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Funding cuts force theatres to rely more on box office, data reveals

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Arts Council England-funded organisations continued to increase the proportion of income they earn themselves, amid sustained concerns over declining public subsidy.

The most recent annual survey data from NPOs found they continued to make more of their own income through ticket sales and other activity in 2017/18, with earned income representing 55% of total revenue and generating £889.6 million. This represented a 4.8% increase on the previous year.

For theatres specifically, earned income accounted for 65% in 2017/18, more than for any other arts discipline. More than a fifth (22%) of theatres’ income came from ACE investment, 10% from sponsorship, trusts and foundations, and 2% from local authority grants.

This is broadly similar to the previous year.

Across all NPOs, the most recent data continues a trend of arts organisations becoming less reliant on public subsidy and more financially self-sufficient, with earned income taking up a larger share and 58% of all organisations reporting an increase.

Arts Council funding fell from 24% of all income in 2016/17, to 20% in 2017/18.

While overall local authority funding remained steady at 7%, for the 630-strong constant sample that submitted data in both years reported that it grew by 8% from £107.8 million to £116.4 million.

The Arts Council said this growth was an anomaly due to grants made to two organisations in different local authorities in the South East.

In the previous year, local authority funding for the constant sample declined by 10%, underlining ongoing concerns over shrinking support for the arts from councils across England.

Overall, 29% of the NPOs saw a decrease in local government subsidy, with 37% receiving no grants at all, compared to the 20% that did see a rise and 14% that experienced no change.

The Arts Council’s annual data survey also found that:

  • Theatre attendances at NPOs increased by 10% between 2016/17 and 2017/18, to 14 million people.
  • Overall, new commissions accounted for 14% of theatre output in 2017/18, the same as the previous year. Other new work decreased from a 19% share to 14%, while the proportion of work from visiting companies increased from 58% to 68%.
  • 64% of new work across all NPOs was commissioned in London, with the East representing the next largest share, at 7%.
  • Theatre organisations had a higher proportion of activities dedicated to children and young people than any other art form.

Audiences for Arts Council England’s NPOs fall 16% year on year

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