Funding of the arts and heritage - Culture, Media and Sport Committee Contents


Written evidence submitted by Prescap (arts 64)

INTRODUCTION

  I am writing to you as the Chief Executive of Prescap which is a community and participatory arts organisation based in Preston, a member of The Guild Take Off Committee, Preston Arts Sub Group and Cultural Forum, Consortium of Participatory Arts Learning (C-PAL, a regional wide consortium)) and Third Sector Lancashire (TSL)(a consortium of Voluntary Charity and Faith Sector, VCFS, organisations in Lancashire), heading their Arts and Cultural Network Group; and also as a resident of Britain.

  I have put this short report together about the impact the Arts and Culture has on our society. And what effect the proposed cuts to funding will have on the sector. I work with many other organisations as you can see, and have wanted to represent the diverse activities and practice those organisations represent. However I will be talking from the point of view of my organisation and the consortia we are part of, which is mainly around community and participatory arts.

  This report will cover, in a very rudimentary way so as to give you the best idea of the range of work we are involved in without being long winded:

    — What the arts does for us and our society?

    — How the arts effects communities and our society and what impact on that funding cuts may have?

    — How arts organisations work together, and other organisations?

    — What level of public subsidy is necessary and sustainable?

    — The impact of changes to the distribution of National Lottery funding?

    — How the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is being perceived?

    — Can businesses and philanthropic organisations play a long-term role in funding arts?

  The arts and cultural activities are often put forward for reduction when spending cuts are being proposed, and even in Preston City Council the budget for the Cultural Development Manager has already been withdrawn due to spending cuts. Currently the government is talking of 40% cuts, and the arts are often targeted as they seem to be an unnecessary expense.

  However the actual spend overall on the arts is only slight and so the savings are minimal, 7p in every £100 of total public spending in the UK or as the Arts Council website puts it less than the price of a loaf per family a week. So this is a minimal saving, to a sector that was heavily hit by the funding changes to the lottery caused by the 2012 Olympics on the Arts Council of England, as well as other lottery funding that arts projects also accessed if they were educational or regenerated communities.

  As part of the organisation, groups, consortia and networks named above I propose that saving this small amount of investment may be more expensive than realised.

What the arts does for us and our society?

  We are passionate about our country and society, Britain is fair, law abiding and creative. We may not think of Britain as artistic nation, like Italy or the Netherlands, but Britain does have a rich cultural heritage. And also that creative energy of Britain, shown in the popular music that has had a strangle hold on world music industry for example, has many other outlets. Britain led the world in industry and entrepreneurial activity, and even now has some of the best and most sought after designers, commercial minds and financial creative individuals.

  We are passionate about arts and creative activity, working with artists and communities who have benefited from the arts. Creative work and projects has a unique quality of allowing people to discover skills, understanding and communal responsibility. It is relaxing and fun, which is an ideal way to allow people to explore difficult subjects and challenges, and also encourages learning and development of learning styles. Due to its fun and relaxed nature, social cohesion projects and regeneration projects often use arts projects to bring two different communities together to develop a unified approach to social development.

  Arts and cultural activities engage wide sections of the community, bringing people together, learning new skills and some are re-engaging with society. Creative activities allow people to gain confidence in themselves, as they are engaging in relaxed and enjoyable processes, unthreatened and feeling safe. Creative activities stimulate the mind, and lead to new thinking and even productive behaviour, including in other areas not usually associated with the arts. This has been researched over some periods of time, and the following quotes are from papers and reports from researchers in the fields of psychology and social development:

    "intrinsic motivation […which refers to…] creative activities that are enjoyable and rewarding in their own right". (Beck 2004 pp 194, para 1)

    Intrinsic motivation is associated with three psychological requirements:

    1)  Autonomy—the need to feel independent.

    2)  Competence—a person wants to feel that he or she is good at the activity in question.

    3)  Relatedness—the feeling of being connected with other people.

    (Deci & Ryan, cited in Beck, 2004, pp 194, para 2)

    BECK, Robert C (2004): "Motivational Theories and Principles", Fifth Edition, Pearson Education Incorporated, New Jersey. USA

  The need for independence and relatedness (that could be called inclusion) has been identified as an issue for people with learning disabilities in the Department of Health White Paper (2001): "Valuing People (a new strategy for learning disability for the 21st Century)", HMSO, London, UK. In art based workshops the promotion of independence and inclusion through achievement and competence is paramount. And these needs also apply to disengaged young people, ethnic communities who feel disempowered and most groups of disadvantaged communities.

