Written evidence submitted by Dr Simon
Jenner (arts 222)
Poet, academic (PhD Cantab), administrator.
I direct the ACE Regularly Funded Organisation Survivors' Poetry.
This charity (also Company House registered) encourages those
with mental distress to empower their lives through the writing
of poetryin many cases, to magazine and collection standard.
We direct workshops, an interactive website and regular events
at for instance the Poetry Society, including literary festivals.
I also direct Waterloo Press, another ACE-funded not for profit
publishing house for poetry, which ploughs its revenue into more
production, and aims to be self-sustaining. We specialise in radically
good poetry (of all kinds, refusing isms), and translations. My
own work as poet has resulted in a flurry of publications and
reviews, and I've just completed a two year Royal Literary Fund
Fellowship at UEL and Chichester Universities, combining with
my other roles. I've also received RLF and other grants. I'm returning
to Chichester University on a freelance basis.
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
The mantras of the arts producing 7% of GDP,
and the disproportionate impact of cuts on this output, need no
rehearsing here. This paradigm, definitively nailed in the Boyden
Report on theatres of 2000 and finessed and amplified since to
all art production, has held good for a decade. Denying its truth
seems part of a dark incomprehension of what small benefits can
accrue to government with such cutting, what devastation to the
arts sector and fabric that employs and benefits so many. To say
we cannot afford the arts or other wealth generators that require
seed-funding is like saying we could not afford to set upor
now continuethe NHS. We were bankrupt when we set that
up, and opening up a huge debt we've just paid off to the US Yet
no-one deniesexcept the Conservative part of the Coalition
government that fell in July 1945that we could afford it.
In the arts, it's also a question of wealth
generation, not simply absolute "loss" which the NHS
might represent for some. In the 1970s you could not "afford"
investment in oil wells, despite the massive profits they bringthough
these were used or misused, and now BP currently blackens this
metaphor. I've noticed that the same argumentthat we cannot
afford ithas not been made of nuclear power, for example,
though that does not seemingly bring wealth, merely the illusion
of independent power grids.
To quote Boyden in 2004 on a later review:
A vibrant theatre culture has a dynamic contemporary
relevance for any engaged society by celebrating collective identity,
strengthening social purpose, providing a public forum for ideas,
harnessing creativity, feeding energy and talent into the creative
industries, and enhancing international perceptions of that society.
ACE itself cut 40% and regionally 50% of its
own staff in a fruitless attempt to head off central government
cuts. I put this point in January to Alan Davey, ACE CEO, who
had blithely deemed it a cauterizing move. He could not accept
that a further set of cuts would then be imposed on him, doubling
the internal haemorrhage within ACE, and its effectiveness in
servicing the arts and arts economy. Cuts start in the regions
and smaller, less visible art forms. It perhaps reflects an unconscious
mind-set in administrative circles. Less visible means out of
London or out of those arenas that say those in positions of responsibility
are likely to come across there or in major cities. Out of sight,
as it were.
Local government always reaches for the arts
budget first when cuts are mooted. Devolving responsibility to
local government will effect radical cuts, unmediated and part
of a reflex action. There is little of the European local constituency
to oppose this. We've seen this already. This impacts on any matching
funding from local government for ACE, for example.
Other bodieslet's take the NHS schemes,
who provide a fluctuating level of support for arts and healthwill
also simply fold. Cuts to the Maudsley NHS have resulted in closure
to some of the last mental health units for older people (ie the
Felix Post Unit), stayed only by the remarkable arts productions
that emanated from them (my organisation was involved). It did
not simply empower and drastically improve quality of life for
patients; it also stayed the executioner' hand, till the recession
The Boyden figures you have. Central government
cuts encourage local ones too. The domino effect is self-evident.
There is no doubt that quite apart from the
destructive effect on the quality of life in this country, many
will find themselves jobless, directly or indirectly because of
these cuts. I can vouch for this effect on Regularly Funded Organisations
(RFOs) and the disproportionate effect a few job-cuts mean in
vulnerable sectors like mine, for instance that addresses mental
The enormously disabling effects of unemployment
on kick-starting the economy were of course tackled by Keynes,
whose shadow, once deemed obliterated by the sun of 1980s plate
glass, returned in 2007 after the collapse of the banks. A wider
lesson is again self-evident, whether or not we're in denial about
the sustained growth of purely capitalist systems.
What arts organisations can do to work more closely
together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make
economies of scale;
Many of us have long been essaying this. In
my own case, for 21 months. I believe that office-sharing and
the pooling of resources that entails, can lead to harmonious,
cost-effective and linked action, programmes that can be co-operatively
shared between those who have something in common. And of course
lobbying-power is greatly enhancedboth positively, in terms
of funding application; and "negatively" when faced
with cuts. Personnel can be shared to some extentthough
this takes finessing and has to be individually addressed.
