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


Written evidence submitted by Strange Cargo (arts 69)

STRANGE CARGO FACTS:

    — Strange Cargo is a registered charity based in Folkestone, Kent. We have been in existence since 1995 and work across the South East, into the rest of the UK and Europe. We are an ACE RFO and not-for-profit company. We employ four full time staff and a number of freelance artists across a broad programme of creative practice. We rent our office and gallery space and own a production space/workshop premises nearly.

    — We contribute to the local economy through attracting work and income to the area, contributing to the local touristic offer, ongoing employment, local sourcing, professional training, work experience placements, education.

    — Between 2004-10 an average of 43% of our income was earned, supported by grant income of 57%.

    — Our contemporary art gallery is subsidised by our earned income and exhibits an average of 20 exhibitions annually. Since 1998 it has supporting the creative development of over 1,000 artists.

    — The company has attracted international awards for its innovative approach to creating participatory public artworks.

    — Our groundbreaking approach to delivering a cultural audit meant 14,000 young people had face to face involvement and input into the audit process. Resulting in 2,000,000 pieces of information being collected about our local young people's cultural preferences and aspirations.

    — Our Charivari Day carnival has involved over 6500 individuals directly in learning new skills and joining in a significant event as a community.

    — We provide opportunities for people to come together to celebrate as communities through delivering high quality and accessible participatory cultural experiences, free of charge at point of entry.

OUR OPINION

  Much has already been said to acknowledge that the percentage of funding received by the arts sector is small when compared to the national public sector funding picture. "Key Facts" issued by Arts Council England about the current funding climate, clearly states total arts funding represents only 1% of the NHS budget, and that every £1 invested in culture produces £2 more from other sources. With these statistics on the table, there is very little common sense to support the looming slash and burn approach of 40% funding cuts, that is being threatened, which will leave an empty crater where once stood our cultural infrastructure. The impact of 40% cuts will be hugely disproportionate to the savings made, and will have very damaging, long term repercussions to the already overstretched and under capacity arts sector. Between 2004-10 our grant income has supplemented 43% of direct earned income.

  Through necessity, the vast majority of people working in the arts sector operate a tight ship and most funded organisations recognise that they will have to brace themselves against further inevitable cuts. We all acknowledge that we are living through exceptional times and will have to play our part in the grand scheme of cutbacks affecting all publicly funded bodies. It is hoped that the ministers fighting the arts corner will sensibly look at another "key fact", that shows income generated by the creative industries, which has grown faster than any other sector, accounted for two million jobs and £16.6 billion of exports in 2007. The arts is a victim of its own resourcefulness and frugality, its infrastructure is very fragile and it would take little, in terms of funding reductions, for it to crumble.

  All RFO's have been told by the Arts Council to make judicious preparations amounting to 10% in cuts to next years budgets, but the reality is that no one knows what is really going to happen and that this number, which has been plucked out of the air, is likely to be the tip of the iceberg. This figure is, potentially, way short of the mark, especially if the Government decides to front end heavy cuts in funding. If this is the case, there is unlikely to be many arts organizations left to worry about in four years time, as there are few, if any, that could shoulder this blow, no matter how resourceful or well connected they might be.

  Index of Strange Cargo's views relating to:

    1. 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

    2. What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale

    3. What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable

    4. Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

    5. Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed

    6. Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level

    7. Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations

1.   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

  (a)  The arts is not a statutory service for Strange Cargo's local and regional authority funders, which means they are likely to reduce or remove our grants, which currently total only £29k annually. When added to the other cuts, potentially on the horizon, this would almost certainly herald major down-sizing of our operation. At worst, organisations such as ours, that have staff and infrastructure to support, might not be able to survive.

  (b)  At local level, the lone artist is not often equipped or experienced enough to deliver larger programmes of work. Looking forward to local celebrations for the Olympics, which is the next big cultural event—a short sighted, quick fix of cuts, will leave huge gaps in our ability to deliver a cultural offer worthy of the occasion and significantly reduce wider income from cultural activities.

  (c)  Over the last 18 months, as the recession has hit, earned income from local and regional authorities has dried up significantly, with fears about reduction in budgets encouraging commissioners to sit on their hands. Strange Cargo has traditionally earned approximately 40% of its turnover this way, but it is no longer a reliable source of income.

  (d)  Gateway cultural activities such as carnival and other celebratory arts programming is already chronically under funded. Strange Cargo has evidence that these grassroots activities actively encourage people to take part in new cultural opportunities, such as visiting galleries or being part of other arts opportunities. Carnival etc. is the stuff of The Big Society debate, but if there is already inadequate funding, and little current support for these cultural experiences in the places decisions about funding are made, what chance will these fundamental cultural gateways have to flourish post cuts.

