Written evidence submitted by StopGAP
1. This submission is written by Vicki Balaam
Artistic Director of StopGAP Dance Company representing the company's
2. My summary of my thoughts below are as
Funding cuts would impact not only StopGAP's
funding, but our ability to earn income both from working and
touring within the UK and internationally.
Cuts to the arts sector would have an
impact in other industries and sectors of society as by nature
performing arts tends to tour.
Most small arts organisations already
practice "economies of scale" because it's the only
way to survive alreadythere are no more savings in that
area for us.
There is only a limited number of costs
we can reduce as we still need cash to pay wages.
Core costs are very difficult to find
funding for, and these are the costs that need to be covered by
Without core costs being funded the balance
becomes disproportionately skewed towards earning money rather
than improving and developing artistic practice. This may be bearable
in the short term, but in the long term will be detrimental to
the UK's position of being leaders world wide.
A cut across the whole arts sector would
impact performing arts companies more than once. They would have
to endure the cuts they are due to receive, but there would be
the unquantifiable repercussions of venues and development agencies
reducing their bookings and what work can be secured would be
for substantially reduced fees.
I am happy with the structure of having
the Arts Council to manage government funding as I would prefer
there to be an organisation between the government and the artists.
Businesses and philanthropists should
play a more active role in funding the arts, but should not be
a replacement for government funding.
A culture of increased funding from businesses
and philanthropists will take years to embed in society, will
need better incentives from the Government, and should become
part of the current Corporate Social Responsibility and charitable
trusts systems. Any other way would seriously disadvantage smaller
Let us not look to America for inspiration
for re-modeling the UK arts industry.
If cuts have to happen, as much time
as possible is needed in order to be able to prepare. As the arts
sector works so much in advance a minimum of one year's preparation
is need for substantial changes.
The arts, especially integrated arts,
is more valuable than saving budget lines. As well as creating
great art, it can inspire communities, and show how a truly integrated
society can be.
3. StopGAP is contemporary dance company
consisting of dancers with and without disabilities. A Regularly
Funded Organisation (RFO) of Arts Council England and based at
Farnham Maltings in Surrey, StopGAP is one of the UK's top integrated
dance companies. The company is a world leader in the quality
of it's performances and workshops, working nationally and representing
the UK internationally, leaving a legacy of training and inspiring
the next generation of integrated dancers throughout East and
West Europe, from Cornwall to Cambodia, Surrey to Japan.
4. StopGAP is unique as within the cast
there is a dancer with Downs Syndrome and a dancer who uses a
wheelchair, and is a very rare company as all the performers are
on full time, long term, PAYE contracts. Retention of staffboth
within the office and on the stageis crucial to StopGAP's
development to enable the company to truly push the boundaries
of what is possible because of the depth of knowledge and trust
that long term working relationships enable us to achieve. The
result is empowered individuals who are strong, mesmerising, charismatic
performers that you care about when you watch them, and demonstrate
the strength that a truly integrated society can achieve. StopGAP
is integration with integrity, dancers performing with humanity
and relishing their very tangible connection with each other and
5. As a company we are very proud to be
based in the South East, to be part of the arts sector in the
UK and to represent the UK internationally.
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
6. Whilst understanding that cuts in all
areas need to be made due to the current economic climate, I am
concerned that deep cuts would jeopardise:
(a) our ability to operate, survive and thrive;
(b) the intricately linked network that links
all areas of the arts; and
(c) our ability to secure work from international
bookings, that already has been used historically to subsidise
our work in the UK.
7. We rely on our RFO to support our core
costs. With three full time and three part time members of office
staff supporting the workload of six artistic team and two apprentice
artists, we are already operating with an infrastructure that
is too small for the workload and ambitions we have.
8. Our options of reducing our costs are
very limited as we are already operating on a shoe string. We
can't reduce office staff as this level of operating is our absolute
minimum to manage the workload to keep the dancers in full time
employment. If we were to reduce the numbers of dancers in the
company, we would invalidate the £50,000 investment we have
made in creating our new repertoire that is due to be performed
for the next two to three years. If we were to back out on our
commitment to our apprentice dancers, that wouldn't enable us
to make savings as they will be part funded by trusts and foundations
for two years and part funded by the income generation from delivering
workshops and performances to our local community. This would
damage the ability for us to replace dancers in the future when
members of our current cast decide to retire or move to another
company, and it would mean we would not be able to deliver arts
activity in our local community, and so lose our value to our
9. We are already entrepreneurial in our
approach to securing income, constantly trying to reduce our reliance
on Arts Council funding, but the magic answer proves illusive!
