Examination of Witnesses (Questions 100
TUESDAY 15 JANUARY 2002
100. That is very reassuring. I wonder if I
can just move on now to the South Bank. I was intrigued by the
remark by Gerry Robinson when you said that the reason why the
Rogers Plan did not go ahead was because there just was not the
money available. Is the money available now if the Rogers Plan
was to be resurrected?
(Mr Robinson) No, certainly not money that comes from
the Arts Council. It was looking for £93 million, something
of that order, I might be wrong, it might have been £94 million
or £92 million. The scale of the money simply was not available.
I think if you look at the way that the plan is put together now
it seems to me to have the right mix. You quite wrongly suggested
that we prevaricated with the South Bank Centre and we were slow
in our decision. Far from it, we told them no very quickly, we
were very straight forward about it which is in itself important.
That has enabled them I think to come up with a plan which does
stand a reasonable chance of going forward in a logical way which
takes account of the proper commercial opportunities available
at that site. I know we have some reservations about the way that
is done and the sensitivity with which that is done. It is hugely
important that simply because large sums of money are available
through the Lottery that we do not just fail to find other routes
to back that money up and commercial money is certainly one of
those areas. I think that the decision not to go ahead with the
Rogers scheme was one that was very easy to make. I think what
has happened since has been about getting a good team in place,
getting a plan which makes sense overall, which they have been
given very quick decisions on and very helpful decisions, I believe,
along the way from the Arts Council and it will produce something
real at the end of the exercise.
101. You have been clearly monitoring the whole
performance regarding the application for grants and developments
for the South Bank. I am wondering do you have a view on Lambeth
Council and, more to the point, are you prepared to express it
(Mr Robinson) I think one of the questions which was
asked here was actually a very important question, the relationship
between the South Bank Centre and Lambeth has got to be got right.
I know the South Bank Centre have been putting tremendous effort
into making that happen. It is very important that you get the
partnership right between the local authority and the arts venue
here. I do not know what the answer is. I know that the result
has been a very unhappy one because even in the latest thing we
have had yet another delay on the whole quay front, which is an
integral part of the whole exercise. Beyond that I am not prepared
to express a view.
102. Very diplomatic. You refer in your written
evidence to a strong network of champions being the whole development
along the South Bank right through probably to the Tower of London
and that, of course, involves many different boroughs. Do you
think there is a role here for DCMS or maybe the Mayor of London
to pull together this whole thing? After all, that lovely walk
which I talked about earlier from Westminster, albeit past the
litter in front of County Hall down through to the Tower of London
is something, surely, that the Mayor of London could co-ordinate.
(Mr Robinson) I think Kim will pick up on this in
a bit more detail. Yes, I am happy and I think it is very important
that we involve anyone who can help that process in a logical
way. It is very important, I think, that the people who are driving
it, who are really in the seat, are themselves allowed to get
on and do it. You have already discussed about the South Bank
Centre, there are too many people who are involved.
103. Could the Arts Council be more proactive
then in actually approaching DCMS or the Mayor and saying "Come
(Mr Robinson) I think we work very closely with the
South Bank Centre but in the end the biggest mistake you can make
is to try to run something on behalf of somebody else. You must
never do that in my view. You must support them, you can help
them, you can point them in the right direction, but they must
be the people who are going to run it. That is very much a principle
of our giving money to organisations. Most disasters in projects
have come because people have thought they can run it from a distance,
and you cannot.
(Ms Evans) I think, just to back up what you are saying,
we have engaged very actively with the South Bank Centre since
we became their landlords 15 years ago and we have engaged in
a number of projects with them. Quite properly we have encouraged
them to develop the artistic vision and the redevelopment plan
and business plan to support that but we have actively contributed
to that by commissioning research, by giving them detailed responses
to the plans that they have put forward. I think we have been
good partners in that. It has been work that has gone on under
the surface but it is work that has certainly gone on during this
15 years. I think now there is a real opportunity with the new
proposals that the South Bank Centre are going to bring to us,
the options that were discussed at their board meeting in November
for revised options for the Masterplan, where we can actively
play our part in engaging the other stakeholders. There are up
to 40 stakeholders who have an interest in the South Bank Centre.