2.   What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale

  (a)   The practicalities of how this can happen will be decided by the individual circumstances of the people involved. Equipment loan and knowledge sharing already happens, and creative people are very generous, but "working more closely" should not become a euphemism for getting something for nothing, ultimately someone has to pick up the bill.

  (b)  Collaboration has always, and will continue to happen in the arts, but it is important not to engender an "everyman for himself" attitude, as funding is cut and artists and organisations find themselves in very stiff competition for whatever funding resources are still available.

3.   What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable

  (a)  How long is a piece of string? Most people operating within the creative industries only have in depth knowledge of their own circumstances and situation, and given the breath and varying organizational scale of creative practice and cultural institutions that the arts encompasses, there cannot be many people who can speak with authority on this wider subject. The current levels of funding and arts subsidy have demonstrated a very healthy return on investment, enabling the arts sector to flourish and to support the wider economy. It can not be said often enough that the impact on the economy of the UK's cultural sector should be very carefully considered before funding is cut, as it will take no time at all for this network to unravel and the skills and infrastructure to be lost for good.

  (b)  Key Facts (Arts Council sources):

    (i) Eight of the UK's top 10 visitor attractions are museums.

    (ii) More people go to museums than football matches.

    (iii) Dance is now second only to football as the most popular activity among school children, and ranks first among girls.

    (iv) Two thirds of the adult population enjoy the arts visit historic sites, and go to museums and galleries.

    (v) Music contributes nearly £5 billion to the UK economy.

    (vi) The economic impact of theatre is £2.6 billion a year.

    (vii) The economic benefits of the UK's major museums and galleries are estimate to be £1.5 billion a year.

    (viii) Liverpool was the most successful European Capital of Culture ever, with 15 million cultural visits and economic benefits of £800 million.

    (ix) Museums are the most respected places of education after schools, universities and libraries.

4.   Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

  (a)  There are probably many structures and systems that could work to distribute funding, but at what cost to implement? If cuts are on the table, it would seem prudent not waste precious resources establishing new systems, but look at whether how current system can be improved? Do not be tempted to blindly take the "new broom" approach, as so often this approach is driven by ego and not outcome and ends up costing huge sums for a new system to be devised.

5.   Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed

  (a)  Strange Cargo has responded to the Lottery Consultation and is of the opinion that an increase to 20% of National Lottery Good Causes funding stream for the Arts should be reestablished as of 1 April 2011. Implementing this change is one of the few positive messages currently on the horizon, and if twinned with sensible and sensitive back ended cuts, Lottery money will give the arts an alternative funding stream to take some of the impact out of the impending cuts and enough time to make their applications.

6.   Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level

  (a)  This is a very worrying development that seems to be gathering momentum in government feedback with regards to arts funding that business and philanthropic giving is the answer to back filling the financial hole left by any funding cuts. In our 15 year history Strange Cargo has received minimal support through philianthropic donation or business support. This type of giving is not established within the wider culture of the UK, and certainly outside of major cultural centres, this type of giving does not make an impact on our annual accounts and I suspect of many other arts organisations.

  (b)  Many arts organisations, including Strange Cargo, do not have patrons or business funding to back fill funding cuts.

  (c)  Networking to put these alternative sources of potential income into place takes time, resources, advocacy and connections.

  (d)  Geography is a major influence—not everyone lives in London, or has connections to a wealthy philanthropist.

  (e)  The area of the south east in which we operate will most certainly take much longer to recover from the recession.

  (f)  We cannot all be as enticing a cultural offer as The Tate or National Opera. What if good art cannot attract patronage, does that mean it is not valuable? Where is the room for risk and innovation?

7.   Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations

  (a)  The introduction of new incentives could help, depending on what they are, but not as an alternative to public funding. Risk and innovation may not be seen as an attractive investment option for private givers and the UK's cultural sectors excellent track record of innovative practice may be hard to sell as an investment priority for private givers.

  (b)  It is the qualitative, not quantitive outcomes, delivered through the arts that make a lasting impact on society. These statistics are difficult to demonstrate, as it is hard to make the case for the impact that "a great day out" or "being involved in a public artwork" can make to people. Lasting changes to people's attitude and ultimately society begin with these kinds of experiences, but these experiences are the reality of what the arts is. Cultural experiences are what a great many memories consist of—theatre trips, days out to experience galleries and museums, carnivals etc., all of these cultural opportunities create the substance of our family lives, and what ultimately is our society. With the government championing the values of The Big Society, it is essential to bear in mind that our relationship to culture begins young and is embedded in our psyche as integral to family life. We do not want the next generation to be a generation to whom culture is not available.

September 2010





 
previous page contents next page


© Parliamentary copyright 2011
Prepared 30 March 2011