Written evidence submitted by Oxford Playhouse
Strong cultural provision is essential
for the UK's population.
Oxford Playhouse makes great use of its
current levels of subsidy, presenting and producing excellent
art and broadening the reach and depth of public engagement with
Government investment in the arts is
far outweighed by the economic and social return on that investment.
Most cultural provision is not funded
through public subsidy but the public subsidy allows stability
of infrastructure, innovation and creative development of the
art, and a wider social impact.
The arts is extremely vulnerable to cuts
in local authority funding, a downturn in the economy and reductions
in private support, and many organisations will close as a combined
result of these reductions in income.
The less creative output we deliver,
the harder it is to raise private sources of funding.
Partnership working already happens in
the arts, and whilst we should encourage more, we need to protect
the geographical spread and quality of provision across the country.
Central government cuts will lead to
a greater percentage reduction of provision as organisations are
tipped towards closure.
A lean Arts Council is well-placed to
protect frontline services and maximise the benefits from public
investment in the arts.
We support the changes to the Lottery
funding to revert to its original intention.
We are concerned by the removal of some
of the arm's length quangos, particularly in terms of the speed
of decision-making, lack of consultation and apparent lack of
planned alternative delivery mechanisms.
Philanthropy is an important part of
the mixed economy of the arts, and should be encouraged, but it
will not replace public funding.
What impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level
1. Life without culture is not an experience
many of us would choose; at least not once we have come to know
the value of great art. Imagine never being introduced to a world
of theatre, dance, fine art, museums, literature or film. How
hard would you fight to make that introduction for every person
in this country?
2. Oxford Playhouse uses its funding in
two particular ways; to ensure the excellence of its programme,
and to make as many introductions as possible, by broadening the
number and range of people who pass through its doors. We are
committed to opening the doors and making culture part of as many
people's lives as possible.
3. With less subsidy, we will not be able
to make and present as many shows as we do now, the breadth of
the programme will narrow, and the quality will be difficult to
maintain. The international work, the contemporary dance, the
shows for young children and the home-grown work of local artists
are all particularly costly areas and would be affected. We would
produce less shows ourselves, so there would be less provision
for the touring circuit, and we would have to employ less people.
With less artistic development, less touring product is created,
less artists nurtured, less commissions to playwrights and less
calculated risks are taken on new and innovative art, which drives
the sector and indeed the creative industries forward.
"Art funding is not about encouraging limp
dependency but allowing things that would not exist to come alive
and in the process make us more so"
4. The provision for the arts and the access
of the public to the arts deserves its place on the list, not
least because of how little it costs to maintain the current levels
of provision, and how much money is ploughed back into our economy
by the sector. The UK currently creates a world-class range of
culture, and as a result of sustained and careful investment,
the sector is flourishing, leading to massive tax returns, international
export and growing audience figures. The return on investment
is massive, in terms of VAT and tax, in driving tourism, in regenerating
towns and cities and in terms of the improved well-being of members
of our society.
5. In the last financial year alone 191,180
people saw an Oxford Playhouse show at the theatre, in our studio,
off-site, or on tour.
6. Most cultural provision is not solely
reliant on public funding. For example, Oxford Playhouse with
an annual turnover of £3.8 million, raises more than 87%
of its income from other sources and yet it is the 13% of funding
it receives from ACE and the local authorities that allows it
to really make a difference. As well as the areas of quality arts
mentioned above, the subsidy allows tickets to be made available
and affordable for those who cannot afford to pay more, eg schools
in hard to reach areas, families on low incomes, community groups
such as those in hostels, refugees, those recovering from long-term
illness or the disabled. Targeted work to introduce newcomers
to the theatre takes place all the time, and succeeds. Our Learning
team work with over 15,000 people each year, offering a range
of participatory activity for all ages. The provision is heavily
over-subscribed, and we target it towards people who have less
or no current engagement in the arts. Responses to work placements,
training opportunities, holiday schemes etc are overwhelmingly
positive. The feedback from one young offender that a week-long
drama course was "life-changing" sums up what the arts
7. When we remove barriers to culture, more
people come and benefit from all that great art has to offer.
