Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cuts to the Arts - A List for Playwrights

Well, what an eventful morning. It feels like the whole theatre industry (not to mention the wider arts sector) has been holding its breath up to now, waiting in fear and anticipation for what this fateful day might bring, like a fucked up Christmas. Well now we finally know the exact size of the turds that Santa has left in our stockings.

It's been interesting following the live coverage on Guardian Culture, and seeing the announcements and responses as they trickle in. But, while it's been eye-opening to see what has and hasn't been prioritised across museums, dance, circus, literature and all the rest, what I've personally found difficult is getting a sense of how the theatre industry in particular has been affected, particularly what's happened to the individual companies I've either had a relationship with in the past, or who are on my radar to target with work in the near future.

Twitter alerted me to this. It's a spreadsheet of all the changes broken down into financial years, with further columns showing cash and real terms increases and decreases.

Again, interesting, and I did find out about the companies I wanted to know about. But bloody hell, it was a bit of a chore to wade through.

What I found myself doing was cutting and pasting all the theatre results into a separate document for ease of viewing, and to compare and contrast a bit. As a way of grouping them together, I arranged them all into Small Cuts, Big Cuts, Small Increases, Big Increases and New Clients.

Then, as I couldn't find this information in quite this form anywhere else (though I'm sure Lyn Gardner or someone will do it eventually) I thought I'd publish it on here.

Regular readers will know that I'm a big advocate of playwrights being a bit more proactive in approaching companies, brokering co-productions, pitching project ideas, applying for funds and generally freeing themselves up from the passive commissioning model and over-reliance on the Big Six new writing venues in London. Experience has shown me that unless you make it into the upper echelons of this profession you simply can't rely on those big companies as a way of making your living. This is compounded by the fact that a decade of (what looking back at least) seems to be half decent funding, has created many more playwrights who have undergone some kind of training than there are slots available to produce them. The more we can manipulate the circumstances for us to be able to do our thing, the more likely we are to be able to sustain a career without having to wait tables.

So, what follows below is a list of all the theatre companies listed in the ACE spreadsheet, grouped into the categories described above.

It does make for quite interesting reading. The most common figure seems to be an 11% cut. (All percentages quoted are from the column taking inflation into account over the next four years.) But this cut seems to have been mostly applied to medium scale companies like Tamasha, Kneehigh, Tricycle and Headlong. The bigger boys (National, RSC) seem to have taken a slightly bigger hit at 15%. Then there are some glaring slashes like the Almeida's brutal 39% or Out of Joint's crippling 27.9%.

Smaller increases seem to be less common, with a handful like the Young Vic, Live and Northern Stage getting single figure uplifts. But there are a surprising amount of very large increases, hugely elevating a whole raft of small to medium sized companies, and with a notable emphasis on the regions; Roses Theatre, Fuel, Travelling Light, Theatre In The Mill and Walk The Plank. Some I haven't even heard of before.

Then there are the new clients entirely, and there are a lot - 20 by my count - and most with significant amounts of new cash, £100,000+ a year in many cases. I'd encourage you to check them out.

I publish all this really as a tool for working playwrights looking to get an overview of how the biggest shakeup to arts funding, certainly in my working life, has affected the people who employ us. It makes sense to keep abreast of these things, and to bear in mind the economic realities for these companies as you go about considering where to target your work.

That isn't for a moment to say that we should no longer send plays to companies who have suffered - if anything it's important that we now rally round those venues like Soho who are a crucial part of the new writing landscape, and whose 17.6% cut is really going to hurt. If there is any chance of negotiating these decisions, then now is the time for those writers among us who have benefitted from those venues, particularly writers with any sort of profile, to step to their defence.

