ACE’s new theatre sector assessment will listen to artists, vows Myers

Former Southbank Centre director of performing arts Jodi Myers, who will head Arts Council England’s forthcoming investigation into the state of the theatre sector, has promised that practitioners will be heavily involved.

Myers, who together with creative industries consultant Anne Millman will lead the assessment, said former Leicester Haymarket artistic director Kully Thiarai and circus and street arts expert Pippa Bailey had been appointed as advisers and the process would include extensive consultation with the sector itself.

She told The Stage: “We have put artists on our team, the arts council is putting artists on its steering group and we will be talking to artists in our consultation. Our tender went to the arts council with very much that in mind. We invited Kully Thiarai and Pippa Bailey as advisers because they have experience of an extremely wide range of artistic practice.”

The investigation – the largest undertaking of its kind since the Theatre Review in 2001 – will start in the next few weeks and will influence future ACE funding decisions. It will take place in three stages – the first will see Myers and Millman analysing existing data on the sector, while the second will involve a period of consultation with the industry. They will then report to ACE and the arts council will look at how they can use that information to better fund the sector.

It is understood that while the first phase will be constrained to ACE data on the companies it funds, the consultation process will extend to the commercial and unfunded theatre sectors, as well as other industry bodies and local authorities.

Myers added: “It is now five years on from the Theatre Review – a process starting with the Boyden Report and ending with the allocation of an extra £25 million by 2003. We’ve been asked to look at the impact of that £25 million, five years on.

“With the consultation, we don’t exactly know yet how widely we want to talk to people. That is, until we have looked at the statistics. That will help our team shape the consultation we do. That’s quite an unusual process, but a good one. It makes huge sense to look at it in these phases.”

She added the investigation would consider how and where theatre is now made, as well as issues surrounding touring and how theatre collaborates with other art forms.

As well as her work at the Southbank Centre, Myers has also served as director of Warwick Arts Centre and was previously deputy director of touring at the arts council. Millman has worked as a consultant for organisations such as the BBC, the Old Vic and the Royal Court theatres. The pair will work alongside ACE director of theatre strategy Barbara Matthews on the assessment. The results are expected to be published in the autumn.

¥ Arts Council England has brought in a senior communications professional to investigate the way it presented its spending round to the press and public.

Gill Kirk, who has served as interim director of communications for the Royal Shakespeare Company, is to head up the review, which will feed into Genista McIntosh’s broader investigation into the recent funding decision process.

ACE executive director of advocacy and communications Andrew Whyte said: “We chose Gill Kirk because of her breadth of experience, but also because she knows the sector from her time with the RSC. She will be looking at the communications around the arts council’s Regularly Funded Organisation investment strategy and what lessons can be learned.”

Kirk will be starting to interview people on a confidential basis, over the next few weeks. The process is expected to follow a similar timescale as McIntosh’s, which is due to report in the early summer.

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