8. Oxford Playhouse is facing a significant
reduction in funding from all quarters; city and county councils
and ACE. The University of Oxford, a major funder, has already
reduced its support as it cuts departmental budgets. The combined
impact is substantial, and seriously jeopardises the organisation's
9. The theatre relies heavily on ticket
income (64%), other trading (14%) and private donations, sponsorship,
trusts and foundations (9%). All of this income is also under
threat. We work very hard to secure private income, and have increased
our success in this area as we have increased our programme activity.
The more benefits we pass onto the community, the more creative
we are, and the more donors want to support it. Scaling back our
activity due to core funding cuts will further reduce the support
we're able to lever from the private sector and donations.
10. We have already received a 0.5% cut
from ACE in this financial year which although mid way through
a year we are able to manage, and we respect the fact that ACE
and the DCMS have worked hard to minimise the impact on funded
organisations. Loss of core funding means it becomes hard to sustain
delivery and stay open, let alone plan and make strategic choices.
Commitments are made between nine monthstwo years in advance
and future cuts in the region of 25% will have a massive impact
on the work we are able to deliver, much of which we are already
11. To manage cuts above 10% would mean
a significant restructuring across our operation which would jeopardise
the organisation's future, particularly if forced to take place
within a short time span. The knock-on effect to audiences would
be significant, and the theatre would be less able to support
the numerous touring theatre and dance companies who visit it.
What arts organisations can do to work more closely
together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make
economies of scale
12. Arts organisations can and do work collaboratively
and imaginatively. Oxford Playhouse regularly co-produces shows,
and is already in discussions with a touring theatre company about
pooling our resources and sharing producing and administrative
capacity which would mean that we can make shows happen which
might otherwise never get off the ground, and ensure that far
more people are able to see the production. We create shows with
local, national and international artists.
13. New initiatives eg Playhouse Plays Out
were conceived and developed with the idea of working in partnership
to open up some of Oxfordshire's fantastic locations to residents
and visitors and to introduce new people to live performance,
challenge assumptions of what theatre is all about.
14. Local arts organisations including Modern
Art Oxford, Oxford Inspires and Pegasus Theatre are exploring
ways in which we can work collectively to generate better bargaining
power with suppliers and share services if possible.
15. Obviously it is important to remove
unnecessary duplication, and to maximise the benefit from created
work, but equally it is important to retain the strength of provision
across the regions. It is not enough to focus funding on preserving
the world-class organisations in the capital and in the major
cities of the country. A network of venues to present live performance,
and supporting high quality artists to deliver outside of the
major cities is essential to ensure diversity, growth and audience
development in the sector.
16. Efforts have been made to support and
enable producing theatres to tour their work, but there is more
that can be done in this area to gain maximum benefit from the
What level of public subsidy for the arts and
heritage is necessary and sustainable?
17. The current arts budget is tiny; it
costs 17p a week per person, which is far exceeded by the economic
return. That funding helps to create and sustain world-class arts
and artists, attracts tourists and businesses to work in the UK
and with the UK overseas, drives the creative industries and contributes
significantly to improving society and the well-being of individuals.
Inevitably, if it is reduced, less will be achieved.
18. There is so little fat to trim from
the arts sector, which operates efficiently and inspiringly, creating
much with very little. The Arts is already a sector which relies
heavily on people working for low wages, and volunteers. Oxford
Playhouse currently operates over six days a week for up to 13
hours a day and employs a core staff team of 30 full and part
time employees with a further 50 people working on an irregular
basis and over 100 volunteers giving their time for free. 90%
of these staff are employed on salaries of less than the average
UK salary of approximately £24,000 pa.
19. The knock-on effect of cuts will tip
many arts organisations over the edge, and have a significantly
greater impact on provision.