Despite the fact we are a popular company that's in demand, the
fees we can secure from venues do not match what it costs us to
send our dancers to performand that's not taking into account
all the costs that are involved to get the company ready to tour.
Our current tour has needed additional subsidy from Arts Council
England, and for us to use our international fees to further subsidise
our tour costs.
10. My concern is that as cuts happen across
the arts industry throughout the country, venues will struggle.
As their subsidy reduces, there will be less touring dates available
and what dates are available will be for less money. This scenario
will be catastrophic as the impact will be unquantifiable for
us. It is one thing preparing for a specific figure, but it deeply
concerns me that we can't quantify the further ripples that will
11. Our international work is crucial to
our schedule, not only for the artistic, profile and personnel
development that we find invaluable, but it does financially subsidise
the running of the company and UK touring. If we were faced with
substantial cuts we would have to increase our international work,
which I would hate as we clearly see ourselves as a UK company
proud to be based in the South East. My other concern is that
building increased international touring to what we have planned
takes at least two years, so if the cuts happen hard and fast
we are unlikely to survive for long enough to be able to build
a sustainable international workload at the level we would need.
12. Any cuts would mean a reduction in work
and employment. If our workload reduces because we have to reduce
our capacity, the following would be reduced: audience figures;
numbers of workshop participants; training and development of
practice in the education, social services and arts sectors; artist
employment within the company; employment of people with disabilities;
artistic employment outside the company (usually to create new
work and develop our practice); additional income into our local
area as people come and watch our work and study our practice;
money we spend in the local economy when we tour; international
income we bring into the UK both fees we earn and visiting artists
What arts organisations can do to work more closely
together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make
economies of scale
13. As far as we are concerned we can't
do any more than we are doing already. Being based at Farnham
Maltings, we are lucky enough to have free office space and subsidised
rehearsals space, access to arts professionals we can go to for
advice or to chew over an idea withthis is an invaluable
14. In return we create our work there bringing
a range of artists and people through their doors and into their
; we are a resource they can call on; we give advice
to them and their associates specifically about disability, access
and dance; we are committed to making a difference to our local
community so our dance development initiatives implicitly and
explicitly benefit them; they receive a regular revenue from our
rehearsal space bookings; and can borrow any of our technical
equipment that we have access to, especially the more specialist
things like simultaneous translation and audio description equipment.
15. Our presence benefits the Farnham Maltings
through profile and reputation in addition to the financial benefit,
as does their patronage of our work. We both become ambassadors
for each other unlocking bigger projects that we would not have
secured on our own.
16. Being based at the arts centre means
we have a greater range of contacts, and so we are able to also
share human resources. Excellent examples of this working successfully
are our book keeper and our marketing assistant. Both only do
a few hours at a time for us but are invaluable to us. If we were
to recruit and employ them on our own the recruitment would be
costly and we wouldn't be able to give them enough hours to make
it worth their while. As it is, because they were based at the
Farnham Maltings, they understood the industry and needed no training,
we knew we were getting the right person as we already knew them,
they already knew us, and they travel to the same place of work
so can be wonderfully flexible in the hours that they work, which
means we have the luxury of only needing to book them for the
hours we absolutely need them for. The additional unquantifiable
benefit is that with that fluidity of personnel comes a flow of
information that is invaluable, and again projects grow and develop
rather than only happening because the right people meet at the
right time. We have gained some significant projects because we
have been sharing the office with the right person who can let
us know of interesting projects we can pitch for.
17. We extend this way of working to many
partner organisations. For instance a theatre that can't afford
our fee will give us extra tech time, a venue that can't afford
to commission us will give us a production week (that is invaluable
to us), a residency will be traded for a resident film crew, a
workshop for rehearsal space. We do as much bartering as we possibly
can and have reduced as many costs as possible, but the bottom
line is that we need a certain amount of money coming into the
company to pay salaries and things we can't barter for, so there
is only so many of our services we can give away.
18. After a lot of thought, I really think
we are working as closely as possible and there are no more economies
of scale that we can make.
What level of public subsidy for the arts and
heritage is necessary and sustainable
19. StopGAP has existed without subsidy
for a long time and with subsidy. The time that we were able to
flourish was when our subsidy was 40% of our turn over. There
does need to be enough of a subsidy for it to make a difference
and to support organisations core costs. Project to project, it
is reasonably easy to secure funding for good ideas that are needed,
but most of these tend to be participatory.
20. My concern is how to give artists and
companies the security to be able to dedicate time to developing
their practice rather than turn commercial and constantly turn
out work subject to a formula that seems to work. By giving time
and security I don't mean let artists wallow in a darkened room
contemplating navels. We find that it is already hard to balance
our focus between ensuring we continually challenge the quality
and expertise of our integration, with our need to make money.
