My thoughts on todays Arts and Philanthropy figures

Flourishing Pyramids

Woke up this morning to the dulcit tones of Jeremy Hunt on @BBCR4Today – always a pleasure!

The main thrust of the story was that recent figures released by @arts_business show that business investment in the arts fell by 7% despite the culture secretary saying last year that 2011 was going to be the “year of corporate responsibility” with the aim of driving up the number of FTSE listed companies giving money to the arts. You can read more about the story here , here and here.

Without access to the full data its difficult to comment further (especially as the news stories focus on very different figures). Here at Eastern Angles we’ve managed to hold our own this year with sponsorship support (though there are very clear signs this is about to get much harder), with our Copperfield programme have managed to grow our individual giving contribution significantly and have a lot of work to do in respect of trusts and foundations.

Thats not a bad performance for a touring company based in the region – set against the current context. I’ve talked about the massive discrepancy between London and the regions (and particularly the East) before here and these recently released figures continue to show it remains an issue :-

‘The fortunes of the countries and regions of the UK varied dramatically last year. London, which captured 81% of all individual giving, was the biggest winner, reporting a nine percent increase in private investment over the previous year, amounting to over £40m; but at the same time private funding in the South West fell by over £7m, representing a 32 percent fall, and the overall figures for the rest of England, excluding London, showed a drop of over 11 percent’ [Arts Professional]

It goes without saying Philanthropy in all its forms is always going to be easier for the bigger, larger higher profile organisations. But as many far better orators than me have pointed out the arts are a complicated ecology.

‘The arts are a flourishing pyramid, cut funding to the smaller, regional organisations and sooner or later you starve the larger ones to death’ @exitthelemming (Sam West) – see the full speech here

Much of the arts activity that finds its way into the larger, higher profile organisations will have been nurtured, supported, developed in much smaller organisations – many of them in the regions. Here at Eastern Angles we have three young, exciting writers under commission. Our current show Private Resistance is directed by up and coming director Naomi Jones who first saw Eastern Angles perform at her school in Safron Walden (see the Stage Feb 23, p27 for an interview with her).

I’ve been listening to a podcast about the value of cultural activity by Dr Dave O Brien. In it he argues how government cultural policy is based on market failure (intervene only where there is market failure and only if it would be better to do so than do nothing at all).

In this time of austerity its clear that philanthropy is going to be important in order to ensure the continuing success of Britains vibrant cultural sector. Its also clear – to me at least – that there is a ‘market failure’ in spreading that philanthropic support across all of the pyramid – and not just its tip.

So what can @Jeremy_Hunt, @edvaizey, @DanJarvisMP and @DonFosterMP do about it?

As readers of this blog will know I sometimes make parallels between my two favourite things – the world of the arts and cricket. Crickets governing body – the English Cricket Board provides support across all levels of the game. So money raised through the high revenue elements (test matches, tv deals) is spread across the poorer counties and grass roots level.

Clearly the arts do not have a governing body as such but could a simple idea like this apply?

One way would be for all the major arts organisations (NPO’s perhaps) to pledge to donate say 3% of income raised through philanthropy into a central pot to be redistributed across the pyramid by a central organisation like the National Campaign for the Arts. A kind of royalties cheque!

Or – if as he suggested on Radio 4 this morning – Jeremy Hunt really does fancy himself as Cupid rather than matching an FTSE company to a specific arts organisation how about matching it to the sector as a whole.

Sure there are issues (how on earth do you decide how to distribute the funds , whose in – whose not for example*) but if our pyramid is to continue to flourish we have to do something to address the imbalance.

* I’d potentially favour an equal split of the funds raised – so 250 ‘members’ donate 3% of their income and receive back total amount raised / 250. Be a kind of CSR for the larger organisations!

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2 thoughts on “My thoughts on todays Arts and Philanthropy figures

  1. Pingback: Digital play « Matthew Linley’s Blog

  2. Pingback: A year on my blog – the top ten posts of 2012 « Matthew Linley’s Blog

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