Written evidence submitted by the New
Vic Theatre, Newcastle under Lyme (arts 239)
Cuts in Arts Council funding will do
real long-term damage and undo much of the advance made by the
New Vic over the past 10 years. Serving an area with little
cultural provision and with pockets of severe deprivation, the
New Vic's Arts Council funding has enabled us to develop a wide
audience, of whom 26% are under 26s, and to create award-winning
outreach programs which enhance community cohesion and raise aspirations.
Every aspect of our work will be adversely affected by funding
Reductions in local authorities' budgets
are likely to result in further damage to the arts across the
The introduction of Arts Council Portfolio
Funding gives an opportunity to address the historic imbalance
in arts funding in favour of metropolitan centres, in particular
Londoncurrently just over 50% of regular arts funding goes
to London, where only 14.6% of the population lives.
Encouraging philanthropic giving as a
major source of income for arts organisations outside London,
and the most affluent centres of population, is unrealistic. As
a minimum, the tax regime would need to be adjusted to provide
increased incentives, A modified honours system could be part
of increased incentives for philanthropy in terms of status and
The New Vic theatre is based on the border of
Newcastle-under-Lyme and Stoke-on-Trent is the regional producing
theatre for Staffordshire, drawing large audiences from South
Cheshire, Shropshire and Derbyshire, too.
Established in North Staffordshire in 1962, the Victoria
Theatre Company was the first professional company in Britain
to perform permanently in the roundthat is, with the audience
on all sides of the stage.
The company moved from a converted cinema in
Stoke-on-Trent, to the purpose-built New Vic in Newcastle-under-Lyme,
in 1986. Over one third of the £3 million cost was raised
by local people.
Since its beginnings the company has had strong
links with the communities it serves. Under its founding director,
Peter Cheeseman, the company became internationally known for
its Drama Documentaries that used local voices to tell local stories
(Fight For Shelton Bar, Nice Girls, The Knotty). Today,
the New Vic is known both for its professional productions and
for its award-winning work in the community.
Our 10 major productions each year are designed,
built, directed, promoted and presented at our unique theatre-in-the-round.
Seasons of our own productions, visits by associate companies
Northern Broadsides and The Stephen Joseph Theatre Scarborough,
and a concert programme are seen by over 100,000 people a year.
As well as its professional performance work,
the New Vic has an extensive community involvement through an
Education Department and the award-winning New Vic Borderlines
programme, which concentrates on work that promotes social
inclusion, community cohesion and neighbourhood renewal. Since
their inception 10 years ago, these departments have involved
over 100,000 young people in all.
The New Vic's work is built on an outward looking
and collaborative approach which is reflected in a commitment
to developing to the full its potential as a cultural force, in
the arts and for the local community, promoting education and
In all, including concerts, exhibitions and
other productions, we were responsible for over 450 performances
last year, with 175,000 visitorsincluding 50,000 involved
in our education and outreach activities.
What impact recent, and future, spending cuts
from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage
at a national and local level
The New Vic has a turnover of just over £3.25
million and, using the Sheffield University methodology, we return
upwards of £5 million of economic activity annually into
the regional economy.
The New Vic has increased its earned income
over the past 10 yearsby about 20% in real termsa
result that was made possible by the additional funding we received
following the Regional Theatre Review in 2002-03.
Further investment since has enabled us to expand
and enhance our programme, the positive impact of which has been
felt in all areas of the theatre's work.
The increase in quality and scale of our work
has been recognised regionally and nationally and has also fed
back into increased attendances, meaning that public funding has
fallen as a proportion of our overall income, from 44% to 40%.
Our financial balance (2009-10) was:
31% Arts Council England funding; and
9% Local Authority funding.
All our outside funding is delivered within
Funding Agreement or Service Level Agreement frameworks with agreed
outputs and indicators, ensuring that we support the wider objectivescultural,
economic, social and educationalof our stakeholders.
The New Vic is the only producing theatre serving
a population in excess of one and a half millionand an
area, at the heart of which is North Staffordshire, that has among
the worst indicators in terms of economic, social and educational
Our Arts Council funding for next year means,
in real terms, a cut of around 10%, which equates to the loss
of five jobs at the New Vic. We have very little, if any, fat,
having consistently held down, and in fact reduced, our "back-office"
(administration, marketing finance and support staff) costs over
the past 10 years.
A cut of that size therefore can only be covered
by reducing what we spend directly on our participatory work and
stage productions (actors, musicians, designers, education practitioners)therefore
reducing our scale/ambition and/or doing fewer projects/productions
and therefore reaching fewer people.
If we receive a further cut, and even if the
cut in 2011-12 is not at least partially reinstated in future
years, we will suffer significant harm. The larger the cut, the
greater the damage and the greater the likelihood that it will
Our position is in line with the Arts Council's
view that 15% cuts to its portfolio of regularly funded organisations
represents a tipping point. The Arts Council's ability to meet
the Secretary of State's requirement, therefore, that this figure
is not exceeded is critical. The only way the Arts Council will
be able to hit that target, however, is for many organisations
to lose their funding altogether.
We are of course concerned that, in an area
where public sector jobs are a significant proportion of the workforce,
our ability to sustain our earned income may be undermined by
the impact of public sector job losses. In the already depressed,
traditional industrial economy of North Staffordshire, these are
unlikely to be readily or quickly replaced by additional private
Our salaries are already so low that recruitment
is a real issue. We have failed recently to fill two key positions
where the salaries we offer are not competitive in comparison
to other sectors - our average salary is just over £19,000
and over 80% of our staff are graduates. But for the uncertainty
of the funding position, salary increases would be high on the
Theatre Trust's agenda (not for senior staff or maybe for people
at the beginning of their careers, but for the "engine room"
jobs in the middle).