But in a spirit of pragmatism (and God knows I've had to develop a sense of that during my career) there are other opportunities for playwrights that this morning's news opens up. I really don't mean that to sound at all insensitive or exploitative of what is a horrible situation for many. In fact, this is a remarkably apolitical post for me. But you can get all that fire and brimstone elsewhere. This is about a genuine spirit of enquiry and trying to respond positively to what is a monumental rearranging of the power structures within our industry. Yes, be angry and upset. Yes, lobby your MP. And absolutely step to the defence of companies you know and love. But you can only do that fully if you're still able to make a living and don't have to worry about where the next paycheck is coming from. It's perfectly legitimate to take a moment to ask: What might Fuel do with an extra 203.5%, or Ochkham's Razor with their 173.2% windfall? Now is the time to start doing some serious research about these companies that up to now might have vaguely been on your professional radar, but who are now thrust into a whole new lease of creative life. Keep an eye on the statements they release, subscribe to their newsletters, see their latest show, then - after the dust has settled - get in touch. See if they'll read your new play. Seed a collaboration. Back you in approaching a school. Now is the time to pitch new and risky ideas, with these companies at least.

So, that list in full.

Note that for the purposes of my categorisations, I have counted anything less than 15% as a Small Cut, and anything 15% or over Large. This isn't to understate the effects of, say, Northern Broadsides 14.9% decrease, which will doubtless be very painful. But I had to draw the line somewhere.

Oh and finally, do make sure you do your research. Check out the figures in the full spreadsheet linked above. Remember that a 78% increase is proportional - if the company's ACE grant was only £10k to start with then it isn't like they're suddenly going to be commissioning left right and centre. Don't just dash off letters to all and sundry saying I told you to.

Right then. Here we go:

Small cuts
Colchester Mercury -11%
Eastern Angles –8.6%
Palace Watford -2.9%
Leicester Theatre Trust -11%
Northanpton Theatres
(aka Royal and Derngate)-3.1%
Nottingham Playhouse - 11.%
ATC -11%
Bush -11%
BAC -11%
Cardboard Citizens -11%
Cheek by Jowl -11%
Clean Break -11%
Donmar -11%
Duckie -11%
DV8 -11.7%
Emergency Exit -11%
Royal Court -4.4%
English Touring Theatre -11%
Gate -4.4%
Graeae -9.4%
Hackney Empire -11%
Half Moon YPT -4.4%
Hampstead -11%
Havering Theatre -11%
Headlong -11%
Improbable -2%
Kali -11%
Lyric Hammersmith -5.5%
NYT -11%
Oily Cart -1.3%
Orange Tree -11%
Polka Theatre -11%
Royal National Theatre -14.9%
Royal Exchange Manchester -11%
Stagetext -11%
Tamasha -11%
Complicite -11%
Theatre Peckham -11%
Tricycle -11%
Unicorn -11%
Theatre Sans Frontiere -10.9%
Contact -6.4%
Liverpool Everyman -4.9%
Nuffield Lancaster -1.3%
Octagon Bolton -4.9%
Peshkar Productions -11%
Unity Liverpool -0.7%
Pegasus Theatre -10%
Gloucestershire Everyman-11%
Kneehigh -11%
Miracle Theatre Trust -11%
Barbican Plymouth -11%
Salisbury Playhouse -11%
Sixth Sense Theatre for
Young People -11%
Bristol Old Vic -11%
Theatre Royal Plymouth -11%
Belgrade Coventry -14.9%
Big Brum -11%
Birmingham Rep -11%
New Vic Theatre -11%
Pentabus Theatre -11%
Talking Birds -11%
Forced Entertainment -14.9%
Hull Truck -8.1%
IOU Theatre -2.2%
NSDF -5.6%
Northern Broadsides -14.9%
Sheffield Theatres -10.9%
Stephen Joseph Theatre -14.9%
West Yorkshire Playhouse-10.9%
York Theatre Riyal -8.3%

