Lies, damned lies and arts funding statistics

Liz Hill at Arts Professional has written a really brilliant analysis of the ‘lies and damned lies’ on the contribution that touring activity by London-based arts organisations makes to the rest of England.

The argument stems from the London v regions ACE funding debate, which led to Boris Johnson stating that more than half of the London-based organisations regularly funded by Arts Council England spend 80% of their time outside the capital. Liz points out that in fact 80% of London-based organisations’ “toured activities” outside the capital – a huge discrepancy, and goes on to explore the numbers in much more detail. It’s an essential read, and really quite shocking that Boris’ comments have largely gone unchallenged elsewhere in the media.

Read the full article on the Arts Professional website via this link

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10 things that we should change in classical music concerts

I like this article on Baldur Brönnimann’s website on ’10 things that we should change in classical music concerts’. In summary…

1. The audience should feel free to applaud between movements

2. Orchestras should tune backstage

3. We should be able to use mobile phones (in silent mode)

4. Programs should be less predictable

5. You should be able to take your drinks inside the hall

6. The artists should engage with the audience

7. Orchestras shouldn’t play in tail suits

8. Concerts should be more family friendly

9. Concert halls should use more cutting-edge technology

10. Every program should contain a contemporary piece

Personally, the only one I have a problem with is (3) – I find mobile phones distracting at all times, and it can be incredibly irritating for other audience members and, potentially, the musicians. But sign me up for the other 9. I feel a manifesto coming on…

Read the full article here


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Hard Facts to Swallow

The latest report by GPS Culture (Christopher Gordon, David Powell & Peter Stark) has been published, looking in detail at the Arts Council England investment plans for 2015-18. ‘Hard Facts to Swallow’ makes uncomfortable reading, with a widening of the gap in investment in London compared with the regions.

The report claims that the balance in London’s favour is more than 4:1, with £689m invested in the arts in London (a per-capita return of just under £82 per head of population) and £900m invested in the rest of England (a per-capita return of just under £20 per head of population).

In response, ACE’s Chief Executive Alan Davey said “we’ve been addressing the balance of funding between London and elsewhere since that strategy was launched in 2010 and we will build on that in our next funding period. Our national strategy considers the whole ecology of England’s arts and culture… the trend is in the right direction.”

Download ‘Hard Facts to Swallow’ from the GPS Culture website and draw your own conclusions…

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Empires of Attention

One of the highlights of AMA Conference 2014 in Bristol this week was Matt Locke talking about the challenge of needing to develop to respond to new attention patterns, and how this might affect arts programming, content and marketing. Apart from anything else, it explodes the myth that young people have short attention spans, with the rise in popularity of longer form films, ‘binging’ on TV series/box sets etc. In fact, it’s the traditional 60 minute format that’s disappearing with greater engagement in both shorter and longer formats of cultural experiences.

It’s prompted me to catch up with his excellent ‘ Empires of Attention’ talk from October 2013 which is available as a BBC Radio 4 ‘Four Thought’ podcast and as a text version here. Highly recommended reading…

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ACE National Lottery Funds

The Pareto principle holds true yet again. This time on the geographic distribution of ACE National Lottery funds, with 80% of funding going to 20% of Local Authority areas.

Arts Professional reports on the situation: “The distribution of Lottery funding for the arts is a closed system, operating for the benefit of a small number of arts organisations but to the detriment of wider society and the economy, according to a new report by the authors who recently revealed England’s regional arts funding imbalance.”

Click here to read the Arts Professional article in full

So “it could be you” but only if you live in the right place…

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The Price of Theatre

There’s an interesting blog by Lyn Gardner on The Guardian website today about the best and worst theatre bars and cafes – “Ice-creams that cost £4.50, wine at £9 a glass – theatre bars and cafes can be a rip-off, but the best are destinations in their own right”.

I was part of this Twitter conversation with Lyn having just paid £9 for an interval glass of wine in a West End theatre. It was a special occasion and I didn’t want to challenge the cost, but it is outrageous exploitation of a captive market.

Click here to read Lyn’s blog on The Guardian website

The discussion reminded me of an brilliant exercise that gets carried out each year by the BBC looking at ‘The Price of Football’. For each division, they look at ticket prices (matchday and season tickets), and the cost of programmes, food & drink to publish a league table of the overall cost of going to a football match.

Click here for The Price of Football webpage from 2013

Wouldn’t it be interesting to see a similar exercise for theatres: West End, off-West End and regional? Could take into account the thorny issue of booking fees too. Would love to see the results of such an exercise. A job for SOLT/TMA/UK Theatre perhaps?



Arts Council of Wales’ new five-year strategy

Arts Professional reports today on Arts Council of Wales’ new five-year strategy.

‘Inspire’, a draft document laying out the challenges facing the arts in Wales and the strategies and objectives aimed at addressing these, sets out ACW’s vision for the arts as “fundamental to the future of Wales – not a ‘nice to have’ luxury, more a cornerstone in Wales’s 21st century renewal”.

Described as “an enabling strategy” that doesn’t control or constrain, ACW aims to let the arts in Wales “be defined by the imagination of the artist, rather than by the label of type or category”, and sees artform silos as standing “in isolation from what now are the broader challenges, actions and impacts of the arts taken as a whole”.

Read the full article and find out about the consultation

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Parliament to look at distribution of arts funding

Arts Professional is reporting that a House of Commons Select Committee has opened an inquiry into the work of Arts Council England and its regional funding policies. It is ‘seeking views on whether the geographical distribution of arts funding is fair, and whether there is any justification for the current weighting of this towards London.’ This could be very interesting, not least with the timing coinciding with the current NPO application process that is now open.

Click here to read the full article


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Why healthy theatre audiences can always grow

There’s an excellent blog post by Lynn Gardner on The Guardian website this week about the London International Mime Festival that asks the question “if you’ve got a healthy audience, why bother to grow one?”. The article touches on issue of programming, exclusion contracts, digital space, social media and much more. Well worth a read…

Click here to read Lynn’s blog post on The Guardian website


Local arts funding: hitting the bullseye

Excellent article on the Guardian Culture Professionals Network website last week on local arts funding: ‘From asking to offering, Matthew Taylor advocates a new way to make the local arts case, underpinned by collaboration’. Well worth a read…