PARLIAMENTARY SUBMISSION – by the Collaborative Touring Network – made up of partners in Hull, Darlington, Torbay, Great Yarmouth, Gloucester, Thanet and London
1. We are members of the Collaborative Touring Network (CTN).
2. We are making this submission to the Culture, Media and Sport Select Committee to describe our partnership between regional and London producers and promoters.
3. Each regional partner (1 to 6 above) is seeking to develop a strong, sustainable cultural scene in an area where there is currently low-levels of cultural engagement, as illustrated in the Arts Council’s Active People and Taking Partsurveys.
4. Traditionally, touring has offered cultural provision in some areas of the country. But touring is not effective in areas where there is little existing cultural infrastructure. Touring is also problematic when artists are “parachuted” in and out of a location with little or no wider connection with the community. In order to create a sustainable cultural programme, we have to face many of the same challenges to create sustainable communities that live well together: giving communities a voice; building shared values; providing spaces to be together.
5. The traditional touring model has developed along industrial lines: decisions are made from the centre as to what gets made and toured; work is toured in batches according to art-form and cost; there has been a growing production line mentality. So by working together, the CTN is trying to reinvent a model of making and sharing work that is more rooted in each community context.
6. The network draws inspiration from Battersea Arts Centre’s Scratch model in which cultural ideas are shared and tested in collaboration with the audience – in which the audience plays a creative role in the development of the ideas. Scratch was first developed at Battersea Arts Centre in 2000 and has since been adopted and adapted by arts organisations all over the world. This spirit of sharing and testing ideas infuses the model that the network is creating together.
7. We have undertaken a three year partnership that is supported by Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring Fund and Esmee Fairbairn Foundation. Between 2013 – 2016, we will create 6 festivals in each of the 6 regional towns & cities listed above. In total that is 36 festivals over the next 3 years. Each will be made up of touring work from the 7th member of the network, Battersea Arts Centre in London, chosen by the network, alongside home-grown regional talent. Each festival is culturally rooted in the local area and touring artists engage with each community through a range of different initiatives in each region. The first festivals in 2013 attracted over 3,500 people.
8. Our festivals draw inspiration from the Battersea Arts Centre Cook Up model which is as much about social engagement as it is about consuming art. We are interested in creating a broader cultural offer for audiences. Our festivals build on or around other local cultural offerings that are already happening over the next three years: they are designed to build momentum, grow audiences and artists in each town or city.
9. As a network, we are passionate about undertaking our own rebalancing exercise: creating stronger local, regional networks that possess grassroots relationships in each community and that seek to develop long-term, sustainable cultural models. Over the last ten years there has been a drive to create and sustain large producing organisations, these have tended to be based in London and other urban centres throughout the UK. We think there needs to be more investment at grassroots level where culture connects to community.
10. Our desire for stronger grassroots investment is based on a desire to see more opportunities and power within our communities. It is also because talent and new ideas evolve from strong and confident communities. In order for the UK’s creative industries, the second largest economic sector, to remain world-class, we need to seed a generation of talent from all parts of the country.
We are submitting evidence to this enquiry because we think:
I. there does need to be increased investment for the regions;
ii. investment should focus on areas where there is little existing infrastructure;
iii. a partnership like the CTN is a good example of a productive working relationship between the regions and London which should be encouraged;
iv. as well rebalancing investment between regions and London, there needs to be a rebalance of investment between grassroots and mainstream, and between rural and urban;
v. Arts Council England is well respected by the CTN and has already begun a process of rebalancing its investment, and the Strategic Touring Fund is a good example of this change, we hope Arts Council becomes increasingly bold in the steps it takes to rebalance across the priorities described in iv above.
1. Andy Person, Hull
- We are in an unique position in Hull having just been named the next UK City of Culture (COC). Despite the lack of capacity, the judges recognised that the people of the city have a deep-seated desire for culture in all its forms. But capacity, as well as engagement, has traditionally been low, artists who have studied or grown up in the city often make the diaspora to London.
- Given that the ACE spend per head is a fraction of that spent in London this must surely be one of the influencing factors, nothing comes from nothing after all. (Figures vary from document to document but even the Arts Council’s own study places the spend per head in Yorkshire and Humber at about a quarter of that spent in London. Other reports have the gap as much wider).
