The latest research into the impacts of the recession (p3) offers little in the way of comfort for the sector. John Nicholls reveals the steps being taken by arts organisations attempting to weather the storm
In the coming weeks Arts Council England’s (ACE) regularly funded organisations and others in receipt of public funding will find out how they will be affected by the outcome of the Comprehensive Spending Review, but this is a story that will certainly run well into the second decade of this century. In giving evidence to the DCMS Select Committee just last week, ACE’s Alan Davey talked of an initial “top-slicing” to be followed by shifts in funding strategy for future years. But irrespective of how the cake is cut, significant change lies ahead – the key question is how will we all manage this change?
Art Quarter’s Recession Impacts Surveys (p3) have been providing a sense as to how organisations are already looking to manage this process and take clear control in a context where many are still continuing to feel the impacts of the recession. On cost management, more collaborative working on delivering public programmes was the most mentioned area of activity in our 2010 Survey – many respondents are looking to partner more with the higher education community and across the wider not-for-profit sectors on a scale not seen before, to meet the ‘Big Society’ agenda. Sharing of core services such as HR, IT, legal services, box office and utilities purchasing is becoming increasingly commonplace, offering consortia opportunities to take advantage of economies of scale. Co-production, which has been the norm for years, could in many cases be the only viable means for some organisations to continue to deliver public programming.
On revenues, the range of commercial opportunities continues to expand, from business consultancy services aiming to capitalise on recovery in the private sector, through to education summer schools and effective engagement with high net worth individuals as donors. These opportunities will however take time to imbed and deliver revenues. Short-term shrinkage in the nation’s creative economy looks like a reality.
The arts is a sector that has always embraced change and indeed succeeded in thriving under often exceptional circumstances. Few can doubt however that the next few years will offer the greatest set of combined challenges that it has faced in the past 50 years.
Surely the quid pro quo for taking its fair share of cuts being doled out in the coming years is for Government and the funding agencies to embark on a new kind of dialogue with the sector? Respondents to our latest Survey are now actively calling for this process to begin in terms of policies and programmes coming forward which recognise and support the regeneration of the sector as the hub of the UK’s creative economy, and one of the engines to wider economic recovery over the years ahead.