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Animated Edition - Issues 1996 - 2001
Too dependant: independent dance
Animated, Winter 1999. Clare Cooper takes a candid look at the dependency of the independent dance sector and why it is so bad at attracting portfolio income streams. However, the climate is changing - we have valuable skills to exploit as business is looking for new ways to interact with creative individuals and groups

Fascinated by the ideas that surround personality assessment through movement, I recently underwent a movement pattern analysis myself. It was of course very revealing and one of the observations was "you prefer to see issues in shades of grey rather than as black and white alternatives, and this may enable you to tackle problems successfully which other people might have considered too unrealistic or too difficult to attempt. You are likely to take the view that anything is possible".(1)

This might go some way to explaining why I have stuck with working in the world of fundraising and partnership development in a particularly challenging environment. Not only do I work with small to medium sized arts organisations that have been heavily reliant or dependent on one funding stream, eg. public subsidy or student fee income, but in environments where there has been little or no history of dedicated fundraising. And for an artform - contemporary dance - too often perceived as inaccessible, exclusive and indecipherable!

In preparing this article, I attempted to collect some data on the dependency of the contemporary dance sector on one funding source. I asked the Arts Council of England's (ACE) 's Dance Department how many of their contemporary dance clients regularly received funding in the last year from sources other than themselves, Regional Arts Boards (RAB) 's or Local Authorities - the answer was one per cent. I also asked the Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts (ABSA) how many contemporary dance organisations had attracted Pairing Scheme Awards in 1997. The answer was six.

I read with interest the Department of Culture, Media and Sport's (DCMS) 's 'fresh off the press' Creative Industries Mapping Document - one of the first attempts to capture a significant range of data about the creative industries in this country in any detail. This tome presents contemporary dance (at least they have managed to make the distinction - which is more than the BBC did when they announced the Department for Education and Employment and the DCMS's new funding arrangement for 'ballet', drama and stage management students!) in a section entitled performing arts, alongside ballet, opera, drama and music theatre.

They note that: "There is a lack of comprehensive and comparable economic data across this sector" (2) but nevertheless claim that from 1996 figures, 44 per cent of the total revenue for performing arts came from private sources including donations and business sponsorship. Later on though, the real picture emerges." Sponsorship, however, is unevenly shared across the performing arts sector. The majority, of funding is received by a handful of companies."(3)

Those of us working in the contemporary 'independent' dance sector are well aware of this. Digital's long standing partnership with dance in the 1980s and early 90s, and Beck's sponsorship of Michael Clark are rare examples of business support. But why are we, with a few exceptions so bad at attracting a portfolio of income streams - not just from business, but from private individuals, Trusts and Foundations and other Government monies besides the respective Arts Councils, RABs and Local Authorities?

I believe there are both specific problems, and wide ranging issues that we need to examine, and I think it is time to open up the debate. This article aims at provoking dialogue rather than offering a list of solutions and I look forward to hearing what other people have to contribute to the debate.

One example of a specific problem that contemporary dance has is explained by Julie Cork, a leading sponsorship consultant in London. 'It does tend to be perceived - like it or not - as a minority interest artform with a relatively narrow audience base. For business sponsors interested in hospitality benefits, contemporary dance has a long way to go before it can match the more obvious attractions of ballet, opera and the visual arts. This is because sponsors are understandably wary about entertaining business guests at a performance - which they might not like or understand. Contemporary work is often new and untried; the venues sometimes inadequately equipped for hospitality purposes; so contemporary dance, small to medium scale at least, is not usually a perfect choice for corporate entertaining.'(4)

One of the ways of tackling this issue though would be to look at other aspects of the artform that could appeal to the business community. The association with the new and or cutting edge for example, or the enormous amount of community dance activity and individual company outreach programmes.

But I think another part of the solution is for us to be aware of new trends in the wider world and use them to develop new partnership ideas which can lead to new funding. "We are leaving an age where information was the distinguishing factor and entering a time of creativity"(5) said the Prince of Wales at the launch of ABSA's new think tank, The Creative Forum. "In the 21st century, we are going to see the world economy dominated by the exploitation of creative minds'(6) said Tony Blair. Business is picking up on this new future fast and is looking for new ways to interact with creative individuals and groups. They need us and we should be thinking up new ways of exploiting this.

But there are in my view other issues that need to be resolved if the contemporary dance sector is ever going to be successful in attracting money from all types of different funding sources to create a truly 'mixed economy

I believe that the history of over reliance and dependence on one funding stream - particularly on ACE and RAB subsidy - has bred an inward looking attitude. This narrow view of the world has led to a whole range of problems, including how the contemporary dance sector communicates across the board with the rest of the world.

There are generally poor levels of understanding about the critical importance of developing focused but wide-ranging communication strategies within the sector. Developing a successful mixed economy is as much rooted in being able to successfully communicate the vision and core values of your work to a number of different kinds of groups of people (in commerce, in philanthropic organisations, in other sectors of public funding, eg. Regeneration Agencies, in different Lottery distributors) as in the traditional marketing campaign or audience development strategy.

