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What should a business expect from its collaboration with an arts organisation and what in return should the arts be in a position to offer? Sue Worsey explores these crucial questions.

In today?s society there are ever more increasing expectations of the role business could and should play in terms of corporate social responsibility, ethical business practice and citizenship. More and more businesses are seeking ways to address these expectations while recognising that any activity they undertake should bring benefit not only to the business itself but also to the communities they serve.

Arts organisations undoubtedly have the ability to be greatly in tune with the additional responsibilities that business is taking on in the current climate and they have the power to communicate important messages about a business. The arts provide core values of creativity, quality and integrity, making them the perfect vehicle for enhancing corporate reputation. Such core values are undoubtedly the main elements that business wishes to be associated with when it enters into a partnership with an arts organisation. Arts play a fundamental role in the community ? be it economic, social or educational ? and these are the values that business is seeking out.

Benefits sought

In recent years, business has become more aware of the wider benefits of the arts world and how it can draw on an organisation?s creativity and imagination. What business effectively seeks and desires from the arts can be summarised as follows:

? Promote corporate values and brand reputation: a business can effectively promote itself and its brand reputation by partnering with an arts organisation. This can send positive message to those it seeks to influence such as government, employees, shareholders, customers, etc.

? Develop new levels of creativity: a business and its employees can learn from the arts organisation it is involved with. An imaginative partnership can allow the business to inhale the creativity, innovation and excellence of the arts organisation.

? Contribute towards building a more creative, civilised and richer society where business can better flourish: there is now an established view that business support of the arts and the community creates a more inspiring, successful and efficient society for all to enjoy. Business investment in the arts therefore has a huge social and community benefit.

Barclays and the arts

A new arts sponsorship scheme, which was recently launched by Barclays illustrates precisely what a blue chip company really wishes to achieve through collaboration with the arts. Bar clays? new £1.9m sponsorship of the arts will run for a two-year period. Through this sponsorship Barclays is to be the largest ever business sponsor of the Royal National Theatre and sole sponsor of three major exhibitions at the British Museum, the National Gallery and Tate Britain.

The Barclays sponsorship, branded ?Invest and Inspire?, has at its heart the goal to not only support leading UK arts institutions, but to break down some of the barriers to the arts by increasing accessibility both for the general public and its own staff. It will also make education and community a key element of the sponsorship. For example, Barclays will be supporting innovative activities around each of the sponsorships to encourage more people to enjoy the arts. Activities being planned include a Public Day on the South Bank organised in conjunction with the Royal National Theatre. This Public Day will aim to increase accessibility to the arts by providing entertainment and educational events that will draw in more of a non-theatre crowd. It will also be promoted heavily to Barclays staff and their families. In addition, Barclays will take full advantage of the creative opportunities offered by the organisations such as backstage tours, young membership schemes, actor training and project team exchanges.

Barclays will be widely committed to all education and community events around the sponsorship. As the largest single sponsor of the Royal National Theatre, it will be uniquely involved with many strands of the National?s education and community work, with particular emphasis on families, young people and first time visitors. This activity will be branded under a scheme entitled ?Barclays Firsts?. The scheme will aim to attract an additional 5,000 first time visitors, 3,500 schoolchildren and 3,000 students to attend productions at the Royal National Theatre.

There will also be a large emphasis on collaboration between the different arts organisations to encourage the sharing of resources with a view to attracting larger and more diverse audiences. As the sponsor of four of the UK?s leading arts organisations, Barclays is in a unique position to enable greater collaboration and partnership between them.

Courting sponsors

This sponsorship aims to become a model of best practice for business/arts sponsorship, but what can the arts be doing to make themselves more attractive to such partners and sponsors?

Laban Centre London, one of the leading dance institutions in Europe, makes a good example. The centre is currently creating a new home in Deptford in partnership with the world-renowned architects, Herzog & de Meuron. The new centre will be the largest purpose-built contemporary dance centre in the world. It is due to open in Autumn 2002 and is currently seeking business sponsorship and financial support from charitable trusts and foundations. In order to make itself more attractive to business, the centre has focused on its key community and cultural strengths. For example, the centre is now being widely recognised as a catalyst for the physical, social and economic regeneration of Deptford and will contribute to the overall strategy for the Thames Gateway. Any business that invests in the new building will also be playing its part in supporting the regeneration of a vital part of London.

Laban Centre London has long been a pioneer of education, training and community as it believes dance should be available to people of all ages, backgrounds and abilities. The new centre will house a community studio and meeting room which will be permanently allocated for use by schools and community groups; state-of-the-art facilities which will set a benchmark for dance institutes world-wide; and a 300-seat theatre, purpose-built for contemporary dance, which will allow students to showcase new work. It will also give the community at large the opportunity to sample and enjoy the cutting edge choreography and technique employed by the students. By supporting the new centre, business can therefore play its part in celebrating the development and importance of dance for the future.

Opportunities for business

Baroness Blackstone, Minister of State for the Arts, recently summarised the importance of business being involved in the arts, by stating, ?Partnerships ... offer exceptional opportunities for businesses to achieve far-reaching business objectives, promote artistic excellence and innovation and collaborate effectively in improving access to the arts for all. I believe that a healthy community, a successful business sector and a strong arts community are inextricably linked.?

Sue Worsey is Director of Communications at Kallaway Ltd. t: 020 7221 7883; e: sue.worsey@kallaway.co.uk
Kallaway is responsible for the creation and implementation of the ?Invest and Inspire? sponsorship.