We had a situation recently that meant that our balance wasn't
good and the priority to make money resulted in us working the
dancers too hard. The workload became inhumane for them, giving
them greater risk of injury and long term damage to their physical
ability to do their job. We had to ask them to sacrifice any sense
of proportion with their work/life balance, resulting in them
working away from home far too much, something that was particularly
hard for our dancer with Downs Syndrome who became incredibly
home sick. Placing the dancers in this situation was something
we resolved as soon as we could and will endeavor never to let
happen again. This compromised situation is not conducive for
us to continue our ability to retain staff that we pride ourselves
on so much, and need to have so desperately for the business of
our art to continue to flourish and surprise. I am concerned that
we have been placed in this position already so what will happen
if the funding becomes worse?
21. If I was an outsider to this industry,
I would expect that the solution would be simple: that as the
subsidy to the companies reduces then they "just" have
to negotiate their fees better. My deepest concern is that if
the subsidy to the sector is reduced across the board then the
companies will suffer from all sides, losing the level of subsidy
that they are used to AND losing the level of fees they currently
can reasonably expect.
Whether the current system, and structure, of
funding distribution is the right one
22. I can only talk about my experience
of working with Arts Council South East. I value the relationship
that StopGAP has had with them since our first performances. It
hasn't always been the most comfortable of relationships, but
I have valued that honest, outside eye that truly has been a critical
friend whilst having the sector's best interests at heart. They
are challenging in what they are expecting from their RFO's but
I feel comfortable having an organisation that exists between
my company and the government: an organisation that ensures we
spend our money correctly and are accountable for our funding,
and yet one that I am confident that it will lobby government
for the good of my sector. I am proud to be based in the South
East, and part of that is because I am happy, and actually impressed
with the way Arts Council South East has been dealing with the
uncertainty of the current climate.
23. I think the structure of having relationship
managers is invaluable. I would be very uncomfortable if the organisation
distributing arts funding wasn't a separate "arms length"
organisation from government.
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level
and if there needs to be more Government incentives
24. In an ideal world, of course it would
be ideal for businesses and philanthropists to play a role in
funding but not to replace subsidy. If they were to become the
sole funders then we would be heading towards an arts scene like
America, and I, along with many other companies and artists, would
not be interested in staying in the UK. There are so many reasons
why this would be wrong, most of all because then everyone would
be tempted to follow the fashions and trends of what was getting
funding rather than focus on creating the best art they could
and trusting their quality and innovation would secure funding.
25. Since StopGAP began, I have been chasing
business sponsorship and trying to secure that illusive philanthropist
that would enable StopGAP to be independent of any subsidy. I
have come to the conclusion that this is not possible for StopGAP.
Despite the fact we would appear to be a sexy option for either,
we do not have the resources or time to invest in wooing the right
people, we don't move in the right circles to make the right connections,
and when weighing the balance between spending time filling out
a grant application with a formal process to go through for a
trust, or spending time chasing sponsorship leads, we know we
have a better chance of getting a return from the application
form than we have anything else. We have tried!
26. Businesses and individuals do need to
get involved in supporting the arts, but arts organisations, especially
those that are small and not national institutes will suffer disproportionately
if this becomes the only way to fund the arts. Better incentives
need to be put in place, particularly tax incentives. I feel that
it would be better for the current system to be better used. I
would prefer individuals and businesses to develop a culture of
giving through trusts and foundations. It has to be a way that
would be more transparent and fair than the current pursuit of
sponsorship. A greater reliance on personal giving and business
support would also involve a fundamental cultural change and this
would take time to really take place rather than be a token quick
fix. Please let us not follow the American model!
27. It is the last minute nature of the
cuts announcements that I feel would cause the most devastation.
It prevents the whole industry being able to confirm agreements
which is putting a stranglehold on all plans, possibility of collaborations,
and setting up inventive solutions to get us through this period.
We just don't know what we are dealing with and that means we
don't know what decisions we need to be makingand we need
to be making those now.
28. With the significant development that
has been happening in the integrated dance sector and the disability
dance sector, I think the time is now for an amazing transformation
to happen within the arts sector that will be led by organisations
that show diversity on stage. In this current climate, I feel
society needs integrated dance, not only to experience great art,
but to inspire people. There is a dangerous level of fragmentation
in our communities, but seeing such powerful diversity can inspire
change. I have met many people who have disabilities that don't
see any active role models they can relate to, but are inspired
by the work of StopGAPour ethos and quality of work. With
the momentum that is building with the Olympics and the Paralympics,
and increased profile of people with disabilities within sport
and popular culture, it would be a devastation if the arts, after
all these years of waiting, can't make the most of this time and
contribute and lead.