ACE itself attempted to create an umbrella capital
project in 2002-03 to enable disability organisations to share
a single building. Unhappily the process dragged and the money
was severally divided so that each went their separate ways to
weal or woe. There must be a better way to ensure people want
to work together. I rather think the sharp end of a recession
might do it.
One mode is for CEOs and their seconds as it
were to share funding applications. This sharing of resources
at the jagged end of survival is a wonderful quickener. Joint
applications, already encouraged, could be even more actively
sought where applicable Please note that it isn't always the case,
or that some organisations many fail through no fault of their
own, to secure a funding partner. They should however feel free
to indicate (where relevant) their attempts to do this on any
form, even if they've not been successful.
What level of public subsidy for the arts and
heritage is necessary and sustainable
Whether the current system, and structure, of
funding distribution is the right one
There always needs to be a buffer between government
and arts bodiesif only for the safety of government officials.
Cynically, then, ACE is indispensable to government. In effect,
ACE proves an interfacethinning all the time to the width
of a screen monitorbetween government and DCMS policy,
and those they serve. They also feed a hierarchy of funding priorities,
starting with the clich
of ROH and working down to the brass door knobs.
Only ACE can ensure the infrastructure of ACE
regional bodies, for instance, bodies can be re-labelled but this
is expensive and debilitating. ACE, whatever its perceived flaws,
is a lot more cost-effective, particularly to those it serves
(which must also be taken into account: it cuts both ways) than
reconstituting or shrouding another body in difficult-to-access,
more quasi-government machinery. That might be desirable to some
in government, but the backlash would soon prove this short-sighted.
I wouldnaturallyargue for a restoration
of arts budgets. No other area of our national life does so much
for so little. This unthinking, unblinking blanket cut approach,
which punishes all for sins committed by those rich enough to
pay for the ROH every night, is fast dividing the country like
no other. And the arts articulate and focus this rage more effectively
than anywhere else.
The current year, already slashed by £23
million, of £460 million, is a fraction of the budget tithed
for the Olympics, a venture which like other gestural politics,
costs infinitely more than more sustainable and ultimately more
nationally efficacious area such as the arts. I don't particularly
want to address the Olympics/Arts divide, but logic, as elsewhere,
seems to have disappeared since 2005. I know there have been cuts
here too, but the long-term damage is infinitely less. Trickle-down
benefits might be likened to the Russian millionaire buying cigarettes
in a Greenwich corner shop. I use North Greenwich tube, and delightful
as it is, its brief function as a world hub has left it somewhat
desolate, bar gusts of excited Wednesday visitors after Thriller.
The profit lost in selling the Dome of course belongs to another
government, though this in turn took its selling-family-silver
approach directly from the 1980s. The whole peninsular looks set
for a similar desolation after 2012. Pockets, like the Beckham
Academy, will of course ensure some activity, but hardly justify
the concrete landscape.
Heritage is a different matter. Conservation
and heritage are cuter than live arts, and often can raise far
greater enthusiasmswitness the TV Restoration series, voting
on buildings to save. This was and is admirable. The existence
of the National Trust and other bodies are palpably less dependent
on government, and though recession might mean that private monies
are less forthcoming, they're more likely to emanate from relatively
well-to-do people than a government tackling re cession. I must
emphasize the differences evident to all between heritage and
current arts, as we do between capital and other projects.
This is not to sound complacent, coming as it
does from a contemporary arts scene practitioner. I take a keen
interest in heritage. The funding structure and channels are demonstrably
different.Restoration-type initiatives are sexy, productive, community-based
and boast extremely attractive outcomes. There is too something
of the Strongest-Link, buy-to-let/restore-to-sell consumerism
feel-good factor involved, though at a subliminal level. In this
case it's for a good cause.
TV choices for Lottery initiatives going head-to
head were tried out in 2006. The trouble with this kind of Big
Lottery initiative is that it does become a subjective lottery,
with a bread-and-circuses approach from executives to public.
What impact recent changes to the distribution
of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations
We should treat 2012 as a blip, and of course
the shift away from the arts that has been a feature of the National
Lottery, is unlikely to be reversed unless it's addressed directly
and persistently. Now competition is fierce this may well become
a feature of bidding wars between interested lobbying groups.
Certainly the disgruntled will gruntle more noisily than heretofore.
ACE executives have been muttering to their clients for some time
about the haemorrhage. The arts must now be chief beneficiaries.
