Memorandum submitted by the National Operatic
and Dramatic Association
writing with reference to the Department for Culture, Media and
Sport Select Committee inquiry into the nature and adequacy of
public support for theatre in Britain. I would like to request
that the nature and lack of public support for voluntary or amateur
theatre in Britain be included within the enquiry.
The National Operatic and Dramatic Association
(NODA) is the major infrastructure body for amateur and community
theatre in the UK. Founded in 1899, it has a membership of over
2,400 amateur theatre companies and 3,000 individuals throughout
the United Kingdom, staging musicals, operas, plays, concerts
and pantomimes in a wide variety of performing venues, ranging
from the country's leading professional theatres to village halls.
Amateur theatre is often a springboard for the development of
new performing talent, and a survey of our members carried out
in 2002 revealed the value of value of amateur theatre to the
UK economy and the sheer number of people involved in this community
The total annual turnover of NODA-affiliated
amateur theatre groups is £34 million.
The total number of performances
given per year is 25,760.
The total number of people attending
performances per year is 7,315,840.
The total number of people actively
involved is 437,800. 29% of these are under 21.
Public support in the UK for amateur theatre
is patchy. There is no dedicated and publicly funded infrastructure
body in England, with amateur theatre being represented by a number
of umbrella bodies including NODA, the Little Theatre Guild of
Great Britain (LTG), the National Drama Festivals Association
(NDFA) and the All England Drama Festival (AETF). All of these
bodies save AETF have a UK-wide remit, and all are self-financing.
Arts Council England does not provide any funding towards infrastructure
organisations for amateur and community theatre, other than youth
theatre through its support for the National Association of Youth
NODA has 2,090 affiliated societies in England.
The Little Theatre Guild (LTG), which represents amateur companies
which control their own premises, has 95 members located in England.
In addition the All England Theatre Festival and National Drama
Festival Association cater for amateur theatre groups which participate
in local drama festivals, and are concerned with around 100 festivals
of one-act and full length plays, involving some 500 or more theatre
companies. However it is clear that there are thousands of community
drama groups in England that currently do not benefit from a dedicated
infrastructure body1. It is believed that establishing such a
body would be of immense benefit to the many hundreds of thousands
of people, particularly in rural communities, who participate
in this very valuable form of community activity, in particular
through the development of training and festivals at regional
level, funding schemes and enhancement of opportunities for new
writing and cultural diversity.
The existing organisations representing amateur
theatre in England have held a series of meetings (funded by the
Carnegie United Kingdom Trust) under the chairmanship of Charles
Hart, Drama Officer of Arts Council England, and have agreed in
principle that there is a need for a dedicated association for
amateur theatre groups in England. They have therefore agreed
that a feasibility study should be commissioned to explore how
such an association should be constituted and financed and what
its exact role should be. Funding has been secured from the Carnegie
UK Trust and the DTI, a consultant appointed, and the report will
be published in Spring 2005.
The situation is very different in Scotland
and Wales, which have their own long-standing representative bodies.
These serve as models of what such an organisation in England
could achieve. The Scottish Community Drama Association (SCDA)
was founded in 1926 and works to promote all aspects of community
drama in Scotland. SCDA received funding of £50,000 from
the Scottish Arts Council in 2004-05. The Drama Association of
Wales/ Cymdeithas Ddrama Cymru (DAW) was founded in 1934 and has
been core funded by the Arts Council of Wales since 1974. The
function of the Drama Association of Wales is to increase opportunities
for people in the community to be creatively involved in drama.
DAW received funding of £123,400 in 2003-04 from the Arts
Council of Wales.
There are three recent publications of relevance
to the issue of the lack of public support for voluntary theatre
1. Volunteering: A Code of Good Practice,
part of the Compact on relations between Government and the
Voluntary and Community Sector in England.