  Some of this doesn't have an immediate or obvious financial impact but in these post unified religion days, can you think of any other social activity that can do that?

How the arts effects communities and our society and what impact on that funding cuts may have?

  The impact of spending cuts on the sector will be large. The funding Arts Council currently gives our organisation levers much more funding and other income as we can cover a large proportion of our core costs.

  The arts provide jobs to several thousand people in Britain, from the staff at my organisation, other arts organisations, the museum and gallery, freelance artists, the University, project managers, technicians and support services such as printing and IT support. The cultural sector of Britain is growing as the country grows and this is no coincidence, and now we are proud there are many arts organisations in the UK.

  These organisations also have opportunities for volunteers, for example our community radio station, Preston FM, has over a thousand volunteers trained to a recognised standard to deliver and produce radio programmes, of which currently 350 are doing.

  Prescap was involved in social cohesion projects in areas of the North West like Preston, Knowsley, Burnley, Bolton and Blackpool, bringing communities together, allowing disadvantaged people a safe place to express and developing health awareness peer to peer material about subjects people find difficult to talk about. These projects alongside other initiatives other organisations all over the country have helped make those areas feel safer and some community members feel the sight of new community developed art has really contributed to that.

  Through organisations mentioned above the small funding that the arts receives produces a financial return as well. This means money going into this economy, to people who live here in the UK and to support services and other organisations in the city.

  But if there are cuts to local authorities, universities and other social budgets, the arts world will already be taking cuts as many artists have paid work in those sectors as well, for example Lime Arts in Greater Manchester does a lot of work with Primary Care Trust, for artists who have developed skills in that area how are they to be sustained? If there is continued arts funding this excellent and much needed work can continue, without it will stop.

How arts organisations work together and other organisations?

  Prescap is part of several networks, consortia and partnerships with other arts organisations. We work with these to develop other arts sector organisations, projects for communities and better quality of provision and standards of work in our sector. This has meant better understanding from other sectors of the way we work and our quality standards, for example what we expect from a lead artist, project manager and how we define best practice on a project.

  We are also working closely with social enterprise organisations such as Progress Housing in Central Lancashire, Great Places Housing Group in Bolton, Business Venture in South Ribble, delivering projects or developing services for their clients.

  As part of the TSL Consortium in Lancashire we work closely with other VCFS organisations to deliver projects that impact very positively on their service users. We are keen to develop further consortium and partnership working, and as an example we are working closely with Young Lancashire, who lead the Children and Young People Group of the TSL, and deliver services to Young People in rural areas of Lancashire.

What level of public subsidy is necessary and sustainable?

  In order to encourage and build on the services and community provision available currently the level pre 2010 were already too small. Since lottery funding was reallocated to pay for the 2012 Olympics it has been harder to find public funding for decent and truly impactful community arts projects. So at very least the level we currently have, which is 0.07% of total public funding.

  In terms of defining what is sustainable, we must think about changing our mindset. Is it sustainable to not fund community arts and cultural activity? The opportunities for all members of society with the arts is bountiful; family days out, family learning, diversionary activities for the disaffected, confidence building for socially awkward individuals, social cohesion, regeneration of neighbour hoods and employment and career opportunities for many people across Britain.

  Also the inspiration to the future minds is encouraged by the arts. The Creative Partnerships programme and the Arts Award qualifications both were aimed at developing creative thinking while learning, to ask questions and find solutions. A project we led for Creative Partnerships for example, improved English language skills in a primary school serving a high percentage Asian community of Pennine Lancashire, and for many was a second language at this stage of their lives. This was done by writing a new school song, this was educational, aspirational, empowering and for some students a truly inspiring way of learning, as one student put it "finally I knew where to put the commas and capital letters".

  Creative thinking is where new ideas come from, and new ideas in industry, business and commerce create a strong economy.

  We are aware that this current financial climate we are in is going to impact on other sectors, other VCFS organisations and other social activities, but all we ask is that the arts, which is only a small national cost, could stay at the level that it is now, as that is barely enough.

The impact of changes to the distribution of National Lottery funding?

  We think this is an area that may need some investigation, but as arts projects deliverers we are more interested in what the funding brings to the communities of Britain.

