Thursday, February 13, 2014

In Battalions Delphi study - Parliamentary launch (3)

Two weeks ago, on 29 January 2014, Helen Campbell Pickford and I launched our In Battalions Delphi study in the House of Commons, at the invitation of Kerry McCarthy MP, chair of the Performers' Alliance All-Party Parliamentary Group. It was a well-attended event with MPs, peers and representatives from across the British theatre industry.

There were several speakers on the day, and in a series of blog posts over the next few days I am going to be capturing and publishing the text of their speeches here. Today is the turn of Giles Croft, artistic director of Nottingham Playhouse.

Previous speakers include me, playwright Dennis Kelly and Neil Darlison, director of Theatre at Arts Council England.
Giles Croft:
"In the past 10 years Nottingham Playhouse has produced more than 50 new plays on a variety of scales in a variety of locations. Of those, 27 have been produced in our 750 seat main house (this excludes 6 new versions of classic texts). 18 were Nottingham Playhouse commissions and 12 were by Nottingham writers, most of whom have little or no presence in London.

Nottingham writers commissioned and produced on the main stage include: Amanda Whittington, Stephen Lowe, William Ivory, Leah Chillery, Andy Barrett, Nick Wood, Michael Pinchbeck and Michael Eaton.

Nottingham writers commissioned and produced on the small scale tour or in the Studio include: Michelle Vacciana, Mufaro Makubika, Clare Cole, Laura Lomas.

In last year’s Rebalancing Cultural Capital report there was a section headed ‘Addressing a long-standing imbalance in Arts Council funding’, which received little attention; its contents highlight the following:

In 1982 an independent report found Arts Council expenditure in London in 1980/81 to be £3.37 per head of population (php) against £0.66 (19.6% of the London figure) in the rest of England.

A 2001 Arts Council report recorded London by then receiving £12.85 php from DCMS/Treasury sources in 1999 against the rest of England at £2.40 php (18.4% of the London figure).

In 2013 comparative figures show London receiving £19.87 php compared to £3.55 php in the rest of England (17.8% of London). If you include ACE and DCMS spending the 2013 figures then become £68.99 in London against £4.58 php (6.7% of London).

I have been asked to speak today because we are currently facing threats to our funding.

Since the last NPO round, we have already had to deal with £215,000 of cuts from a combination of local authority sources and ACE. If the current proposals from the County, City and ACE all go through, that figure will rise to £342,000. That is £127,000 worse off than we thought we were 8 weeks ago.

As a result of having make extensive cuts at short notice, for the first time in the history of the Playhouse, we have no commissioning budget.

We currently play to 65% attendance over the year, but at our most recent Board planning day we were talking about achieving levels of 70 to 75%; where is the room for risk in that?

We will not close and we will continue to produce work, though it is likely there will be less of it. What it will really mean is that new writing will be harder to deliver, there will be further centralisation (Londonisation), a loss of identity and the undermining of the regional voice. 

I’m sympathetic to the County wanting to make a reduction in our support (though 100% is too drastic and too sudden), and the City with its 5% cut is modest by comparison. I also understand that ACE needs to pass to its clients the Treasury cut that it received. But surely now it is time for ACE to look at how its funds are distributed and to fight for rebalancing the distribution of funding in order to protect our ‘national’ theatre and consequently our regional voices."

The In Battalions Delphi study contains 36 innovative proposals on ways to protect risk-taking on new work for the stage, despite austerity.

Photo: Robert Day

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