Written evidence submitted by Oxfordshire
Theatre Company (arts 113)
1. I am writing on behalf of Oxfordshire
Theatre Company in response to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee's
inquiry into The Funding of the Arts and Heritage.
2. This letter can be summarised as follows:
The impact of recent cuts from the Vale
of White Horse District Council in Oxfordshire has resulted in
60% fewer subsidised performances and an increase in charges to
venues of 45%.
The impact of future cuts would be detrimental
to the long-term future of theatre in rural communities and on
the added benefits to the rural economy gained by the company's
The impact of future cuts would include
less opportunities for artists to work in the field and for young
people to gain skills and knowledge of leading arts practice and
ultimately achieving employment.
The current climate offers an opportunity
to consider collaborations and mergers with other arts organisations.
Local Authorities and Arts Council England
need to liaise more closely so that organisations are not forced
into achieving conflicting targets.
The redistribution of National Lottery
funds will impact the arts positively.
Businesses and philanthropists are mainly
attracted to large scale organisations who can offer more benefits
than smaller organisations.
3. Oxfordshire Theatre Company is a leading
touring company supported by Arts Council England, Oxford City
Council, Oxfordshire County Council, and three local District
Councils in recognition of the high quality work produced and
the communities it reaches. It is managed by a Board of Trustees
and has a small permanent staff team of five (two full time/three
4. It presents "Big Theatre in small
spaces" and is committed to performing live theatre to audiences
in Oxfordshire and nationally whocollectively or individuallymight
not otherwise engage with the arts, including children, young
people, adults and older people. Revenue funding represents 74%
of its total income and for this the company delivers more than
120 performances, in more than 80 locations, to more than 10,000
5. In 2010-11 the company received a cut
in funding from the Vale of White Horse District Council, resulting
in the loss of subsidy to rural venues, which enables them to
present professional theatre to their local community. Such venues
are run by volunteer promoters, who give their time and energy
to promoting theatre and the arts, including to groups of people
that are unable to travel to attend events in the towns and cities
further afield. On being informed about the cut, promoters and
local audiences lamented over yet another service being taken
away from villages already suffering from the closure of pubs,
shops and post offices. With more cuts anticipated from the remaining
local authorities this could be the scene across the whole of
the County. Although this year the company has been able to offer
some performances (60% less than previous years) in the Vale district,
this is not sustainable in the long-term and would not be sustainable
across the County.
6. Relationships with local authorities
ensure that Oxfordshire Theatre Company is part of the Arts Ecology
in the region, giving the company the ability to leverage funding
from other sources and to create long-term partnerships with other
arts organisations, businesses and artists. Strong partnerships
are vital to the lifeblood of the Company. Funding cuts put at
risk the potential for exciting, innovative and collaborative
projects and productions, which offer audiences a unique arts
experience. It is important that the Company maintains its reputation
as a leading employer and one that artists and employees want
to work with. An overall reduction in all areas of the Company's
delivery seriously puts at risk the ability to sustain this. Funding
cuts will mean staff spending more time fundraising rather than
creating the art and could in turn affect contracts, which would
become less attractive.
7. Oxfordshire Theatre Company's work also
impacts positively on the social and economic infrastructure in
the County and beyond, employing an average of 40 artists each
year who spend up to nine months consuming the best the communities
have to offer including restaurants, pubs, B&B's, supermarkets,
high street shops and on cultural activities and travel. In addition
more than £7000 is spent with local suppliers during production
periods from timber merchants to hardware stores and specialist
theatre suppliers to costume hire companies.
8. In 2009-10 17 young people aged 14-25
years benefited from training and skills development in professional
arts practice to support future employment in the arts and in
2010/11 the company is piloting Theatre Futures, a work-based
training programme offering up to six young people the opportunity
to train in stage management and theatre production. A bursary
and travel expenses are offered to enable young people from disadvantaged
backgrounds to apply.
9. Oxfordshire Theatre Company is unique
in what it delivers in the County and therefore duplication of
effort is not a particular issue, however the company is in discussion
with other local arts organisations about administrative and managerial
resources that could be pooled to make economies of scale. It
should be recognised however, that small organisations such as
Oxfordshire Theatre Company are already working to incredibly
tight budgets and are prudent in setting budgets that enable ambitious
work to happen whilst not wasting public money.
10. Arts organisations will need to be even
more creative in exploring collaborations and even mergers if
the proposed cuts go ahead. The fear is that small organisations
like Oxfordshire Theatre Company, who do not have a building base,
will be easier for Government to cut as they can be less visible
in the national arts arena. However, for the communities that
the company works with it is a hugely valuable resource. It could
be time for companies and buildings to merge perhaps and is definitely
something that this company would consider.
11. The current funding structure often
means that funders are placing opposing demands on organisations.
Arts Council England should work much more closely with the Local
Authorities that fund the organisations in their portfolio. This
would create joined up objectives and targets so that public money
can be spent as efficiently and effectively as possible.
12. The Company is in favour of the redistribution
of Lottery funding, which will increase the arts share to 20%
by 2012. Inevitably the knock-on effect of this will be the receipt
of a higher number of applications. Oxfordshire Theatre Company
sees this as a major source of funding in the future.
13. The reality of attracting funding from
businesses and philanthropists is that most are attracted by high
profile, large, building based arts organisations that appear
to have many more benefits to offer and dedicated staff to nurture
these relationships. Also, currently more than 60% of support
is to London based organisations. Replacing up to 74% of revenue
funding with alternative income would not happen quickly enough
to keep the company going.
14. The bottom line for Oxfordshire Theatre
Company is that the capacity to increase income from other sources
is limited by the nature of its touring to small, mainly rural
venues. Performances are offered on a fee basis, which is heavily
subsidised (up to 70%) by current revenue funding. Increasing
fees to volunteer promoters in rural communities is not feasible
and would see the end of professional theatre touring to these