Funding for the creative industries is consistently under threat. With cut backs in other vital areas of society (see NHS), and a nationwide housing crisis, it’s understandable that for many the arts are considered to be a ‘luxury item’. However, the arts are a vital part of societal structure. The expression of key creative minds is what, amongst other things, defines an era and a generation. Art is a necessary platform for questioning, and bringing about change through experimentation.
Regardless of the outcome of the recent general election, the question of where we go now is and was always looming. Now is the perfect time to question: what will the arts and cultural industries look like in the next five years? When faced with potential adversity, out come the individuals and organisations that will strive for the continuation of cultural industry. The arts are nothing if not adaptable.
On the 8th of May, the day of the election announcement, Marcus Romer, Artistic Director of Pilot Theatre, put out a rallying call on Twitter to fellow arts leaders. The message was simple: ‘make a piece of work that starts the fight back’. Since then, the hashtag #artsfightback has been established, and over 300 practitioners have stepped forward to support Romer’s pledge.
Social media serves as a free and accessible way to effectively link the widespread creative community, enabling those people with a shared objective to start up conversations and offer support no matter the distance.
Similarly, online platforms like Kickstarter and Crowdfunder provide an alternative method to garner funding, and play well with social media. They enable the creator to promote a creative initiative to the general public and gain donations, often in exchange for a small piece of the pie to the generous donor. A quick glance at the Crowdfunder arts section reveals projects ranging from a new ceramics studio, sending a show to Edinburgh Fringe, and putting on a Japanese art exhibition. Since it’s launch in 2009, Kickstarter has reportedly received more than $1.5 billion in pledges from 7.8 million backers to fund 200,000 creative projects.
Gaining support from individual donors frees the creative organisation from the red tape that typically comes with being funded by a governmental body. But what message does this send to the government? Certainly, that the general public are largely in support of the arts. Potentially, that there is even more of an excuse to lessen the amount of public money allocated to the arts.
The good news: many UK and Globally active corporations are philanthropically backing the arts and cultural sectors. In a recent press release by the National Portrait Gallery, Andrea Sullivan, Head of Corporate Social Responsibility, EMEA, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, said: ‘we believe that maintaining a vibrant arts sector is crucial to ensuring strong communities and economies.’ This statement was presented regarding a long-standing partnership of support that the Bank of America has provided to the NPG and other such organizations. In the coming years, larger organizations will play a big role in ensuring the availability of the arts to all.
As mentioned by Andrea Sullivan, and called upon by Marcus Romer, community is at the heart of the arts. The perfect example would be Ealing Borough Council who created the Ealing Summer Festivals as a way to celebrate the borough’s strong music and comedy history. The festival draws huge crowds to Ealing’s parks in celebration of local and international acts across a range of artistic disciplines. Such an event will also surely bring outsiders into the borough, providing an influx of revenue to local businesses. It is in this way that the arts are also shown to be a vital and economically viable resource.
London Calling has been working with businesses in the arts, cultural and leisure sectors for over 30 years, through various changes in government. We pride ourselves on providing high quality products, which enable companies large and small to thrive in whatever economy they are faced with. The future of the arts & cultural industries may be pending at present, but one things for sure, we’re not going anywhere.