This is a summary as opposed to a chronological record. I am deeply indebted to all who took part in the group, it was a fascinating and practical discussion.


There was a definite impression amongst those present that there was no single organisations specifically standing up for the practice of theatre in the UK as a whole. The idea of engaging policymakers, or of actively engaging and meeting with politicians was not something many of the group had considered nor did they consider that venues were actively engaged in doing so either.

This was not to erase the work of campaigning bodies such as What Next Generation or the industry's Unions. However the point was made that whilst they were active campaigners their focus was often on lobbying for improvements within the theatre industry itself alongside any work they may do advocating for the industry as a whole. For example on unpaid internships: the focus is on targeting the companies/producers who offer unpaid internships rather than targeting the laws that permit unpaid internships.

The venues present discussed how they had sought to push back on arts education and obviously worked within the current metrics available to secure funding. But they said their work, necessarily, focused as much on 'lobbying' or engaging their local community rather than on appealing to policy-makers. Moreover venues depend on charitable status, which itself depends on remaining apolitical, putting a barrier in the way of advocating against policies which might undermine them or for efforts to enable or protect the arts.

Whilst other arts appear to have developed bodies to act on their behalf at this level, it seems as though theatre lacks an effective policy advocate.


The 2019 election has installed a stable Government - whether theatre-makers agree with it or not there is no electoral route to removing it within the foreseeable future (likely until 2023/24). With the advent of this new Government has been a marked increase in lobbying on behalf of interests, the primary reason being that the connections made with policy makers now will still be paying dividends in three/four years time. That is enough to shape laws, secure funding and enable partnerships or new state-backed enterprises.


Through the course of the discussion several routes came forward:

- Research: Audiences UK came up as a good example of this. Evidence of the value of the arts to the country's economy already exists (it brings in greater value than agriculture) but what about evidence of social value, community cohesion and educational improvement. Evidence might be out there but needs to be shared and communicated effectively.

- Direct engagement: Providing a definable advocate and voice for theatre as a whole. Single, definable and focused policy objectives which would benefit the industry as a whole as opposed to individual elements or regions. The condition of charitable status was raised again but so too was the question of how effectively enforced this was and what ambiguities existed in the current legislation.

- Direct contribution in other areas of public life: The work of theatre companies like Cardboard Citizens and Clean Break were cited as a positive example. Also raised was the growing presence of theatre training and workshops in the corporate space, an effective means of fundraising as much as anything else.


The discussion moved on to what areas theatre, not a single body, could agree on and advocate for itself. Two presented themselves with the following arguments:


Almost every issue discussed at DnD would be at least slightly improved, some would be solved, in a situation where greater funding was available.


Arts are the first thing to be cut. If the choice is between hospital beds and a community production, why invest in the community production?

- It's a reductive comparison - public services are not in competition but exist in an ecology: each need the other.

This speaks for itself and fits into any anti-austerity narrative you care to name. Worth noting that the Government now claims it is looking to end austerity.

- For every pound put into the arts, you get two hospital beds back in tax.

The returns on even minor investments in the arts are huge. Government has a habit of conflating million and billion. Arts make a huge impact on millions, other industries require significantly greater subsidy with much smaller effect. In the 2008 crash one of the few industries to remain profitable was the arts.

- The arts bring enjoyment and provide health benefits

Less quantifiable (see the need for greater provision of research) but arts provide community cohesion. Certain Scandinavian countries prescribe culture for mental health conditions.

- A British Heritage argument

Not one many theatre-makers are necessarily comfortable with but the UK has significant cultural capital. A Government which damages that, through defunding the arts, damages national prestige. A government which funds the arts enhances national prestige. Its an argument with some cut through with more conservative audiences.

- Theatre that in itself is not profitable is valuable

We accept the principle of unprofitable research in other fields. Many of the performers, ideas and techniques regularly showcased on the West End started life in subsidised theatre. Theatre is an ecology, it requires an holistic approach.

Someone in the group pointed out that the National Theatre's recent complaint that it was receiving fewer ticket sales from schools was embarrassing. The focus in advocating for more funding is to provide broader social good, not venue's individual profit margins.


Not just every theatre, everyone in a society benefits from effective arts education why:

- The simple principle of a rounded education.

Children require a broad set of skills, not all of these can be found in the three r's and stem subjects.

- Art helps facilitate other forms of learning.

One group participant was doing their PhD on the intersection between Arts and STEM learning (I think? Significant apologies if this is incorrect my note was incomplete)

- Kids are interested in creating and telling stories.

Obvious, but often undervalued point. To take it to its conclusion the most desired career is no longer footballer, it's YouTuber.

- Its a skills gap

'Soft skills' are essential in a workforce where the technical work will largely be automated.

- Heritage again

The RSC is having to teach upcoming actors iambic pentameter. National heritage is a cultural capital, you damage UK influence if you damage its culture.


- Government Departments (Treasury, DCMS, Department of Health and Social Care, Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government)

- Combined Authorities - Greater funding power than local authorities, all talking a big game about their region's cultural commitment.

- Other Lobbying organisations - Groups like the Creative Industries Federation, Existing leaders in the world of theatre and film. These groups can help second and advance these arguments.


Unions: Equity, BECTU, Stage Management Association, Stage Directors UK, United Voices Worldwide, Musicians Union,
National Campaign for the Arts (?)
Independent Theatre Council
Audiences UK

- These organisations are often too cautious.
- These organisations often focus on internal industry matters. This is not a criticism.


Stability for artists through Universal Basic Income?
Arts Council providing in-house services - Insurance/Auditing/Electrics


Thank you for everyone who attended this session, which might have seemed a dry topic at first light. It was an invaluable discussion of the sort of arguments we should be making and who we should be making them to in the current climate. I would love to continue this discussion.

Anyone who came, or anyone interested in this report should please feel free to get in touch with me at [email protected] to talk about what tangible action we can achieve.