Last week, our artistic director Giles Croft spoke at the House of Commons launch of a significant report into the impact funding cuts are having around the country on the commissioning and support of new writing and writers. Titled ‘In Battalions’, the independent report was researched by playwright Fin Kennedy and Oxford University’s Helen Campbell Pickford. They looked at the effects funding cuts are having on new writing for the theatre, and their report shows that not only are small scale, regional and specialised theatres suffering, but that even the most prestigious companies anticipate negative effects in the years to come, as the talent that feeds them ‘shrivels’.
The Playhouse has a proud record of commissioning new plays, with a frequency that is increasingly rare in regional theatres. However, Giles’s comments below show that as funding becomes tighter, and in common with most other theatres around the country, it is inevitable that money for commissioning new work will decline.
REMARKS BY GILES CROFT AT THE HOUSE OF COMMONS LAUNCH OF IN BATTALIONS ON 29TH Jan 2014:
In the past 10 years Nottingham Playhouse has produced more than 50 new plays on a variety of scales in a variety of locations. Of those, 27 have been produced in our 750 seat main house (this excludes 6 new versions of classic texts). 18 were Nottingham Playhouse commissions and 12 were by Nottingham writers, most of whom have little or no presence in London.
In last year’s Balancing of Capital report there was a section headed ‘Addressing a long-standing imbalance in Arts Council funding’, which received little attention; its contents highlight the following:
• In 1982 an independent report found Arts Council expenditure in London in 1980/81 to be £3.37 php against £0.66 (19.6% of the London figure) in the rest of England.
• A 2001 Arts Council report recorded London receiving £12.85 php from DCMS/Treasury sources in 1999 against the rest of England at £2.40 php (18.4% of the London figure).
• In 2013 comparative figures show London receiving £19.87 php compared to £3.55 php in the rest of England (17.8% of London). If you include ACE & DCMS spending the 2013 figures then become £68.99 in London against £4.58 php (6.7% of London).
I have been asked to speak today because we are currently facing threats to our funding.
Since the last NPO round, we have already had to deal with £215,000 of cuts from a combination of local authority sources and ACE. If the current proposals from the County, City and ACE all go through, that figure will rise to £342,000. That is £127,000 worse off than we thought we were 8 weeks ago.
As a result of having to make extensive cuts at short notice, for the first time in the history of the Playhouse, we have no commissioning budget.
We currently play to 65% attendance over the year, but at our most recent Board planning day we were talking about achieving levels of 70 to 75%; where is the room for risk in that?
We will not close and we will continue to produce work, though it is likely there will be less of it. What it will really mean is that new writing will be harder to deliver; there will be further centralisation (Londonisation), a loss of identity and the undermining of the regional voice.
I’m sympathetic to the County wanting to make a reduction in our support (though 100% is too drastic and too sudden), and the City with its 5% cut is modest by comparison. I also understand that ACE needs to pass to its clients the Treasury cut that it received. But surely now it is time for ACE to look at how its funds are distributed and to fight for rebalancing the distribution of funding in order to protect our ‘national’ theatre and consequently our regional voices.
Photo by Robert Day.