This week some of us had a chance to discuss the impact of the recession on the arts and culture at the CPPS seminar and do so through several new lenses.
Firstly, the short term ‘phew’ factor, the specific budget implication for DCMS and the Arts Council of England which, with a £4m cut is less than many feared.
Secondly, the revelations not only about the size of the UK’ structural budget deficit but the IFS observation that
whoever takes office in the general election after next will still have to find another £45 billion a year in today’s money by the end of their parliament to eliminate this deficit, from tax increases and cuts in non-investment spending
The combined impact of this on local government as well as national and devolved administrations has yet to be computed – but it will certainly mean less public subsidy for the arts and culture for some time.
Thirdly, we have the analysis from Arts and Business that global recession has already caused considerable damage to the arts.
Fourthly, ACE has done some preliminary research about the likely impacts of recession and we can learn more from the impact already in Ireland where customer behaviour has changed significantly.
Although we cant predict exactly if this is a tempest or a hurricane, the combined impact of these forces is not going to blow over.
ACE’s new Sustain fund has £40m to support arts organisations survive the recession and
to help them maintain their artistic, financial and organisational viability during the recession and to implement essential changes to ensure their long term sustainability.
The key to this is the proviso that essential changes must be implemented.
The challenge that we have here is to be innovative enough in the changes we design. Arts organisations are amongst the most conservative of businesses around. And almost every arts council scheme to support change over the last 15 years- advancement, stabilisation etc have ended up including a lot of elastoplast jobs. Arts organisations are largely driven to preserve their business models and seek additional resources to to feed the model. And are brilliant at dressing this up in all sorts of ways to attract money.
We need to take radical steps now, not just to batten down the hatches and try and sit this out. At the seminar there was much discussion about the need to innovate radically and for us all to sweat our communal assets. This means deconstructing some of the machinery we have built, reducing the size of our cultural intermediaries, collaborating on the delivery of services. We need to come out of our silos and 20th century structures to collaborate on solutions in groups. This could include national cultural agencies contracting out some services and time-limited programmes to other parts of our infrastructure, including local authorities and creative hubs and SMEs; arts organisations choosing to merge and create smaller machinery to service more creative experiences.
And stop procrastinating.