Random Post it Thoughts I – the future of small scale venues?

Random Post it Thoughts

Thought I’d try this for a while – rather than throwing up ‘complete’ blog entries – I’d take a more scap book approach of thoughts and ideas around a given theme or idea. If it works then I might just collate the thoughts into something more organised – more thought through – but I quite like the idea of the immediacy and random nature of ‘post it thoughts’

And of course it also means that people can contribute their own thoughts and arguments at any time!

So I thought I’d start off with The future role of the smaller arts venue…


For a while now I’ve been wondering about the role of venues in the arts sector – or rather in particular the role of arts centres and small scale sector spaces.

What set me off were three connected but separate thoughts

Firstly every year at Phoenix (my former venue) – and indeed at practically every venue I’d been involved in – the building and organisational costs would rise whilst funding and income would stay broadly the same. In a good year we’d manage to ‘hold’ artistic spending (effectively a cut when you take into account inflation) – in a bad year it would decrease. We were there to promote and enable art – yet each year less and less of our turnover would be spent on the very thing we were there to do.

Secondly it became increasingly clear that for whatever reason the best and most interesting work seemed to increasingly happen outside venues – in found spaces,site specific, in peoples houses,in the street. Why support the huge costs of a building base if the ‘new, exciting and experimental work’ was happening elsewhere?

Thirdly there was the fact that the art centre circuit boom was born out of a reaction to the perceived dull mundainity of rep and commercial theatre. These were the spaces (often found or recovered – South Street the venue in Reading I ran was a former labour exchange or dole office) for excitement and experimentation. But today has the sector become too much of the establishment in itself, so much so they’ve lost their sense of purpose?

And perhaps you could add a fourth thing – touched upon lots recently at the #SOTA11 event – when there was a conistant call of ‘where are the artists?’. Buildings eat resources like nobodies business – requiring more and more people to keep the monster live and well. So a whole industry of managers and staff (of which I’m part) springs up – and as with all organisations after a while cultures can set in which rather than ‘lets get this done’ are more focused on why it cant be done.

Then we had the recession, the big society, RFO’s re applying for their money and the threat and possibility of a brand new creative landscape. I re tweeted a telling comment from Lyn Gardener’s blog

if, when the pack is thrown into the air, it comes down looking much the same, the future won’t be bright for the arts

Started me re thinking about a favourite topic of mine – What role has the venue in the new world?


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