- Hull needs confidence to engage audiences and grow capacity. There are signs that this is changing, partly because of COC, partly because of grassroots development and programmes like the CTN who link London with Hull in a meaningful way, with a supported programme developed over time.
- So there is hope, and we recognise the commitment ACE are making through the Strategic Touring Fund that has allowed the CTN, COC, and Creative People and Places, a fund to bring local communities and arts organisations together, but the infrastructure is nascent and fragile. Culture is pivotal to Hull’s future, so strong support and national partnerships are now more important than ever.
2. Caroline Pearce, Darlington
- Being part of the CTN has made a significant difference for the people of Darlington and artists across the north east and for me. I am sure that we all agree that theatre and arts are vital within a healthy society, and for some time now, Darlington has been on a decline.
- This project has enabled us to create a reason for people to visit and for locals to stay. People care what others think of them, and by generating real excitement about the place, we have seen a shift in the hopes and expectations of people in the town, increases in civic pride and personal aspirations.
- Jabberwocky Market is run for and by people from the town, and showcases the very best quality theatre in spaces around the town. It is crucial that this type of investment continues to help us all evolve a positive way forward.
3. Erin Walcon, Torbay
- The CTN collaboration has enabled the creation and growth of Doorstep Arts as a key catalysing force in Torbay’s limited arts infrastructure. Here, local producers are working to create arts opportunities and entitlement for children/young people in the area. The project works within an asset-based community development model, building from grassroots advocacy and ownership.
- Since the project’s inception, Torbay has gained six new participatory theatre groups for children and young people, at key doorstep venues across the region. Since travel and access are a major challenge in the SW of England, de-centralised provision is particularly important, allowing young people from all backgrounds to access the arts on their doorstep.
- These groups are led by experienced local practitioners (providing regional arts employment) and provide connections to the CTN touring scheme by housing outstanding performances in local youth centres, schools, and community halls. These non-traditional performance spaces ensure diverse audiences.
- The focus on young people’s performance, ownership and voice within the project also extends to local emerging practitioners. Mentorship relationships have been built with the nearby University of Exeter, where students from the Applied Theatre programme are delivering free outreach workshops to Torbay schools, as well as participating in Scratch platforms and gaining valuable professional experience.
4. Laurie Miller-Zutshi:
- Great Yarmouth sits in an isolated location in one of the country’s most rural counties. Featuring in the bottom third of the national league table for active participation in the arts, the town suffers from a low level of artistic provision. What cultural infrastructure there is, is provided by Seachange who work hard to generate funding, much of which is drawn from the European Union, to support to engage the public in small targeted projects or through their free annual Out There International Festival of Circus & Street Arts.
- The CTN has enabled Seachange to bring a rich, dynamic programme of theatre and performance to the town. With the support of Battersea Arts Centre, the CTN has helped develop the infrastructure to support the programming; taken arts provision out into the communities; and develop audience engagement models.
- Additionally the CTN has helped strengthen Seachange’s portfolio of work on a regional and national basis as well as enabling us to further build existing relations and strengthen the case for increased investment with Arts Council England.
5. Sarah Blowers, Gloucester
- Since my appointment as regional producer for Strike a Light festival in 2012 many things have changed in Gloucester, an area of extremely low cultural engagement, in a small space of time. We are heading for our second festival: March 20th-23rd.
- In this festival we have:
- 5 new pieces of work from local and emerging artists, 2 of these pieces are especially commissioned for the festival;
- doubled the amount of investment for seed funding from local trust funds, 100% of this money goes directly to supporting local artists
- started running regular scratch nights in the city;
- successfully fundraised for specific funds to engage young people in the city.
- The biggest impact for me as a producer is my resignation from my secure job as a senior manager at a regional theatre (Arts Council NPO); this was a serious personal risk as I am the family breadwinner. I have already been offered a post by my current employer to stay on as a freelance producer for the theatre. I am currently working with 3 emerging artists to produce exciting pieces of new work which will play at the Strike a light festival as a starting point.
- I am hoping to make an application to ACE to support my personal development as a producer; this application will include CPD and I would like to make links with other theatres, producers and share practise and learn new skills and make new networks. For me personally and for the emerging artists that I am working with the investment that has been made in our region and the association with BAC has been truly life changing.