Soft targets must have something soft to fall back on. A very
significant amount of our GDP and capacity to attract overseas
investment and tourists is directly dependant on this perceptual
Other ACE initiatives have drained the reserves
built up. First, the Sustain programme, and subsequently raising
the reserves to fulfil their 2010-11 funding commitments, which
the government seemed sanguine on their reneging on. Happily this
One solution would be an incentive for those
who pay significant tax to donate directly to the arts through
further inducements- but the Treasury won't have this. What surprises
me is the pusillanimity of the Treasury in going for tax evaders
on a large scale. If resources targeting the relatively tiny amount
lost in benefit fraud were directed towards the real fraud, many
billions might be recovered. These people have nowhere these days
to flee to. And no party to vote for.
Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery
funding need to be reviewed
These need to be made simpler, privileging the
efficacy of the project over the fluency of presentation. Of course
there are limits. Nevertheless the clever nuancingI've
made successful applications myselfis one way of ensuring
that only educated people can articulate adequate replies. There
are shibboleths here, people who understand jargon, catch-words
and comforting language to mirror that of the executives who read
them. I'm good at it so speak from experience.
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
This seems the most disastrous choice of all.
The anti-quango drive has reached one of its reductio ad nauseams,
before being even absurd. The Film Council alone has lobbied,
finessed, and otherwise brought into being or sped numerous British
films, and enhanced the whole film culture. What will replace
the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council is unclear. There
is a mode of presenting these different streams of heritage that
cannot be lumped into one kulturpolicy. Why punish the wealth
generators who know how to promote such culture as comes within
their remit? Doubtless a fantasy of efficient slim-line bureaus
might appeal to some, and would be preferable to what in effect
will be a costly transition and muddying of resources.
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level
Businessparticularly absurdly over-flushed
ones, like football clubsof course must be given tax incentive
on the American model. The American model of philanthropy on a
an individual basis is more flawed (see below) when it comes to
the standard British or British-resident millionaire or billionaire.
But businesses can certainly profit from ensuring that some of
their tax goes as profit to the arts.
Gerry Robinson was Chair of ACE 1998-2004. He
needs to address a new TV programme. What's Wrong with the
Arts? If it was made interactive, and Sir Gerry could be philanthropic
about his erstwhile catchment area (before his aborted Rentokil
days) then some new positively vulgar assault could be made on
art prejudice and Robinson himself come up with intriguing solutions
we might be able to use. As well as providing rich entertainment,
partly as ever, at the expense of arty types. No matter. Art,
like murder, must advertise.
A local level is where of course ACE Regional
bodies could score, had they resources. It seems the most effective
realization is to see that money will not come to the arts without
being courted. That is, either government, DCMS/ACE personnel
or arts organisations (who have been doing this for themselves,
in an ad-hoc manner) need to approach at a national and local
ACE operatives must offer more help through
consultants (which in part they have) to court, net, land, or
otherwise induce philanthropists to part with sums of money. This
takes time. It would be better if the government changed the culture
by signalling a change in tax breaks and much else, which would
push such philanthropists half-way. The next layer, ACE with NGOs
like Arts and Business, must then provide a framework for approach
that arts organisations can shelter under, in umbrella format.
This three tier systemgovernment policy, ACE template
of a structured culture-shift (even meeting at ACE venues) and
finally the art organisations themselves, could all act in triple
Whether there need to be more Government incentives
to encourage private donations
The Canadian model of philanthropy has been
mentioned after the vaunted American one rather collapsed. In
truth the culture here is different. The millionaires tend to
be Russian and most tend to invest in football clubs, not arts
projects. Even J K Rowling dedicates herself to medical or social
causes. That it doesn't occur to her to think of the arts as a
worthy causeperhaps she feels she's helped enough with
Bloomsburyis baleful evidence of the past 15 years' failure
to persuade the country at large that the arts are instinctively
worth supporting. There is no solar plexus for the arts to prod,
as there demonstrably is in Italy, Spain, France, Germany.
We have thus a philistine set of the very rich,
and the only solution is to induce them to give to the arts with
clever tax-breaks that enhance the donor's goodwill and direct
their munificence towards the arts. That is, if they pay tax at
all. If so, first, they must be netted and then after the stick,
the carrot. There's no point in adumbrating a complex model. If
there's a will the Treasury will find a way to this. But some
real drive must be directedand this doesn't take time,
merely brains and a brief billto shift the culture of obscene
footballs transfer fees to wealth generators for the rest of us.
The money is there and must be reined in and harnessed to the
country's use. A great deal of it sits stacked up in flight patterns
but never comes down to land. We must change this with radical