Increases in public investment in the arts deliver more bums on seats

Nic Green's Trilogy

The arts are about more than the simplistic and somewhat crass measurement of bums on seats.  Quantity does not always equate to quality and there must be experiment and innovation, risks and some failures in a rich and diverse cultural ecology.  But with a public mission to engage the many, ACE should expect its investment across the portfolio to deliver additional attendances in return for additional investment. And the evidence is that it does.

The Arts Council of England’s report on its Regularly funded organisations: Key data from the 2009/10 annual submission contains a mine of useful information, showing activities, attendances, staffing and finances from all its RFOs showing variances by artform, region and size of organisation.  Most interesting is the data for the last three years, which shows trends from 2007 to 2010.

ACE has increased its investment from £336m to £372m (+11%).  Activities/events have increased by 10% over this period and attendances have increased by 26%, according to the report on a constant sample of respondents. This includes a wide variation by region, with London and Yorkshire showing the largest increases in attendance and the East and West Midlands showing the greatest decline.

The 11% increase in ACE investment worked in tandem with an increase of 12% from local authorities, supporting RFOS to increase their earned income by 16%, more than compensating for reductions in private donations and other investment.

The point of any major piece of data analysis like this is how it is used to inform decision making. For ACE, making hard decisions now on future investment, this data will inform specific interventions by region and by art forms.  But delving into the detail shouldn’t obscure the key message: increased public investment in core organisations delivers more art for more people.

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