  Provision of arts and cultural activities should not be thought of as luxury, unless we are at war! Even then the arts was appreciated and funded by the government, so really I see no reason why a government faced with a difficult period of social need and belt tightening doesn't want to engage it's population with engaging and fulfilling activities. Especially when these activities stimulate creativity, entrepreneurs and industry. Vibrant culture makes for a go to country—look at the impact Dali has on Barcelona, the Beatles on Liverpool, the art scene in 50's New York, the film industry in Los Angeles and even the potteries of Cornwall. And London in the 60s was a massively popular place, and still fondly remembered as such, due to the highly creative and cultural scenes that were happening at that time in our capital.

  If there was to be a review of Lottery guidelines, I would propose that maybe the larger established venues like the Royal Opera House should not be funded this way. It makes me uncomfortable to suggest that, as I think all art is important, however this form of art does seem remote to many people, and mainly appeals to those who probably can afford it.

  The real need for arts is actually within the communities of people around Britain who cannot access culture easily, will be stimulated and inspired by the activities and who could not afford to take part on their own budget. This funding is after all paid for by everyone

  Cuts to lottery funding will mean that people without privileged backgrounds will not be able to make or access art.

How the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is being perceived?

  One of the problems with abolishing these bodies is that it sends out a very negative impression of what Britain aspires to. The abolition of the UK Film Council has been perceived by the American film industry with dismay, this body was seen as a positive way to develop and increase both UK's own film industry and the global market for the UK in terms of locations, resources, people and talent.

  Closer to home the Museums, Libraries and Archives are very important for allowing people to feel they have a connection to our shared heritage. People may not go to the museum or gallery every month, but the knowledge it is available is important, "eight out of 10 people feel it is very important that their local city or town has its own museum or art gallery" (MORI). Our organisations works in schools and all of these resources are really important to young people, regardless of the impression one might get from the media and even young people themselves!

  Also and this is really important, when we are talking about what the arts, culture and creative activity means for people and the impact it has on communities and society, in terms of aspiration, social development and the culture of Britain this kind of activity shows that our society is healthy. This kind of activity is getting nearer the level of self actualisation that on Mazlo's hierarchy of need is the pinnacle of society. Our society is not one just surviving, our society is far safer and affluent than most of the rest of the worlds, and even historically. We are supported and able to develop and often many in our country are able to reflect on their personal worth, the arts is part of the development of self actualisation.

  Our government cannot be suggesting that this country is in some way sliding backwards into that of a developing country under their guidance. Or should axe arts and culture in order to grow—the arts helps society grow, and people develop healthily in that society.

Can businesses and philanthropic organisations play a long-term role in funding arts?

  There is an argument that philanthropy will be able to pick up the difference in funding that is cut, and in Preston there was certainly a proud record of that from the Victorian ages. But these are not similar times, and really philanthropists will only support projects that reflect well on them. If central government won't support the arts, is it generating the confidence for the philanthropists to do so? And more importantly, philanthropists will mostly be interested in funding highly visible public art as apposed to a smaller photographic project with young mums, exploring their needs and views for other young mums, for example. Let them fund the Opera, the larger scale and controversial public artworks, if they wish, that will free up cash for communities that need it.

  However a culture of philanthropy will need to be cultivated in order for that to take hold, and that takes time.

  Having said that, we have demonstrated over this article ways that arts organisations are exploring new ways to find funding and income, in partnerships and sponsorship, to be able to deliver not just well funded but well needed projects.

  The VCFS consortium in Lancashire, the Third Sector Lancashire, is keen to show it can deliver high quality services to communities, and the arts sector has over the last 15 years developed high levels of good practice, quality and innovative delivery that often leads the other sectors. Prescap's own equal opportunities policy was ahead of its time in 1987, and banned smoking in its premises in 1998. This kind of innovative practice will of course come more naturally to creative people and organisations, and continues as we engage in partnership working with other stakeholders and consortia with other arts delivery agents, such as the Preston Arts Sub Group.

CONCLUSION

  I believe that to not invest in the arts at the current level at least, shows a lack of commitment to our society and British way of life.

  The Big Society agenda will actually need art organisations to help it work. As you have read they have already been working with other VCFS, Social Enterprise and Commercial organisations to deliver socially developing projects, work and examples.

  To conclude I want to quote Antony Gormley, from artsindustry.co.uk:

    Arts funding is not about encouraging limp dependency but about allowing things that would not exist to come alive and in the process, make us more so. There is no sense in denying the vitality of the new, untried untested. This is where the future comes from. The economic argument simply does not wash: investment in art is paid for many times over. We are living in an unprecedented time of creative richness in the UK and this is the reason people want to come. Why destroy it?

September 2010





 
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Prepared 30 March 2011