Whether the current system, and structure, of
funding distribution is the right one
20. The breadth, knowledge and strategic
importance of ACE as a distribution network for funding the arts
is incredibly valuable. Nurturing and supporting artists, having
a geographical overview of the distribution of the arts, striving
for an increased audience for all aspects of the arts and supporting
the delivery of the arts is vital. The reduction in staffing and
administration costs that ACE has already made it an increasingly
lean and efficient operation, and we applaud the organisation's
commitment to protect frontline delivery of the arts. Using the
historical reserves helped to mitigate the effects of this year's
cuts and it is hard to know how an even smaller set-up can continue
to distribute funding without making less flexible, less informed
decisions which favour repetition, caution and safety against
audience and artist development and aspirations of great art for
everyone. Flexible funding terms for organisations will help to
ensure that decisions are made regularly about the strength of
delivery against targets, and we would encourage a balance between
geographical reach and equity, and investing in those organisations
who are on an upward trajectory, making the money work hardest
and most efficiently in pursuit of both great art and increasing
the breadth, quantity or experience of audiences.
What impact recent changes to the distribution
of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations
21. Oxford Playhouse welcomes the intention
to restore the National Lottery to its original purpose by allocating
20% of the NLDF to each of the good causes of the arts, heritage
and sport. The intention to do so over two years allows time for
adjustment and the phasing out of BLF programmes which protects
existing commitments and allows for a phasing of change.
22. The change will have a significant impact
on the arts, increasing the number of grants awarded through Arts
Council England's Grants for the Arts programme. This funding
stream is heavily over-subscribed, and currently, projects which
would deliver excellent art to a wide-range of people are not
able to be funded.
23. Oxford Playhouse has successfully received
grant funding to tour theatre productions, and would like to do
so in the future. The theatre produces live performance at the
highest level in terms of quality, reach, engagement and participation.
We are committed to broadening people's entitlement to the arts,
deepening their understanding and enjoyment of culture, helping
to bring together the local community, and to maximising the value
for money of all investments in the arts.
24. A recent lottery funded tour was a co-production
with Ireland's Druid Theatre of J M Synge's classic The Playboy
of the Western World. This was a world-class piece of theatre,
which thanks to an ACE grant, was able to tour in the UK to five
regional theatres where it was seen by 12,219 people. We also
ran a major symposium on cultural identity which featured playwrights,
directors, academics and poets, and was attended by academics,
students, writers and interested theatre-goers. In addition, 486
people attended 20 free post-show discussions and workshops thus
creating a lasting legacy to the production.
The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm's-length
bodiesin particular the abolition of the UK Film Council
and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council
25. The arm's length principle has long
been recognised and valued by successive governments and the various
arts communities. It has served the sector, and most importantly,
the public, very well in terms of ensuring an independent over-view,
expertise and a long-term custodian's approach to maintaining
and developing art-forms and audiences. The recent changes in
terms of abolishing the Film Council and the MLA seem to have
been made very quickly, and with little consultation or planning
for the alternatives. Without them, administration costs are certainly
saved, but has more been lost? Deploying public money to the best
possible use is surely best done by those with a deep-rooted understanding
of the art form, its developmental needs and how best to widen
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level
26. Of course they do, and they already
are playing a long-term role in supporting the arts, but this
cannot and should not replace public funding. Many businesses
have already cut back on their investment in the arts, and philanthropists
are in great demand. It is important to recognise that it is tougher
to secure funding and sponsorship outside of London and when not
operating at a national level. It is also important to note that
many organisations are already working hard and succeeding in
this area, but that there isn't money waiting to be proffered
to the arts as funding dries up. It is also very hard to raise
funds for the nuts and boltsfor salaries and running costs,
rather than imaginative projects and new activity.
Whether there need to be more Government incentives
to encourage private donations.
27. Yes; this can only be a good thing.
Encouraging and enabling more philanthropic giving without spending
frontline delivery money on doing so is a good thing. Oxford Playhouse
has developed a committed core of regular donors and we are continually
seeking to increase this network. Oxford Playhouse has also been
successful in submitting a project to the Big Give to raise funds
to secure our community engagement officer post for the next three
years through encouraging individual giving. However, it needs
to be acknowledged that many successful arts organisations are
already tapping into private funds and as stated above, it becomes
increasingly hard and competitive to sustain. Many trusts and
foundations are reducing their grant levels due to interest rates,
and private donors are clear that they donate in addition to government
funding rather than instead of it.