It is an enormously complex position: it is urban regeneration,
commercial development, cultural development, of course Lambeth
is a factor in that and it is a key factor but there are other
people we want to bring on board. We have only recently had a
London Assembly here. We have only recently begun to work with
the Mayor on this. We actively believe that we must play our part.
We do need other champions to come in. We talk regularly and properly
with the DCMS about it. The questions that you have raised here
as a Committee are absolutely the questions we have raised together
with the South Bank Centre over the past years. There is a new
opportunity coming up. We cannot do it, the South Bank Centre
must lead it but it needs an active network of champions who can
work with us and them to really achieve development and I really
hope the Royal Festival Hall will be the first tangible sign of
104. We have heard quite a few issues over the
Royal Shakespeare Theatre and today which relate to planning and
architectural issues. There seems to be a feeling in Britain that
we should preserve every building that we have got, whenever we
have built it, in aspic. Is there anything that the Arts Council
in England can do to expedite or to help organisations through
this or for that matter that Government should be doing to expedite
the process for arts organisations with buildings which have a
public consciousness but maybe are not fit for the purpose any
(Mr Robinson) That is a very good point and in truth
it is not something that we have thought through in the way that
you have asked the question. Certainly we have come across it
again and again and again in various authorities, that planning
is a problem. Again, I think at the end of the day, it continues
to vary hugely across the country depending on which authority
you are dealing with. It must be that as part of the project our
view, which we do take a view in, is that it will be allowed from
a planning point of view, because the whole project makes sense,
and we are prepared to spend money in getting a good reading on
that before we take the thing forward. In the larger scheme of
things, I can honestly say it is not something we have really
taken on board in that way.
(Ms Evans) Although I think, as you have made clear
as a Committee, there is very little consensus about where buildings
should be preserved and where they should be changed in their
use, I think where we can be influential is working in a proper
way with the organisations we fund, the South Bank Centre and
the RSC in this case, to really put forward the best case that
shows the artistic benefit, the benefit to audiences and a financial
case and organisational capacity to really change and develop
the use of a building. In the RSC we are supporting at this stage
the proposal for a new theatre in Stratford. At the Royal Festival
Hall we absolutely see it as a building which, much as the public
sees it, is a much loved friend, a building that many of us seeme,
I was born in the year that building opened, I have a special
relationship with itas part of the London landscape. We
believe it can be transformed and have a part of the future of
that London landscape. That has to be seen in the context of the
benefit it is going to deliver for audiences and for artists and
it must have a robust financial plan to support it. Helping create
that context I think is absolutely something which is important.
(Mr Hewitt) Can I add to this by saying that as part
of our handling of capital applications we do have an architecture
committee made up of architectural practitioners who advise on
these sorts of issues when proposals come forward. It is a model
which from my understanding has worked very well in terms of the
capital services part of the organisation. Also I think there
is something which can be done further to strengthen the relationship
which the Arts Council has with the newly formed Commission for
Architecture and the Built EnvironmentCABEand we
are developing a good and positive relationship with that organisation.
105. I think Lord Falconer is doing a consultation
at the moment on planning processes and it would be worthwhile
if there were some kind of submission from the Arts Council. I
am always intrigued by the fact I think your office is in the
building which used to be the United Society for the Propagation
of the Gospel. I just wonder if you could do a bit more missionary
work because when Dick Caborn answered a question on funding of
arts organisations in former coal field communities in the House
just before Christmas he was very proud of the fact that those
constituencies now, instead of receiving 48 per cent of the national
average, which was what it was a year ago, now get 60 per cent.