This code applies to all government departments
and by extension NDPBs, and specifically states that "public
funding should be invested in creating and maintaining a modern,
dynamic volunteering infrastructure" and that the Government
undertakes to "aim to adopt policies which ensure that volunteering
infrastructure bodies can rely on realistic sustainable long-term
2. The National Council for Voluntary Organisations
(NCVO) recently published its Compact Advocacy Programme Departmental
ReviewEvaluating the effectiveness of the Compact within
the Department for Culture, Media and Sport. This provides
a fairly robust analysis of the failure of the DCMS, and ACE in
particular, to implement the Compact fully. The Review states
categorically that "the Compact and its five Codes of Good
Practice apply equally to NDPBs as to central government departments
such as DCMS" and that this year's Compact Action Plan "includes
working with NDPBs to ensure that they too are Compact compliant
in all their dealings with the VCS".
NODA has itself discovered complete ignorance
of the Compact at its regional ACE office. There is a clear divide
between ACE's national office, which voices a desire to assist
voluntary arts, and the regional arts councils, which have responsibility
for Grants for the Arts and which do not consider themselves empowered
to take on new revenue clients.
3. Engaging With The Voluntary And Community
Sector: The DCMS Strategy for Implementation of HM Treasury's
Cross Cutting Review "The Role of the Voluntary and Community
Sector in Service Delivery".
This Strategy "seeks to identify ways in
which [the DCMS] can work more closely with the sector, to mutual
benefit, using its distinctive features and expertise to help
achieve the Department's objectives, and in return, using the
Department's resources to support and help build capacity in the
NODA is delighted that the DCMS wishes to work
more closely with the voluntary sector. Unfortunately Arts Council
England does not appear to take quite such an enlightened attitude.
The Strategy notes that "in 2003-04 ACE is providing approximately
£770,000 of revenue funding across a number of organisations
that support voluntary and community groups". This represents
just 0.3% of the total revenue funding provided to arts organisations
by ACE that year. In particular, while there is at least some
revenue funding going to the Voluntary Arts Network and to amateur
music and dance, there is, as already pointed out, no revenue
funding for amateur theatre infrastructure bodies.
The Strategy states that the DCMS will ensure
that all NDPBs are aware of the terms of the Compact and its Codes
of Good Practice. We have written to Arts Council England to enquire
what steps it is taking to implement the Compact. They have replied
that they are working to ensure that they comply with its principles
and recognise the need to raise awareness of the Compact among
We have also noted that the DCMS is committed
to assisting in increasing VCS activity by 5% in 2006. We have
respectfully pointed out that since, as is acknowledged in the
Strategy, there has been no proper analysis of the number of people
participating in the voluntary arts, it is odd to seek an increase
in numbers participating without actually mapping the numbers
involved in the first place. Our own research suggests that close
on 450,000 people are actively involved in amateur theatre, and
the Voluntary Arts Network can provide some indicative figures
for other voluntary arts activity, but there is a real need for
a proper comprehensive mapping exercise. We are pleased that the
Strategy states that DCMS will "encourage" Arts Council
England to carry out better mapping of the voluntary sector, but
are yet to establish what steps ACE will take to achieve this.
Finally, I should expand on the earlier reference
to the comparison between the lack of funding for amateur theatre
and the public support given to amateur music. Making Music (the
National Federation of Music Societies) received £138,436
of revenue funding from Arts Council England in 2003-04 along
with £36,627 from Arts Council North East and £51,500
from Arts Council Yorkshire. Through public funding it has been
able to develop infrastructure support for amateur music groups,
initiatives to enhance new writing and participation by young
people, funding schemes and a network of regional training and
development officers, which the amateur theatre sector in England
can only look on with envy.
We hope very much the Committee will wish to
include public support for amateur theatre within the remit of
its enquiry, and look forward to hearing from you.
6 January 2005
3 A sample investigation of activities in five English
cities and districts revealed that only 19% of amateur drama groups
active there were affiliated to a national "umbrella"
organisation. Hutchinson, R and Feist, A (1991): Amateur Arts
in the UK, London: Policy Studies Institute. Back