Memorandum submitted by Kathryn Dean,
WORKING NATIONALLY FOR THE ARTS
1. This is evidence to the Culture Media
and Sport Committee's enquiry into arts re-development projects,
specifically the Arts Council of England's (ACE) plans for reforming
itself, from a number of national arts infrastructure organisations
(see Annex). It follows closely a response we made to ACE's proposal
Working together for the arts. This joint response concerned
only a matter of operational detail that affects these organisations
2. We understand that ACE's view is that
"touring companies and what are currently termed the national
companies" should be funded, in the new structure, from a
regional office; and that this would be the region in which the
funded organisation "is physically based" (all quotes
are from Working together for the arts). This isn't helpful
to infrastructure organisations for a number of reasons.
3. Infrastructure organisations (also called
second-tier, umbrella or support organisations or arts agencies)
occupy a unique position in the structure of the arts. Their role
is not to create or perform art, but to support those who do.
They are national. They variously carry out the following roles:
develop national policy and strategy,
both within and outside the arts, for the support of the organisations
and artists they represent;
offer support and advice, including
very comprehensive national information systems (which often provide
source data for ACE at national as well as regional level);
influence artistic practice, from
a broad agenda;
develop high-level relations with
national governmentnot only in the DCMS, but variously
in DfES, DWP, the Home Office, and many other places;
establish partnerships at a national
level across the arts and non-arts sectors;
promote the arts and their value
nationally, and manage major advocacy initiatives;
commission research to develop policy
and make the case.
4. All these are roles ACE is seeking to
retain within its proposed national office. It doesn't make sense,
therefore, for infrastructure organisations to have their primary
relationship with a regional office.
5. ACE's proposal makes it clear that regional
offices will, if anything, have a stronger regional focus than
RABs currently do. There is no reason for them to have any interest
in a national organisation. Some will be less disposed to infrastructure
organisations than othersunfortunate if that's where one
happens to be "based".
6. Without a clear acknowledgement of their
national role, infrastructure organisations will find it more,
not less, difficult to form relationships with regions other than
the one they end up billeted with: already, one infrastructure
organisation reports difficulty in getting funding for regional
activities from an RAB because they happen to have their headquarters
in another region.
7. The capital-centric nature of much of
the arts world suggests that those infrastructure organisations
who happen to have a London postcode will be better off than others:
already, one London Arts officer has been heard to refer dismissively
of one national infrastructure organisation as being "based
in a shack in the country".
8. Infrastructure organisations are truly
national, working over the whole of England simultaneously with
information and advice, or by promoting conferences, training
courses and other events in a number of regionsmuch more
so than the so-called "national" companies, which are
just very big, or touring companies, which can have a relationship
only with one region at a time. Many already have distributed
workers working nationally, or are virtual organisations with
no single physical location, and so would have to be arbitrarily
allocated to a region.
9. The infrastructure organisations work
closely together, often giving their time to working and steering
groups at the now Arts Council of England. With different infrastructure
organisations having their primary relationship with different
regional offices, according to the arbitrariness of their postcodes,
this close collaboration will become much less effective and will
lead to inefficiencies. A place for dialogue with the infrastructure
organisations at the centre of the arts funding system needs to
be enhanced, not destroyed.
10. Many infrastructure organisations work
across the UK. Some have their headquarters outside England, even
while having as strong a role in England as in other nations of
the UK. In ACE's model, they couldn't have any relationship with
the Arts Council of England.
11. It makes it impossible for infrastructure
organisations who currently don't have a funding relationship
with the arts funding system to develop one.
12. There will simply be no incentive for
a regional office to pick up as a client someone who (a) only
works in their region for 10 per cent of their time; and (b) is
in any case concerned with national policy and advocacy which
is none of a regional office's business anyway.
ACE says in Working together for the arts
that they want the national office to concentrate on "genuinely
strategic issues". That is what we do, and that is what we
want of ACE. We believe this cannot be done effectively unless
the national infrastructure organisations continue to have their
primary relationship with the national office, not an arbitrarily
chosen regional one.