That still seems a bit of a failure. I wonder whether your new
structure is going to make it easier or more difficult for arts'
funding money to get into those kind of communities?
(Mr Robinson) In the overall scheme of things there
is no doubt at all that it will make it easier without a shadow
of doubt. The whole issue of pro-activity I think is important.
If you take, for example, what happened, we have been spouting
words for years at the Arts Council about making sure that cultural
diversity is something which is real, if you look at what has
happened to the money over the last 25 years, I can tell you it
shows very little expenditure which would back up that wish, that
genuine wish I think. In the last round of spending we deliberately
went out to find organisations in the Black and Asian and Chinese
communities who did have passionate and worthwhile things which
they wanted to do who would never have dreamed of approaching
the Arts Council and that is pro-activity as far as I am concerned.
It is not about saying that in future this is the kind of art
we are going to have, but we really are going to encourage people
in the wider community to come forward in a passionate way and
show us that they want to do things and do things in a very positive
way. You will see the result of that come out of the spend. Over
30 per cent of the last spending round, 30 per cent plus, went
to organisations which came from those communities. That is how
I see us being proactive in that sense, finding people you can
back to do things in a way which, again, really produces something
rather than makes a noise.
106. A lot of the organisations that you fund
as the Arts Council for England, I would argue, are actually British
institutions not just English institutions and last week one of
the things I was keen to say to the Royal Shakespeare Company
was "I wish you could do more in Wales". I just wonder
how devolution has affected you and how relations are with Wales?
(Ms Evans) On the issue of crossing borders, the arts
have always crossed borders. We, as funding organisations, have
not always been very good at enabling them to do that and we are
making real changes there because in September of last year we
announced a new cross-border initiative to exactly take on board
the issue that you raised here when you were talking to the RSC.
This year the Arts Council of England and the Arts Council of
Scotland have worked together to create a joint fund of £720,000
in order to fund the larger scale organisations, such as the RSC,
the National Theatre, the ballet companies to cross borders and
that includes Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and England. We
have also made it very clear that we are now absolutely open to
the small and mid-scale organisations using up to 15 per cent
of the funds that the Arts Council of England allocates them to
do work that crosses those borders. It is a really important initiative.
We live increasingly in a world of cross cultures and we absolutely
must be a funding system which allows our organisations to work,
I hope not only nationally but internationally.
107. Just one final question, which is often
we get obsessed with the institutions and the buildings but in
actual fact, of course, the arts is primarily about the performing
artists themselves. I wrote a biography of Glenda Jackson a few
years ago, which is available in all good bookshopsno,
it is not actuallybut I remember going to see a lot of
actors who had performed some 40 years ago and had been enormous
names in the West End, actors who had been enormously enjoyed
by many audiences, now living in penury. I just wonder what there
is that the Arts Council can do in terms of making sure, perhaps,
that actors do not just get taught how to light a cigarette in
a funny way, but also know how to take out a pension and things
like that, how you can build, also, an entrepreneurial spirit
across the whole arts community?
(Ms Evans) It is something we are very concerned about,
what we would call continuous professional development in arts
funding speak, which is absolutely about ensuring that artists
across art forms can continue to work to the end of their creative
lives. We have got a number of initiatives that we are developing
and it is absolutely part of the discussions and the case we would
like to make for the arts as we go into the next funding round,
that we need to look after artists during the whole span of their
careers and there is a lot of work going on in that area. One
of the things that I know you will know we did during the Theatre
Review, we absolutely wanted to help create an environment with
the new £25 million that we were able to access for theatre
to ensure that the conditions in which actors worked were ones
which would allow them to thrive rather than to battle in the
way that they had done in the past. That is not about the Arts
Council itself setting those conditions but it is, as you say,
funding our organisations and setting up programmes which enable
our artists to have active lives.
