Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Arts lottery funding imbalance 'requires urgent address', say arts leaders

Arts lottery funding imbalance 'requires urgent address', say arts leaders
Lottery funds have disproportionately benefited most prosperous and arts engaged communities in England, report reveals

The Guardian's Culture Professionals Network explains...

Last Friday The Place Report was launched. It argues that arts lottery funds are fundamentally different from grant-in-aid funding – those provided to maintain the core national cultural infrastructure – and it questions Arts Council England's (ACE) stewardship of those lottery funds, provided for different purposes and for far wider public benefit.

The report draws particular attention to five of the directions issued by DCMS for the lottery (pdf):

"Arts Council England shall take account of the following in distributing national lottery funds:

• The need to increase access and participation for those who do not currently benefit from the cultural opportunities available in England

• The need to foster local community initiatives which bring people together, enrich the public realm and strengthen community spirit

• The need to support volunteering and participation in the arts and community arts

• The need to involve the public and local communities in making policies, setting priorities and distributing money

• The desirability of ensuring equality of opportunity, of reducing economic and social deprivation and ensuring that all areas of England have access to the money distributed"

Other lottery distributors in England have acted upon similar directions to prioritise disadvantaged communities. ACE appears, at best, to have given the directions no priority and at worst, systematically ignored them, placing at serious risk of failure the local infrastructure of facilities, organisations and programmes that are the bedrock of national cultural life.
The Place report shows that the arts lottery has disproportionately benefited the most prosperous and "arts engaged" communities in England, often also those contributing least to the lottery. At the same time, some of the least "arts engaged" and poorest communities, contributing most heavily to the arts good cause, receive the least return.

Of England's 326 local authorities, the 33 where people are least engaged with the arts (10% of the total with a combined 6 million people) have received £288m arts lottery funds since 1995 or £48 per head of population (php). The 33 areas with the highest levels of arts engagement (4.8 million people) have received £1.33bn over the same period – over £1bn more and at £275 php.

Lottery proceeds are increasingly supporting organisations and regular programmes of work that were previously funded through grant-in-aid. That's a vital point when you consider additionality, the guiding principle that arts lottery funds should be for "new and additional" activity and not a substitute for grant-in-aid.

The largest recipients of ACE grant-in-aid are now among the largest recipients of arts lottery funds and many of these organisations are also the largest beneficiaries of private philanthropy and sponsorship of the arts. Arts funding has become a closed system.

ACE has argued that "subsidy per attendance" is a "more representative measure" of benefit from public funding, as opposed to measures of geographical distribution. What we've found is that affluent people who live within easy reach of major cultural institutions and who can afford regular attendance derive by far the most benefit from funds sourced from taxpayers and from lottery players.

Arts lottery funding to the five largest London recipients (The Royal Opera House, Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler's Wells and the Southbank Centre) totals £315m since 1995. This is in addition to annual funding of over £80m that between them they receive from taxpayers. These five organisations have received more arts lottery funding than the 33 local authority areas whose communities are least engaged with the arts.

In a time of austerity, cultural organisations with very substantial public funding and with the greatest capacity to raise resources from paid attendances, sponsorship and philanthropy might be expected to make a lower call on public funds.

The sheer scale of these imbalances in the distribution of arts lottery funds across the country and between beneficiaries requires urgent address. But how? The report offers a simple illustrative proposition of a tripartite framework for the arts lottery.

Respecting the directions, the proposed framework would operate through three programmes focused differentially on: the social priority of engagement with areas of disadvantage; the economic priority of dispersed cultural production; and the artistic priority of support for artists' practice across all disciplines. Decision-making would be devolved to appropriate structures operating at regional or multi-authority level with weighted allocations that recognised advantage and disadvantage in terms of geographical, economic and social factors.

Peter Stark, David Powell and Christopher Gordon are co-authors of The Place Report

ACE have responded to the PLACE report, and this can be read at

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