6. Suzy Humphries, Thanet
- Being a part of the CTN gives Thanet a sense of opportunity and expectation. As a three-year programme it gives us the time necessary to embed a project and maximize its potential.
- We have the challenge and inspiration of the artistic programme and its works to enjoy and promote and we have the chance to establish an infrastructure for performance-based arts that does not exist in Thanet. Locally, Turner Contemporary has been a catalyst and potentially our part in this programme can be a transformative interjection for the performing arts.
- We have little professional producing taking place and very few good venues. Without a funded resident company we rely on a small number of professionals who produce relatively small projects when funding is granted. Therefore, we have no training ground and no infrastructure for talented individuals to work with others or to share and show their work, to develop their practice and to extend their skills.
- Being a part of the CTN, enjoying the generosity of Battersea Arts Centre in its sharing of ideas and its work, shows practitioners locally what is possible and we hope it can give them the knowledge, tools and contacts to challenge the lack of provision and develop better resources alongside the work opportunities and jobs that this could engender.
- We are a consortia of small organisations, none of whom has paid staff or a paid job to deliver the work we do. We are all recognised for the contribution we make to culture in Thanet but to date no funding has been identified that will support any revenue or core costs. It makes the CTN even more important for us; we hope that our association will gain the attention of the people who can make a difference, including ACE and our County Council, and we hope very much that at the end of three years we will see that the landscape has changed for professional performance practice in Thanet.
7. David Jubb, London
- Unlike any of the regional partners on CTN, Battersea Arts Centre is regularly funded. We receive around 20% of our annual income from our NPO agreement with ACE, around 3% from our local council, around 10% from other statutory sources, around 33% from earned income and around 33% from donations.
- Our programme of activities at Battersea Arts Centre is as much a social programme as it is an artistic programme. We don’t see a division between the two. We receive 160K visitors per year to develop or experience culture: shows; weddings; parties; learning experiences. For example, we seed the development of new theatre and we also work with young people to develop their own social enterprises; we support the development of the next generation of artists and we also work with teachers to develop their skills in primary and secondary schools. Our entire organisation is a social enterprise. Arts organisations are part of the civic fabric of our communities and have a responsibility to nurture the creativity in all members of the community.
- Battersea Arts Centre’s Cook Up programme (a mixed programme of activities for all the Wandsworth community) was the starting point for CTN. Our passion for working with the 6 CTN partners around the country is to see them develop their own sustainable models of grassroots culture rooted in their local community and context. We have learnt a great deal from each CTN partner: each is an inspiration in the way that they go about developing sustainable cultural offers in their local community. As with all idea development, varied perspectives and cross-fertilisation is critical and CTN enables this for all of us.
- Whilst this Select Committee inquiry is about the work of the Arts Council, it’s important to remember the vital role played by local authorities in supporting the arts around the country. Also critical is the role played by private Trusts & Foundations. For example, whilst the Arts Council funds the touring aspects of CTN, it is the Esmee Fairbairn Foundation who is investing in the actual capacity and resources of each region to develop a home-grown cultural offer. This investment will enable each partner to strengthen their capacity and ultimately enable high-quality applications from these regions to the Arts Council over time.
- At Battersea Arts Centre, we think the Arts Council is effectively run on limited resource. We commend them for establishing funding programmes like the Strategic Touring Fund and the Creative People and Places Fund. We would encourage them to go further with these initiatives in the way that they use their core funds to make change.
We would like the Arts Council to consider:
- how it can encourage more innovative regional and London partnerships…because together we are stronger;
- how national institutions can provide greater support and encouragement to the grassroots collectives and organisations who feed them;
- how we can work together to rebalance investment from the capital to the regions, from the urban to the rural, and from mainstream arts to grassroots culture;
- how arts organisations can be encouraged to take on the challenge of championing the development of human potential in all parts of our communities;
- how can our funding models be as creative and innovative as our world-class culture that is admired all over the world.
1. Andy Pearson, Hull
Heads Up Festival
2. Caroline Pearce, Darlington
3. Erin Walcon, Torbay
4. Laurie Miller-Zutshi, Great Yarmouth
5. Sarah Blowers, Gloucester
Strike A Light Festival
6. Suzy Humphries, Thanet
Looping The Loop Festival
7. David Jubb, London
Battersea Arts Centre
FEBRUARY 17, 2014
Categories: Developing creative ORGANISATIONS