The future of arts funding debated
The event, which was in partnership with Culture Vulture and the Audience Agency and funded by the Arts Council and the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC), took place at the Carriageworks Theatre on Wednesday 12 February and was open to everyone with an interest in the arts.
Leila Jancovich, Senior Lecturer in Cultural Policy, Arts and Festivals Management at Leeds Met and organiser of the debate, said: "There is no doubt that cuts in arts funding are having a devastating effect in some places and for some artists, as local authorities and Arts Council England are forced to make difficult choices, but choices they still have.
"Increases as well as decreases have been awarded to some regularly-funded organisations in recent years and, whilst some local authorities are threatening to do away with arts funding altogether, others are still investing. Many campaigns have started to make the case for the arts in general but what is missing is a public debate about what arts funding is for and what art we most value. This session is being organised to create a platform for that debate, bringing together arts policy makers, arts practitioners and the general public to debate the issues and hopefully inform these choices."
Chairing the panel was Cluny MacPherson, former Arts Council England, Regional Director for Yorkshire and now Chief Officer of Culture and Sport at Leeds City Council.
He was joined by Dr Kara McKechnie, Lecturer in Dramaturgy and Literary Management at the University of Leeds, making the case for balanced arts funding which includes large arts organisations ('flagships'); Susan Jones, Director of a-n The Artists Information Company, making the case for an increased emphasis on funding for solo artists and freelancers; and Adrian Sinclair, Creative Director of community arts organisation Heads Together Productions, making the case for an increased focus on funding community arts.
Following the experts' debate, the public were asked to decide who put up the most compelling argument and deserved government funding. Using monopoly money, attendees were given the chance to voice their choice by investing into the area of the arts that won their vote.
Leila added: "The final votes clearly showed a preference for investment in research and development for artists and community-based activity rather than for the large institutions of culture. There was also little support for Leeds bidding for capital of culture, which was in stark contrast to the findings at the meeting held by the Council earlier in the month."
The event was organised by the Knowledge Exchange Network at Leeds Metropolitan University, which is coordinated by Leila Jancovich and Professor Franco Bianchini and has been commissioned by Arts Council England to explore key issues in participation and engagement in the arts across the North of England.