Large cuts
Northcott Exeter -100%
Shared Experience -100%
Theatre Royal Bury St Edmonds -20.3%
Almeida -39%
Out of Joint -27.9%
Soho Theatre -17.6%
Talawa -21.9%
Theatre Centre -22.3%
Action Transport -37.8%
Nuffield Southampton -15.2%
RSC -15%
Harrogate Theatre -15%
Red Ladder -39.6%

Small increases
New Wolsey +0.4%
Oval House +14.4%
Paines Plough +5.8%
Spare Tyre +13.8%
Tara +10.3%
Theatre Rites +2.0%
Young Vic +5.5%
Live Theatre +2.2%
Northern Stage +8.9%
Burnley Youth Theatre +9.5%
Keswick Theatre by the Lake +11.4%
M6 Theatre Company +9.2%
Oldham Coliseum +5.8%
Chichester Festival Theatre +0.2%
Pilot Theatre +9.5%

Big increases
Hoipolloi +72%
Rifco Arts +57.5%
Arcola +82.1%
Broadway barking +52.8%
Carnesky Productions Ltd+23.9%
Company of Angels +20.3%
Deafinitely Theatre +22.3%
Fevered Sleep +16.7%
Frantic Assembly +17.8%
Fuel +203.5%
Julie McNamara
(aka Vital Xposure Limited) +51.8%
Kazzum 29.4%
LIFT 17.1%
Mimbre 26.5%
Ockham’s Razor 173.2%
Project Phakama UK +25.4%
Punchdrunk +141%
Redbridge Drama Centre +28.2%
Ridiculusmus +27.7%
Pacitti Company +34.2%
Red Room +62.8%
Told by an Idiot +26.9%
The Malting Theatre +270%
Theatre Hullaballoo +21.9%
Collective Encounters +61%
Quarantine Theatre +32.6%
Rasa Productions +32.6%
Ashton Group Theatre Factory +43.8%
Walk The Plank +126.5%
Whalley Range All Stars +20.2%
Portsmouth Theatre Royal+49.9%
Oxford Playhouse +20.3%
Watermill Theatre +27.8%
North Devon Theatres Trust +29.3%
The Roses Theatre +42.8%
Theatre Alibi +27.6%
Travelling Light +38.7%
Geese Theatre Company +27.9%
Stan’s CafĂ© Theatre +37.8%
Blaize Theatre Yorkshire +48.1%
Faceless theatre +166.3%
Freedom Studios +48.4%
Full Body And The
Voice Theatre Company +127.9%
Interplay Theatre +32.4%
Lawrence Batley theatre +17.9%
Mind The Gap +26.5%
Theatre Company Blah Blah Blah +21.6%
Theatre In The Mill +77.5%
Tutti Frutti Productions +79.8%
Unlimited Theatre +67.1%

New Clients
Gecko Theatre
HighTide festival
Corby Cube Theatre Trust
Red Earth Theatre
Blind Summit Education
Clod Ensemble
Mercury Musical Developments
Open Clasp Theatre Company
Zendeh Productions
20 Stories High
24:7 Theatre Arts Network
Blackpool Grand
Theatre Bristol
Tobacco Factory
Eclipse Theatre
Slung Low

Oh and finally, do let me know if I've missed any.


Fin Kennedy said...

Just realised - I don't think 100% cuts were listed in the spreadsheet from which I took these figures.

I'm hearing on the grapevine that the following companies have been cut entirely:

Theatre Absolute
Yellow Earth

Let me know if you hear of any more.

Gary Owen said...

Hi Fin

Didn't spot Forest Forge in your list - they've suffered a 100% cut. Sorry if it's there but I missed it.


Fin said...

No you're right, I missed them. Thanks Gary.

Keep em coming, people.

Fin said...

Just heard that Foursight in Birmingham are another 100% casualty.

keith said...

Theatre is
Urban Strawberry Lunch
Breaking cycles
Yellow earth
Moti roti
Shared experience

All cut! SHocking!!

Chris Bridgman said...

