A level playing field? One thought from the ITC AGM

So to the ITC AGM at The Albany,  as usual a thought provoking and inspiring afternoon. Lots of great thinking,conversation and possibilities, and underlying it all a mantra first expressed by Gavin Barlow of the Albany;  ‘the potential impact of the independent theatre sector is far greater than the sum of its parts’.

In fact Alan Davey (@armslengthal) was quick to acknowledge that ‘small organisations are where exciting things are done’ . Which is why I’m finding the Arts Councils approach to encouraging National Portfolio bids a little baffling. As stressful as it is the three year requirement to bid for regular funding is a very good thing. Its demystified, and made transparent a process which (with RFO awards) used to be a mysterious as the election of a pope. It provides a process for dead wood (excuse the phrase) to be cleared out and fresh ideas to be supported. As a sector (or as an ecology) we need this.

But this will only work if its a fair process. As a GM of a current NPO I have something to refer back to (a previous bid), I’ve been invited to in depth and useful briefing sessions and have had detailed conversations with our lead officer.  Compare that with a new applicant (and let’s remember here around 2/3 of ITC members are not NPOs). They have  not been invited to briefings (if they know where to look they can find the slides but that is not the same). They wont have the experience of a successful NPO bid, or indeed perhaps of any bid to NPO at all and in the slimmed down arts council, understandably,access to the ‘right’ person to talk to is limited.

Is it really right that Arts Council are only now  thinking about those organisations outside the current portfolio ( as Alan’s answer suggested) who might want to apply.  Surely organisations outside the portfolio deserve the same level of advice and support as current NPOs….otherwise we risk returning to a system which is as shrouded in mystery as the election of a pope.

(More from my AGM notes tomorrow)

Matthew Linley blogs in an independent capacity.

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