More worryingly, in my experience, even if there is some comprehension that fundraising needs to be seen as part of a wider communications strategy; there is still an incredibly patchy and often low level of understanding of the methodology of successful fundraising - amongst board members, artistic directors, dance managers, producers and, as importantly, the main stakeholders in most contemporary dance organisations - the Arts Councils or RABs. What do I mean by methodology? Two examples: that in order to attract funding and investment from different sources - staff time is required and that the organisation or project needs a strategy for attracting different kinds of funds which needs to operate over a fairly long period of time in order to be successful.

I think these and other issues need to be addressed, and with some urgency. I do not think it is just a question of increasing skills -of course that is part of it. But the biggest nut to crack is attitude - a shift in thinking - across the sector underpinned by focused leadership from the main stakeholders.

There was for example, little in Gerry Robinson's recent Annual Lecture at the Royal Society of Arts, entitled An Arts Council for the Future about boldly re-visiting the role of public subsidy generally, or indeed ACE's own small proportion of that subsidy. There was no re-appraisal of that role in the creative process from the initial, emergent idea, through the process of research and development to a finished piece or programme of work, through to finding markets and audiences for that work. As the realisation finally emerges that the role of creativity and creative individuals is critical to the development of our 21st century economies, I had expected a more sophisticated approach from ACE and a greater understanding of the complexity of the map.

Instead, the focus was on access - a single point in the cycle of creativity:
"It is not our task to impose a new order it is our task to respond to a new order and the new Arts Council will place its emphasis squarely on creating new audiences ... widening access to the arts and acting imaginatively to bring in and keep new audiences will be right at the core of everything we do at the Arts Council.'(7)

But what about all the other points in the creative cycle? Particularly how public subsidy could be used more flexibly and imaginatively to help individual artists develop their creativity. Creativity is after all the driver of the whole 'cultural industries' sector. "There is absolutely a relationship between money and invention" the new Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House said in a recent interview about the Royal Ballet's growing image as a Heritage institution. We all know that artists need to be supported not just as they emerge, but throughout their creative lives. There was no suggestion in Robinson's speech as to how public subsidy could be used more proactively to help artists and organisations develop new partnerships that can bring in new and different resources. Reference was made to the 'leverage effect' that Lottery money had on large scale building projects, but that was all.

If we cannot look to the Arts Councils or RABs for leadership on these issues - at least not for the moment - then we must seize the agenda ourselves and examine how we might engineer the shift in attitude that we need to adopt in order to draw a different map. I think we need to do this by asking some very difficult, complex and fundamental questions. For example: What is our attitude to money and where it comes from? I remember working in one national dance institution some years ago where it was perfectly clear that senior members of staff abhorred the idea of having to sully themselves by talking to business people. I am conscious that this kind of elitist attitude toward the business community continues to prevail - amongst respected choreographers as much as senior dance managers and producers.

Another question: How do we value the work that we do and how can we articulate that value better to different kinds of people outside the dance and Arts Councils and RAB worlds in order to attract new resources? We are all very good at Arts Council speak, but how good are we at translating our core values, our reason for doing all of this, into the language of, for, example the Regeneration Agencies, the Government's New Deal Programme, the business community, the different Lottery distributors? We all need to become much more articulate and 'multilingual'. And, what role can the training institutions play in beginning this shift in attitude and preparing all their students for our increasingly complex and changing world?

Finally; how can we develop better mechanisms and new methodologies to help deliver new resources to our sector? Why is the level of data collection so poor? Who should be responsible for coordinating and resourcing the collection of data given that statistics are important in helping to create a compelling case for business sponsorship or investment? Why cannot we really explore this idea of branding and marketing the sector as a whole? Why cannot the current major stakeholders - the Arts Councils and RABs - explore how they could be more proactive in helping organisations develop new relationships and new partnerships? What do we mean by advocacy and lobbying and how can this become a more effective tool in our search for new resources?

The DCMS 's recent comprehensive spending review explained that it would expect the "new Arts Council of England to be capable of taking a lead across the broad range of all artistic activity which will be a source of policy advice to the Government and a national funding body for the arts and crafts" (9) I would like to suggest to the Arts Councils and individual RABs, stop being transactionists and start being transformers. Work with the contemporary dance sector and people outside contemporary dance to set up a 'task force' and an action plan to look at a whole series of communications issues across the sector. I would also like to challenge the contemporary dance sector to look outside its own small community and realise the necessity of being part of a wider world.

It is not much help having a vote if you do not have a job. That is why culture cannot just be the icing on the cake or what Franco Bianchini described as "the lipstick on the gorilla".

Clare Cooper, Freelancer, specialising in Fundraising and Partnership development. Her main client is Laban Centre, London where she has been leading the Capital Lottery Project to rehouse the Centre on Deptford Creekside.

1 Bows, E. J., MPA Profile for Clare l.R. Cooper, London, 1998.
2 The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Creative Industries Mapping Document, DCMS, London, 1998.
3 Blair, Tony, London, 1998.
4 Cork, Julie, Crowcroft and Partners, London, 1998.
5 Association for Business Sponsorship of the Arts, Creative Forum Launch, London, 1997.
6 Ibid.
7 Robinson, Gerry, An Arts Council for the Future - The Arts Council of England's Annual Lecture organised with the Royal Society of Arts, London, 1998.
8 Kaiser, Michael, The Sunday Times, London, 1998.
9 The Department of Culture, Media and Sport, Spending Review, 1998.

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Animated: Issues 1996 - 2001