It?s always fascinating to look beyond our own shores and see the sort of arts funding decisions that are made in other countries. This is certainly the case with Australia (p10).For example, since 1996, the Australia Council?s main funding priorities have focused on ?demand? rather than ?supply?, with audience development and arts marketing being at the heart of resource allocation decisions. Described as a ?contentious? policy in Australia, no doubt such a move would be considered heretical in the UK. Let?s face it, how many marketers sit alongside artists on the arts councils of the UK?
Also in Australia, 159 different grant categories have been replaced with just seven programmes, thereby massively reducing grant administration costs. An alternative way of saving £8m-£10m, instead of restructuring the English funding system, perhaps? And what about the ?new strategies to promote the value of the arts via the media?? Centrally driven, properly funded and targeted generic advertising campaigns maybe? Now there?s a concept that would fall on deaf ears in most funding debates in the UK.
The process by which funders in other countries lever monies from governments is also an eye-opener. The fact that 31 major performing arts companies in Australia have benefited from a AUD$50m windfall following five years of intensive scrutiny of their performance contracts, has left small and medium scale companies, and the visual arts sector, clamouring for the same level of scrutiny. They are now fully convinced that, if they can prove their effectiveness, then the money will surely follow. Isn?t this the point that Sara Selwood (p8) has been making? Perhaps the fact that a number of arts commentators recoiled in horror at her demands for solid indisputable evidence about the impact of the subsidised arts in the UK says as much about their confidence in the value of the arts, as it does about their comprehension of the value of statistics.