Here’s the thoughts of our ADs James & George on the ROCC report…
Last week’s Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report highlights the imbalance in arts funding between London and the rest of England.
The headline writers seized on the report’s claim that the ratio is 15:1 with DCMS and ACE distributing money to the arts equivalent to £69 per head of population (php) in London against £4.60 php in the rest of the country.
Of funds distributed by ACE, the report estimates £20 php in London against £3.60 php in the rest of England.
On the face of it, that’s a huge disparity, but the figures don’t take into account companies like Paines Plough, funded by ACE London, but with the specific remit to tour.
In 12/13, as a National Portfolio Organisation, we were in receipt of £313,000 from Arts Council England. We were funded by the London office, so that grant is included in the php figure for London in the ROCC report.
But we used our subsidy to make shows that toured to 46 different towns and cities across the UK, from Kendal to Chipping Norton to Canterbury.
We made shows with 22 co-producing theatres, only four of which were in London, leveraging our subsidy to generate a turnover of £750,000 that passed through local economies across the whole country.
Our very reason for being is to tour, and therefore to distribute our subsidy around the UK. That’s the remit given to us by ACE, and the criteria against which we are evaluated as part of a balanced portfolio.
There are lots of other companies funded in London but with national remits. Headlong, ATC, ETT to name but a few. And many more examples of London funding reaching beyond the M25 – the National Theatre, using its London funding, tours its hit shows and has developed a huge audience for NT Live, giving people a chance to see world class theatre in their local cinema.
We need both sides of the coin. A strong local cultural offer, and a world class national offer. As much as attending their local theatre or art gallery, for many people, a trip to London to see a show at one of our major institutions is a cherished part of cultural life, and funding the NT properly means you get WAR HORSE. London funding does not exclusively benefit Londoners. And as the recent Visit Britain report asserts, theatre is a bigger driver of tourism than sport, with all the attendant return on investment to the treasury.
We’re passionate about touring, so much so that we avoided London altogether for two years. And we see first hand, week in, week out, that deeper investment is desperately needed in hundreds of high-quality, creative, inventive, heart-of-their-community theatres from Aberdeen to the Isle Of Wight. We’re vociferous advocates for greater investment in regional theatre.
But at the same time, it’s crucial the ROCC report does not foment a bidding war between London and the rest of the country.
Without considering touring companies like Paines Plough, the picture painted is a partial one, and without a strong, properly funded London arts scene, we’d be poorer as a whole nation.
James & George