We have built a very strong team, who have made
the success of the company over the past 10 years possible, and
it would be a tragedy, and a great loss for North Staffordshire,
if we were unable to prevent that being dismantled.
We have very good relationships with both Newcastle
under Lyme Borough Council and Staffordshire County Council, and
we are developing relationships with new officers and members
at Stoke on Trent City Council. But we fear that the local authorities
will not be able to meet their own cost- cutting targets without
reducing their funding to us. We do not know yet, though, what
the scale or timetable for that may be.
Arts funding has, since its inception, focused
disproportionately on London and other metropolitan areas.
Arts Council England's recent list of regularly funded
organisations and the breakdown of funding received demonstrated,
from their own figures, that (when the National Companies are
included) then over half of that funding goes to London (£168
million of £325 million).
Even when the National Companies and their funding
are removed from the calculation, 32.6% of the funding goes to
London. Project-funded companies (whose funding is not included
in these figures) are also more likely to be London-based.
The 2001 census indicates that London represents
14.6% of the population. The per capita funding of the arts in
London is, therefore, way out of kilter with any reasonably equitable
distribution of funds, even if the fact that some London-based
organisations tour outside the capital is taken into account.
In addition to this funding, it is also comparatively
easier to raise money from the private sector in London, where
the majority of head offices are found, than outside where regional
offices are less in control and have smaller budgets. In addition,
a larger proportion of wealthy individuals are London- or South
One of the things the open application nature
of `Portfolio Funding' could make possible is a move away from
the domination of "historic funding" as the main criterion
in make funding decisions, to one where quality, impact and, in
particular, geographic distribution are able to play more central
Arts Council England's new Portfolio Funding
system is a once in a generation opportunity to ensure that arts
funding is distributed fairly and evenly across the country.
This won't be achievable in one step; the London-centric
infrastructure, built up over decades, cannot be dismantled or
relocated over night. But it is essential that the decisions made
in early 2011 make a significant first step in the process of
national funding equalization.
Our visionary and award-winning community programmes
are among the most successful in the country. Last year alone,
more than 20,000 people were involved in over 100 projects, everything
from reading clubs in primary schools to tackling crime in North
The New Vic Education and New Vic Borderlines
programmes were established in 1998/99. Since then, they have
worked with tens of thousands of local people.
New Vic Education was set up with the support
of the Staffordshire County Council Learning Service and New Vic
Borderlines received Arts Council England Lottery funding (Arts
for Everyone) from 1999-2003 and Single regeneration Budget 5
funding from 2002-05.
The company remained committed to these initiatives
when the start-up funding ceased, and has continued this work
through our own resources and a range of partnerships.
Many of these agencies and organizations, however,
are themselves looking at substantial cutsincluding schools
and colleges, Social Services, the police and fire services, and
the criminal justice system.
If they are unable to commission the projects
that have had such a positive impact on the social agenda in the
region, then it is very unlikely that work will be able to continue.
This work addresses a range of social issues
that generate significant cost to the police, Social Services
and the criminal justice system. The relatively small investment
in our work and our welcoming environment saves significantly
more expenditure elsewhere.
Through our core arts funding we have the capacity
and infrastructure to enable us to use theatre skills to deliver
projects that support a wide range of social and educational challenges.
These projects, because they are drama-based,
can achieve results that would be more expensive and less effective
by other means. The partnerships between public sector, private
and "third sector" organisations that make these projects
possible represent extraordinary value for money.
All Our Daughtersworking with
the Home Office and Foreign and Commonwealth Office Forced Marriage
Unit, and Refuge (the Domestic Abuse Charity) to raise awareness
of forced marriage and offer advice on where support can be sought.
"This project is saving lives," according to the Director
of the Crown Prosecution Service.
YizkorA drama based on the lives
of Holocaust survivors, created in partnership with the Holocaust
Memorial Day Trust, has been encouraging young people across the
region to tackle racism and prejudice during Remembrance month.
Following the lives of two Jewish teenagers during the Second
World War, Yizkor has been touring schools and communities across
Staffordshire, Manchester, Leeds and the West Midlands, with a
special performance at the National Memorial Arboretum.
Whether businesses and philanthropists can play
a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level
Whether there need to be more Government incentives
to encourage private donations
If the idea of increasing input from sponsorship
is to have significant traction, two things need to happenthe
United States are often held up as the model to which we should
aspirefor that to be feasible (and it would, even with
all the necessary changes in place, in any case take a long time
As is often said, tax incentives need
to be introduced to provide incentives for both businesses and
individuals, over and above Gift Aid.
In the US if you want to be seen as a success
or a substantial pillar of the community, you contribute philanthropically
by building something or joining the board of something, very
often in the Arts. In the UK, however, the honours system in its
present form plays a role in weakening that incentive.
Replacing public funding with private sector/philanthropic
giving in any significant way will, in any event, be extremely
hard to achieve in areas like North Staffordshire, where there
are very few "headquarters businesses" and where rich
individuals are thin on the ground.
That is not because we do not try. Our Building
Futures Appeal, for examplewith a target of £2 million,
launched in 2007, aimed at enabling us to expand our facilities
for work with young peoplehas reached £1.25 million.
Only £185,000 of that has come from individual sponsorship
and donations, however, with the bulk coming from Local Authorities,
Arts Council England and Trusts and Foundations.