And ourselves - North West Playwrights - and Theatre Writing Partnership in East Midlands lose 100%. We've been told the development of writers can be better done elsewhere. But given that most of the major producers are taking some sort of reduction in ACE funding, hard to imagine they'll be able to expand their support of new writing.

Emma said...

The Greenroom Manchester has been completely cut-off.

Sarah Dickenson said...

Fin - North West Playwrights have lost their funding completely. I can't see NAWE or NALD on the list either. Big players in the New Writing/ Literature sector.

Anonymous said...

Trestle have had a 100% cut and also Theatre Is...

Fin said...

Thanks everyone. This gets more depressing by the hour. The main winners were clearly announced first.

Just realised i missed Riverside Studios too.

Anonymous said...

No grant to Derby Theatre.

keldale said...

Chol Theatre and Proper Job both in Huddersfield, 100% cut

Fin said...

I'm getting the feeling I might live to regret my attempt to put a positive spin on things. It seems that quite a lot of writers' development organisations, particularly in the Midlands and North-West have got it in the neck.

I'm hearing Theatre Writing Partnership and Writers in Prisons.

We might not feel this immediately but the long term prospects, particularly for younger writers looking to gain a foothold, are quite worrying.

But then I suppose shafting the next generation is at least in keeping with other government policies.

Anonymous said...

What needs to be remembered in all this is that companies that are now full NPOs will now not be ale to apply for grants for the arts so its not necessarily an increase in there funds just a change in the nature of their funding for some it could work out less.

Meredydd Barker said...

Last year, the Arts Council England gave the Northumberland Theatre Company £45,000 to buy a new truck to take its touring productions around rural village halls.

The Northumberland Theatre Company believed it ticked all the right boxes for Arts Council approval
Unfortunately, they will not be able to use it for much longer after the Arts Council axed its annual funding, which was £337,000 last year.

"We've got a truck and we've got premises, but we haven't got any money to do the work," says artistic director Gillian Hambleton, who has run the company since 1990.

BBC report

If anything encapsulates the madness and the sheer bad faith in some of these decisions it's this.

Rachel Riggs said...

The Little Angel Theatre also cut.

Fin said...

In a private correspondence, a critic writes:

"Interesting follow-up: I posted a link to your blog on my wall and a friend made the following comment: 'Missing - South Hill Park, The Point Eastleigh, Norden Farm, Newbury Corn Exchange. All 100% cuts'

Missed, I imagine, because they would come under 'mixed arts venues' or whatever the term was (or possibly because ACE didn't publicise their failure to get funding. And, no, I didn't have any idea any of them existed either - but I'm sure they were valuable and important in their local communities). I'd add Leeds Met Studio, which used to be a pretty great little touring venue for companies - it's where I first saw Forced Entertainment and Third Angel."

It's the wider damage to this sort of infrastructure which is the most worrying. When Half Moon Young People's Theatre take my shows for teenagers out on tour, they play at venues like these. They're often i small towns without any other cultural provisio for miles around. They'll also have suffered from local government cuts and are hardly likely to attract private sponsorship so will almost certainy close. That will affect not just local people, but will have a knock-on effect on the smaller touring companies and their ability to reach these communtiies - as well as closing down platforms for artists at the start of their careers.

We will inevitably focus on the big urban venues first but we shouldn't forget about these smaller regional centres. Keep an eye on eir campaigns - you might be able to add your weight.

Wiltshire Arts Promoters said...

Indeed a challenging day. What is interestingly unclear also from the lists is the difference between the amounts that were applied for and believed necessary for these organisations to continue their work effectively and what was granted! I suspect very different.

I've spotted a few missing from your list.

100% cuts to
Merlin Theatre
Kompany Malakhi
The Natural Theatre Company

Big increase
Dance Southwest/Pavilion Dance

Small decrease
Salisbury Arts Centre
Salisbury International Arts Festival

Pound Arts Trust