A one year statistical snap shot of Scotland’s National Performing Companies gives too narrow a view

National Performing Companies: average attendances 2007 /08 - 2010/11

Its five years now since the Scottish Government took direct control of the funding relationship with the five national performing companies.  Since then, the companies have enjoyed increased funding as the Scottish Government has been keen to ensure the financial health of the companies, providing not only increases year on year in revenue funding but also international touring money, capital funding and one-off monies when required, (aruund £1.7m in 2010/11).  The companies have flourished in the secure and fertile environment provided by cash and, equally if not more importantly, in the pride continually expressed by the Scottish Government.  Its no surprise then, that in launching the annual review of the companies, Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop emphasised the positives.  Highlighting the international and artistic acclaim acheived, Ms Hyslop also grabbed a few stats from the reports to boast that there had been a 20% increase in attendances over the last 12 months.

“In the four years since Scotland’s five national performing companies came into a direct funding relationship with Government, they have delivered more than 3,500 performances to over 2.2 million people.

“In 2010-11, people the length and breadth of Scotland were given opportunities to experience and participate in the fantastic work of the companies – with activity delivered across all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas, and I am delighted to see that their combined audience grew by a fifth over the year.

“This remarkable achievement highlights the huge contribution the companies make to Scotland’s rich cultural life.

“As well as stimulating pride in Scotland’s rich heritage at home, our National Performing Companies have attracted significant artistic acclaim abroad – showcasing Scotland’s modern, vibrant and diverse culture to audiences around the world.”

The report shows the National Theatre of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Opera gave 903 performances, reaching a combined audience of 457,774 people.  Most media coverage centred  positively on the increase in attendances.

Comparisons of the figures over the four years since they have been gathered were more negative.

So what does an analysis of the four year data reveal?

Over the four years both performances and attendances have slightly declined.

The variances over the years are related to the timing of activity, the types of shows, the scale of venues and also to the popularity of the programmes. The National Theatre, in particular, performs at all scales, from the village hall to the large scale theatre.

The average attendances for each of the companies over the period illustrates that none of the companies is on an upward trend, with overall stable performance from National Theatre of Scotland, RSNO and Scottish Opera with declining trends in average attendance from SCO and Scottish Ballet.

But these statistics are only one part of the picture.  The  companies’  contribution to the Scottish Government’s objectives of reach and international reputation are referred, positively, in its report.    A balanced appraisal would have to include artistic quality, a dimension not made public in the report beyond referencing the international peers used to assess quality.  So we will make do with the statistics and the warm words.

And wait for next year’s statistics with interest.

1 comment
  1. Good analysis Anne.
    The Stage, also, was slightly more aware of statistics and the need to go over a longer term trend: http://www.thestage.co.uk/news/newsstory.php/35679/scots-national-companies-see-audiences

    My big concern was the wrong figures used in the Cabinet Secretary’s quote:
    “In the four years since Scotland’s five national performing companies came into a direct funding relationship with Government, they have delivered more than 3,500 performances to over 2.2 million people.”

    This is not true. Audience numbers are significantly lower at around 1.8 million people. The 2.2 million figure includes the total number of participants in the 13,565 education events as well as the attendees at said 3,500 performances.

    When I pointed this out, I was given a quote from a “government spokesperson: that: “The overall trend of audience and participant numbers is upwards”.

    Unfortunately the figuress, as shown above, would indicate otherwise.

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