Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ed Vaizey responds to In Battalions

I received the following letter this morning:

16 April 2013

Dear Mr Kennedy

I am writing to thank you and your colleague Helen Campbell-Pickford for the time and effort that you both put into producing your report, ‘In Battalions’, looking at the state of new theatre writing.

I welcome the work that you have done to take the temperature of the sector at these challenging times. I sent your report to the Arts Council so that they could give consideration to the issues.

It may not surprise you to know that I do not accept some of the dire predictions coming out of this report. It is easy to highlight fears and concerns within the sector – natural as they may be – but much harder to work out how to deal with them amidst an extremely challenging financial situation. This Government is wholly committed to arts and culture and I am determined to do everything I can to make sure that the sector gets through this difficult period without long term damage. We are doing this by prioritising funding going directly to arts organisations.

But we need to reduce the deficit, and DCMS sectors need to play their part in that. In the longer term our sectors, which rely on a mixed funding model, will benefit hugely from a strong economy and stable public finances. Overall, if you take into account direct Government funding and National Lottery funding, Arts Council England will receive £2.9billion in funding for the arts over the life of this Parliament, 2010-2015. That is in part down to our actions to restore the arts share of Lottery income to its original percentage, raising it from 16% to 20%.

Looking specifically at your concerns, Arts Council England has sought to protect its investment in both writer development and the production of new work during the last funding round. Most theatres that present new writing received a below average cash cut in funding of just 2.3%. Theatres with an important new writing record, such as the Royal Court, Live Theatre Newcastle and Paines Plough received an above-average rise in funding.

The Arts Council’s Grants for the Arts Lottery-funded programme also supports new writing. In 2011/12 it funded projects which were wholly focused on new writing to the value of £2,792,727. In 2010/11 the value was £2,040,485 and in the first six months of this financial year the value was £1,070,899.

The Arts Council also held a workshop for 40 playwrights to offer support and guidance on making applications to its Grants for the Arts programme. I believe that the Arts Council may also have met with you to discuss writer development and how Grants for the Arts funding can help.

Of the eighteen organisations that responded by name in your survey I noticed that eight have actually received significant increases in funding for this year set against 2011/2012 and one organisation shows no change in their funding. Furthermore of all theatre organisations which are funded, 24 received increases in funding set against 23 which show reductions whilst 11 showed no change. Overall funding for this year for the organisations mentioned in the report stands at £66m set against a figure of £50m for 2011/2012, an increase of over 30%.

Whilst I in no way deny the overriding concern being felt in the sector at this difficult time, I was also interested and heartened to read some of the comments in the report that speak of optimism, resilience, innovation, and making the most of the way the Government is continuing to support the sector.

There is no room for complacency, but plenty of scope to innovate in order to preserve and foster the high quality new theatre writing.

Ed Vaizey MP
Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries

This letter is available as a PDF download here.

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