more lottery tickets in a recession)!

Also there is the issue that lottery tickets are bought by a significant number of people from relatively lower socio-economic backgrounds and spent on subsidising arts events attended by people largely from upper socio-economic backgrounds.

Is lottery money increasing or is it returning to previous levels following the reinstatement of the monies diverted into the Olympics? Need to check this!

Also with Lottery funding organisations cannot build up reserves (as you are not allowed to retain any project underspends). How can organisations work sustainably

or take risks if they are not allowed to build reasonable reserves?

We need to retain both lottery and government funding but continue to scrutinise and hold government to account about the level of government support.

We also need to do more around commercial, corporate social responsibility and philanthropy giving. But this can never replace subsidy for all organisations?

So what are our arguments to government for the importance of maintaining core funding? In the end is it not because it is a self-evident good for any civilised nation that we use subsidy to ensure a diversity of arts beyond what can be produced commercially?

Would the general public agree? Lots of people take part in the arts but don't necessarily describe it on these terms and some times government has to do what is right even when the public might not all agree!

So, do we / government ‘know best’? In some ways yes, it's the role of the artist to experiment, to explore and to surprise with things we didn't even know we wanted or would like!

Do governments really believe the ‘instrumental’ arguments (economic, education, health and wellbeing etc) or is this just a fig leaf which they think will be more acceptable to voters? Yes, the arts contribute in these areas but if it come down to a straight choice between theatre and schools are we not then making the wrong arguments?

Returning to the question of revenue (voted) vs project funding (lottery) - we need a transparent funding system which balances the need to support the development and continuity of established artists as well as responding to the new and the risky with one-off funding. But nobody should be guaranteed (or expects?) funding for life.

We then got into a discussion about how Creative Scotland should get out and see more work to inform their funding decisions, especially if they are to ensure that they balance the priorities above.

But for them to see more work (either with more staff or by engaging external people) costs money! So would we be happy for CS to divert some further grant money into ensuring a properly resourced and transparent assessment and decision making process? YES! (as long as it's completely transparent).

We discussed various methods for ensuring work is assessed as objectively as possible. Paid assessors? Do we all agree to volunteer our time? Can we get audience input? Peer review?

There is always the risk of self-interested assessment as we are all in competition for limited funds. One way to mitigate against this is to have a larger and diverse number of people assessing / reviewing any one show. Could it be considered part of our professional CPD?


Are other lottery distributors in other sectors relaxing the rules about longer term or revenue funding projects / organisations? We should look into this.

Some commented on the way other lottery distributors including GFA in england works on a very clear points based system for assessing application. Do we want this in the arts in Scotland?

We should not just accept the current lottery drift. We need to demonstrate culture's key role in society and government's central role in supporting this. But if arts councils do have a way round the rules which allows revenue funding by the back door, would we be then be cutting of our nose to spite our face? Can we explore a broader definition of ‘additional’ and ‘repeat funding’?


Project, Funding, funding, project, government, lottery, voted funds, revenue, sustainability