(Mr Hewitt) It is certainly true that if you look
at the ladder that artists work through throughout their lives
there are certain points in that trajectory where it is quite
clear that there is limited opportunity to move on to the next
stage. We are doing some serious work at the moment. For example,
it is known that there are real obstacles for young artists coming
out of higher education. During the first two or three years they
need time, they need space, they need to establish themselves,
they need to learn those skills that you referred to in terms
of how they live in a competitive world and we are looking to
create a scheme whereby there are incubator programmes which provide
both physical space for artists to work in as well as the other
assistance with how they operate in the real world more satisfactorily
than has been the case in the past. It is also the case that artists
quite often might get to a mid career stage and find that they
need space out, they need to go abroad, they need to refresh themselves
in some way or another and, again, we are looking at programmes
which will provide that kind of assistance to ensure they can
move on to the next phase in their development.
(Ms Evans) The kind of bursaries and fellowships that
we currently give artists are basically about buying them time.
Time to develop, time to think, time to create the next piece
of work, time to consider what the next stage of their career
is going to be about. I think buying time for artists is often
the most valuable thing we can do.
108. I am interested in your decision making
processes. Would you tell me why £50 million goes to the
RSC for a £100 million project whilst the South Bank Centre
gets £25 million for a £200 million project?
(Mr Robinson) I think the one major difference between
the two is the opportunity to leverage commercial funds in the
case of the South Bank Centre which are far less than in the case
of the Royal Shakespeare Company. That is the major difference
behind the scene.
109. That is your entire argument, is it?
(Mr Robinson) No, it is not. There are all kinds of
detailed arguments which I will happily take you through but the
main difference is that there is a real commercial leveraging
opportunity in the South Bank and there is not in Stratford.
110. That suggests that if you do not give them
that £50 million which they have to matchthis is the
RSCwith another £50 million they would be struggling?
(Mr Robinson) Sorry, could you say that again?
111. What you have just said suggests that if
the RSC does not get £50 million, which it has to match with
a further £50 million from other sources, it would seriously
struggle because there are so few other outlets for it to get
(Mr Robinson) No. I think it is very clear that the
Royal Shakespeare Company are going to be able to raise the sum
of money, which is part of the reason for our being confident
about it, that is required to match the funds that we put forward
which is a huge sum of money relative to the overall budget.
112. You are confident that they can raise £50
million, yes, that is what you are saying?
(Mr Robinson) Yes.
113. Are you confident then that they could
not raise more and that is why you have had to give them so much?
(Mr Robinson) It was our judgment that was the maximummaximum
is overstating itthe most realistic sum.
(Mr Robinson) It is a mistake both ways to over supply
and to under supply money to a project.
115. In that case does this Feasibility Study
give you major, major concerns? This is the RSC Strategy Development
which carries your logo so you will be very familiar with it.
Does it not then give you major concerns because in the document,
and indeed to the Select Committee last week, the RSC argued for
the redevelopment of its three venues and a theatre village and
more outreach and more shops, restaurants, a whole package, which
is exciting, very exciting, at a figure of £100 million which
we have just discussed. Now when you come to the financial appraisal
we have got the RSC pointing in the opposite direction. I quote:
"It must be emphasised that a great deal more detailed appraisal
is required for the scheme development to determine the precise
allocation of resources and the content of the final project".
It says in here that with the money that we have just discussed,
£100 million, that would actually only provide the principal
element, by which they actually mean the theatre, the majority,
£44.6 million, and a few little bits around the edge would
take up the rest of the money. Now, they would clearly be looking
for considerable funding from other sources to do the rest of
the project which is the bit which needs doing, which is the big
selling point, but you just said actually the reason you gave
them such a huge chunk of money is that they have few avenues
for raising it.
(Mr Robinson) No. The sum of money put forward was
in relation to their total needs and our view as to what they
could raise accordingly. Clearly depending on the type of project
that goes forwardand the detail has to be finalised between
themselves and usthere may also be differences which include
commercial opportunities within some of the projects that they
are putting forward. It has to be looked at in some detail. The
overall judgment was that £50 million in relation to doing
what they wanted to do at Stratford in a way which was professional
and produced a wonderful end result was a sensible sum of money
in our balance taking into account their commercial opportunities.
