Thursday, March 31, 2011

Those 100% cuts in full

So there was one important category missing from my list yesterday, which also, oddly, was missing from the original ACE spreadsheet too. And that was those theatre companies and venues whose funding has been entirely removed. Although I did include Shared Experience and Northcott Exeter, these were gleaned from press and Twitter coverage and weren't in among the other cuts figures. They probably featured in this main coverage because they were the highest profile names, or those which made the loudest immediate fuss. News of others seems to have been withheld, or at least announced last, perhaps in the hope that this might provide some sort of cover.

But I would argue that it's these smaller venues and companies that are the most worrying for playwrights. They tend to be venues in small towns, like South Hill Arts Centre in Bracknell, or The Point in Eastleigh, where there usually isn't any other cultural provision for miles around. They're also the most vulnerable to regional local authority cuts.

Venues and companies like those listed below make up a rarely visible 'roots system' in British theatre. They might not be the places that commission you directly, but they might be the place you see you first professional show as a kid, or take part in your first youth theatre (where I first tried my hand at writing.)

They also comprise a small scale touring circuit for companies like Half Moon Young People's Theatre who often commission writers at the start of their careers and who - crucially - tour high quality plays to young people around the UK, thereby recruiting the next generation of theatre audiences for us all. Half Moon themselves seem to have got away with 4.4% cut. But if the platforms in towns around the UK where they would normally perform their work are taken away, then their ability to share their work, not to mention some of their income, will inevitably contract further than that small cut suggests.

I've been quite lucky on this blog not have suffered from any trolls for a while. But with yesterday's post attracting over 1,000 hits in 24 hours, I know they might be lurking. The standard Guardian troll response to complaints like mine is 'Well, if those arts centres don't put on work which enough of their community wants to pay for in full, then why should we subsidise a minority interest?'

There are several answers to this.

The first is that these arts centres often serve communities that live nowhere near London and that aren't particularly affluent. They couldn't afford, unaided, to pay full market rates for these arts activities. The argument is often made about tax-funded arts provision 'taking money from the bus conductor's pocket to subsidise a middle class hobby'. This is a fatuous argument. Far more taxes are paid by wealthier citizens, who more often subsidise the community theatre in the bus driver's small town. He may not use it all that much, but his kids might.

The second is that these venues are often mixed art-form venues. They might run everything from youth theatres, to stand up comedy, to an art gallery, to a pensioner's sculpture class. Individually, these separate strands may not attract a majority of the community, so in the strictest sense may not be financially viable. But put together they comprise a huge hub of community arts activity, all of which will be affected if you hack away at the central grant. These communities have just as much right to creative expression and communal enjoyment of arts that engage them as citizens of the world, as their metropolitan cousins. In that sense, subsidy is redistributive.

The third is that just because you can't easily measure the wider effects of these venues on their communities doesn't mean they don't have any. That sometimes gets lost in our Whitehall-led culture of proven, measurable outcomes. I recently wrote to Croydon Council in defence of Croydon Clocktower and their proposal to withdraw its subsidy. I argued that, though I don't live in Croydon, when I go there to see a show I'll usually have a meal, a drink or two, get a taxi, maybe do a bit of shopping - none of which would enter the local economy without the chief draw of the show I was coming to see.

Then there's the local young people. I grew up in a small town and my god was it boring. It was so boring we used to vandalise things, harass passers-by and drive round town like dangerous twats. The nights I didn't do that was when I was rehearsing a show for my local youth theatre. When BAC was threatened with withdrawal of its council grant in 2007 I quoted this to the Tory-led council, arguing that if BAC closed they would spend far more on increased policing costs in their south London borough.

Then there's the elderly. Study after study shows that participation in the arts has a direct benefit on health, and can even stave off dementia.

Once, in an episode of The West Wing, that rosy fantasy about an impossibly liberal American government, I spotted a sign pinned to a filing cabinet in the background of a civil servant's office. It read: 'If you think education is expensive, you should try ignorance'. Well, in the same spirit, 'If you think regional arts centres are expensive, you should try boredom.'

Anyway, those 100% cuts in full:

Theatre Absolute
Yellow Earth
Forest Forge
Foursight (Birmingham)
Theatre is
Urban Strawberry Lunch
Breaking cycles
Moti Roti
Shared experience
Proper Job (Huddersfield)
Northumberland Theatre Company

Northcott Exeter
Greenroom Manchester
Riverside Studios
Chol Theatre (Huddersfield)
Little Angel Theatre
South Hill Park (Bracknell)
The Point (Eastleigh)
Newbury Corn Exchange
Nodren Farm (Maidenhead)

Development organisations
North West Playwrights
Theatre Writing Partnership
National Association of Writers in Education (NAWE)
National Association for Literature development (NALD)
Writers in Prisons

As ever, let me know if I've missed any.


Anonymous said...

Hi Fin

Great article. Thanks very much.

You've missed out Third Angel from the 100% cut companies.

Mother Inferior. said...

Wakefield Theatres Trust.

Yvonne said...

Man, it hurts a lot more today than yesterday. How can we continue to produce great playwrights, at any age, without development organisations who do the most important work. You don't get taught script writing in school (unless you're incredibly lucky with the teacher draw). How can anyone get to their first production without first been given the tools to craft a play?

I feel sick.

Anonymous said...

Collective Artistes - 100% cut.

Fin said...

Brewhouse Theatre and Arts Centre too. (Thanks Sam.)

Anonymous said...

The audience development agencies, who work extensively with arts organisations (including theatres) to provide Market intelligence, consultancy and communications services are also missing from the list ... Great post by the way

Anonymous said...

The Merlin Theatre in Frome, Somerset - all funding from ACE, Somerset CC and Mendip DC will be gone from 2012.

Cara Courage said...

Same Sky from Brighton, i believe, and in the architecture sector we ahve the follwing losses:

Anonymous said...

Somerset based participatory arts organisation Actiontrack Performance Company have also lost 100% of their funding from ACE.

Anonymous said...

Think the Millfield Arts Centre in Enfield has taken a 100% cut from what I've heard but not sure... Gutted as it's where I'm writing for at the moment. Fantastic venue and vital to the community.

Anonymous said...

My housemate is an actor for for BoxClever education company and seems to think they've taken a 100% cut. Again, not sure. Would be awful if so - they travel all over doing great work.

Anonymous said...

Good blog and thanks for the list. I should point out that although Little Angel Theatre didn't receive NPO status yesterday they actually have never received ACE revenue funding - although they deeply deserve to. Thanks.

Peth said...

So many on this list are organisations making work in relationship to a specific community. I haven't done the homework yet, but does the new list replace this specificity with more touring ? If I live in Northumberland or Hampshire is there any way I can intere-relate to theatre making and professional theatre makers now ?

Anonymous said...

Oxfordshire Theatre Company 100% cut

Anonymous said...

Derby Theatre (previously Derby Playhouse) 100% cut

Hilary said...

Also Reckless Sleepers, Metro Boulot Dodo and Forkbeard Fantasy, all 100% cut. I'm now getting slightly obsessed with all the cut companies, particularly the smaller, regionally based ones, getting recognition, albeit in such a depressing context.

Henry NAYT said...

Just found this, so little bit late in the day, but the National Association of Youth Theatres (NAYT) had 100% cuts in 2011