Written evidence submitted by TYA-UK Centre
of ASSITEJ, the International Association of Theatre for Children
and Young People (arts 150)
SUPPORT FOR PROFESSIONAL THEATRE FOR CHILDREN
AND YOUNG PEOPLE
Three of your questions relate particularly
to professional Theatre for Young Audiences (TYA)
The impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level;
What level of public subsidy for the arts
and heritage is necessary and sustainable; and
Whether the current system, and structure,
of funding distribution is the right one;
To the question, What arts organisations
can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication
of effort and to make economies of scale we would point to
many existing examples of collaboration and networking within
our sector. Further desirable developments are support for smaller
independent companies from larger organisations and the establishment
of touring circuits and marketing networks.
In our view, only those few theatre companies
with their own buildings, or with a special niche audience, may
benefit from donations from business or philanthropists.
Worldwide, there is no evidence that reliance on private donation
produces a healthy, innovative service for all: on the contrary,
artistic standards are highest and innovation is strongest where
public support is high.
Government has a duty to ensure a regular
entitlement for all children to see live theatre, alongside other
arts and cultural experiences.
UK has professional theatre companies
able to deliver such a service, provided the established infrastructure
for delivery is not damaged by cuts.
Quality has steadily improved over the
last fifty years with continuity of public funding.
International exchange and collaboration
has spurred artistic development.
Current funding structures favour individual
artists, events or productions rather than the continuing service
children need to develop lifelong enjoyment of the arts.
1.1 Article 31 of the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child states that all children have the right to
participate in cultural life.
1.2 To give effect to this, Governments
should ensure that experiences of the arts are available to all.
1.3 For both social and financial reasons,
children need special help in accessing arts experiences.
1.4 More than 200 professional theatre companies
are today dedicated to the production of theatre for young audiences
in the UK. Over the last 50 years, such companies have achieved
widespread acceptance among local authority promoters, arts funders,
parents and teachers.
1.5 There are valuable and significant benefits
to the nation of a population aware of and open to the imaginative
stimulus of the arts.
1.6 Theatre is the art form of social interaction.
It therefore carries powerful messages about the way we value
our society, our neighbours and those close to us.
1.7 Theatre and Drama are highly popular.
The shared experience of live theatre adds an invaluable social
dimension and has a natural accessibility, but children need to
be encouraged to experience the full range of possibilities live
theatre can offer.
1.8 The UK's theatrical heritage is a great
cultural achievement and perhaps our most significant contribution
to world culture.
2.1 There are 10 million people of school
age. A reasonable estimate of the current annual audience for
professional theatre for young audiences in the UK is between
four and five million.
2.2 Over 200 professional companies have
been identified as dedicated solely to the production of live
theatre for young audiences, which they tour to schools and venues.
Some 50 of these currently receive public funding. Many more companies
provide occasional performances for children.
2.3 Most experiences of live performance
for children are in schools, or at a theatre venue to which children
are taken in school time.
2.4 While it has become possible in recent
years to gather more information from the internet about activity
in this sector of the performing arts, accurate facts are not
easy to assemble. No public body keeps records on what theatre
children see or how good it is.
3.1 Arts Councils aim to make funding decisions
on criteria related to artistic quality. However, they are naturally
influenced by the attitudes and policy of the Government of the
3.2 In the UK, unlike elsewhere in Europe,
instrumental criteria are often applied to the arts for children
and young people by Government, teachers and even arts funders.
Dedicated theatre for children is sometimes justified solely on
the grounds that it supports other learning.
3.3 Not only have all children the right
to participate in cultural life, and to be exposed to experiences
of the highest artistic quality, but we suggest that arts and
culture in themselves are an essential part of a full life, informing
positively all other aspects of human experience.
3.4 While artistic judgements are always
subjective, experienced observers agree that the artistic quality
of professional Theatre for Young Audiences in the UK has steadily
improved over the last 50 years. This has largely been because
of increased exposure to the excellent practice evident in certain
other European countries and conscious efforts by the members
of our association and others to share experience and develop
3.5 We have an established and experienced
cohort of artists and producers able to use limited resources
with imagination and flair.
3.6 The principal drawbacks to the present
system supporting the delivery of high quality theatre to young
3.6.1 A framework of public funding which is
based on patronage of a few major organisations rather than support
for the whole ecology.
3.6.2 Poor liaison between DCMS and DFE.
3.6.3 A level of funding too low to enable richer
creative ensembles to be maintained and developed.
3.6.4 Low expectations from public, venue presenters
3.6.5 Higher priority given to instrumental uses
and financial returns than to artistic excellence.
4.1 Government should accept responsibility
for ensuring that all children and young people are able to participate
fully in cultural life.
4.2 An appropriate agency, based on best
practice here and abroad, should be charged with delivery of a
programme of entitlement for all children and young people to
see theatre of the highest possible artistic quality.
4.3 Public funding should be at a level
appropriate to the needs of young people and in relation to their
number within the population. In practice this would imply an
allocation rising from the current 6% of current spending on theatre
to an amount nearer 20%.** Given their lack of independent financial
resources, children deserve a higher proportion of public subsidy
4.4 Cuts to local authority venues and arts
services which support the presentation of theatre to young audiences
should be avoided where possible or alternative channels of distribution
*TYAUK Centre of ASSITEJ is a membership
organisation devoted to raising public awareness of the value
of theatre to children and young people. It is a registered Charity.
With our colleagues in 80 other countries around the world we
share knowledge and exchange experience about our field of theatre.
** In 2010 values, an appropriate funding package
to support a flow of quality productions by 100 companies, reaching
10 million children a year, would be £20 million. (Current
ACE spending is £6.5 million) This represents a sustainable
50% of costs. www.tya-uk.org