116. What I am saying to you is that £50
million is 50 per cent of the funding, yes, but that this project,
as a wholethe three theatres, the theatre village, the
outreach projects, etcthe whole redevelopment of the area,
will cost, if you read this carefully, this Feasibility Study,
which I did, significantly more than £100 millionsignificantly
more. When you read the Risk Assessment it says it necessarily
involves a high degree of risk. There are a whole load of bullet
points about the high degree of risk. So I say to you if they
do not manage to raise significantly more than the matched funding,
because it is going to be more, will you be bailing them out with
(Mr Robinson) No. I think we have made it very clear
to them as one of the great clarities about what we do about the
sum of money that we are putting towards the new projects. We
make it very clear that is it in a very real sense. You need to
understand that the project as put forward has not been signed
off by the Arts Council. This is an in principle agreement, because
I think it is very important that if people are going to spend
money investigating, getting into a lot of detail about what they
are going to do, they have an in principle agreement that this
is the maximum sum of money that we are prepared to put forward.
But that by no means means that they are going to be entitled
to £50 million if they do not come forward with a project
which in our view, that is a view with a lot of detail behind
it, will not work. Nothing is finalised for the Royal Shakespeare
Company at this stage. It is very important to know that. They
know that and we have made it very clear to them that at each
stage it will be looked at.
(Mr Hewitt) The £50 million agreed was an allocation
so they had some kind of planning basis on which to proceed on
the understanding that the overall cost was £100 million,
our judgment being that the remaining £50 million could be
raised. There is now a feasibility process that has been gone
through and there is documentation with the Arts Council which
the Arts Council is poring over and we are assessing that material
in great detail at this very minute. We will be raising a large
number of questions inevitably, as we do with all projects, with
the RSC over this coming period of time.
117. Okay. So the 50 million was given on the
understanding that it would be roughly 100 million, give or take
five million. If you were to find that the 100 million would actually
only deliver a portion of the vision that we were presented with
last week, what would your response be then?
(Ms Evans) That is exactly the point why we go through
these proper discussions with the RSC about what that means. It
is really important that you feel secure that the processes we
have, which sometimes you say make things take too long, are absolutely
the proper processes to look at a project of this scale with this
amount of public money invested in it. Just to say what Gerry
has already said, we received that plan in December. Quite properly,
as you point out, it is an extremely detailed plan and deserves
detailed attention and a detailed response. We will give it that
response in March. At that point there will be discussions with
the RSC about the issues that are raised in that response. If
things go smoothly we then move on and they make an application
for a development grant. This is not a point where we hand them
a cheque for £50 million and say "there, there, tell
us if you have got a problem", this is working as an active
partner with them through this process. We then expect, again
if things go smoothly, by October there will be a planning application
to the local authority and by December 2003, again if things go
smoothly and we know in the world of planning that is not always
the case, planning approval could be decided. It is really important
that that time frame is there, that there is a framework for having
really proper and detailed discussions so that if point that you
have made comes up "we cannot deliver everything that we
thought we could deliver for the 100 million", we say "okay,
let us talk through what you are going to deliver" and it
is at this point that the Arts Council once again reiterates that
it is access for audiences, artistic benefits, robust financial
framework and, crucially, organisational capacity to deliver this
that have become the three talisman that really guide us through
118. You said if it comes up, presumably you
will raise it?
(Ms Evans) Absolutely. We are actively engaged.
119. The precise point that I just raised presumably
you will be raising because you will be very concerned that this
feasibility study suggests that actually there is a very high
likelihood that 100 million will not do any more than a portion
of what the vision was and what you were sold is not quite what
you can get for the money.
(Ms Evans) I am not going to pre-empt the proper review
that the Arts Council is doing on this.