What are the criteria for NPO funding of new companies? (your views, August 10)
With reference to your Editor’s View ‘Don’t kick the Arts Council for funding Emma Rice’, did Wise Children apply at the normal application deadline?
Funding for Arts Council England’s national portfolio organisations is partly about artistic delivery, but also audience engagement, financial resilience, business planning, leadership and governance – for which Wise Children has no track record.
Other NPOs are assessed on those things before funding is confirmed, so why not here? ACE usually points people to schemes such as Grants for the Arts when starting a new company.
The Arts Council assesses future plans for audience development. While past performance is one of the evidence bases that can be can used, it isn’t the only one.
Indeed, for new or young organisations joining the portfolio, the funding will provoke a profound change in audience engagement, governance and financial resilience. In these cases, the past is not really a deciding factor at all, but the future plans are the ones being assessed.
It’s reasonably common for theatre companies to change their governance only after an NPO application has been successful – moving from informal collective models to more formal set-ups. That’s what our company Slung Low did, but you only want to do that if you’re successful. Otherwise you might get stuck with the wrong model without the funding.
Similarly, becoming an NPO might allow a company to offer positions in audience development, long-term business planning, marketing, community engagement and at executive level – in a way that would have been inappropriate for a show-to-show theatre company. This is one of the carrots of NPO to compensate for the many sticks – you get to be a completely different type of organisation.
Past performance is central to the assessment but the emphasis is placed on evidence of future activities. It is possible to do that fairly for a company that doesn’t have a body of work behind it, but instead drawing on the track record of individuals involved and demonstrating that detailed planning is in place to further the Arts Council’s aims. Whether we like it or not, this is the criteria by which NPO funding is given.
I’m not keen to take on the role of defender of the Arts Council – it can provide its own rebuttal. But, in the words of Christopher Eccleston, if we’re going to have it, let’s have it right.
Alan Lane, Slung Low
With reference to your front-page story on July 13, the Little Theatre Guild, which represents amateur theatres across the UK, agrees that a more consistent approach to licensing and training of chaperones is called for.
When former children’s minister Tim Loughton was looking at amending the relevant regulations, the LTG sought to become an approved body for the training of chaperones in the amateur sector. We wanted our training to be overseen and approved by a single, overarching regulatory body, such as the one BECTU is calling for.
At present, the LTG suffers from the inability to train volunteer chaperones because many regulatory authorities will only do the training during the 9-to-5 working week. Many volunteers cannot afford to take the time off work, whereas enlightened authorities do arrange a limited number of evening training sessions.
If the LTG were an approved training body, overseen and regulated appropriately, we could train our volunteers at times to suit them.
Safeguarding officer, Little Theatre Guild
I was sorry to learn of Barbara Harris’ bad theatre experience (Letters, July 13). The day I read her letter, I attended a matinee of Queen Anne at London’s Theatre Royal Haymarket, where there were no such problems.
In June I saw 80-year-old Edward Fox portray poet John Betjeman in Sand in the Sandwiches at the same theatre. Despite being a pensioner myself and sitting towards the back of the Royal Circle, I had no difficulty hearing on that occasion, either.
David J Savage
South Ockendon, Essex
Quotes of the week
“What you learn very rapidly is that the Olivier is the financial boiler house of the National Theatre. If you make the wrong choice of productions there, you can find that you’re haemorrhaging money. In crude terms you always need a hit in the Olivier, but to tell you the truth you always need a hit in all three theatres.”
Richard Eyre on the National Theatre (Times)
“Nowadays you get a lot of rich kids going into the arts who wouldn’t have bothered before because they had different career paths, but all these professions are drying up now. So there’s a temptation to go into the arts and use the connections that wealthy people have, that poor people don’t have, to get established in these fields, so you’re getting a blanding out of the voices.”
Author Irvine Welsh (Sky News)
“I think that if any human being in any profession, whatever amount of time they spend thinking about their status is in direct proportion to what kind of blowhard jerk they are. I think Donald Trump spends a lot of time thinking about his status and it’s exactly why I wouldn’t want to be at a dinner table with him.”
Ethan Hawke on being an ‘audience’s actor’ (Independent)
“My job is to stimulate people. If I ask for something and I get what I ask for, I’m sorry. Because I’m not a composer, I’m not a designer. I want you to come back with something that will surprise me.”
Broadway producer Hal Prince (New York Times)
“I didn’t faint, I just played it really cool and cried. It was incredibly emotional, because as a child, all I wanted to do was be an actor, because I wanted to play pretend, and that’s the ultimate, and I’m about to play an alien, a Time Lord, and as a girl. Who knew?”
Actor Jodie Whittaker on becoming the first female Doctor (BBC Radio 6 Music)
“Unlike some writers who balance theatre and film careers, his formative experience with the theatre was off-off-off-Broadway. He was really a part of the underground and alternative movement. Almost all of his theatremaking was like that. That’s a total difference to the world of Hollywood.”
Director Matthew Warchus on Sam Shepard (Guardian)
“Some people don’t think [theatre is] cool. I’ve always had a love for theatre, it was always cool for me, but kids aren’t always so nice. It’s a way of kids expressing themselves, I saw more people flourish and grow as people when they were in drama groups than anywhere else.”
Actor Charlotte Wakefield (speaking at a press junket for the musical Crazy for You)
What you said on Facebook
It’s a great play, but if they’re going to continue doing high-profile productions of it, can we at least see some variety in the casting choices? I love Hiddleston and Cumberbatch, but there are different routes to go down other than the same middle-class men.
I saw the show in London. It’s like a vaccination: hopefully if you remember your horror and disgust at the theatre, you may recognise the signs of totalitarianism and tyranny in real life and work to stop them. As a Russian, I have bitter experience of these events happening in real life – not just in the theatre. Let it be remembered: let it stay in theatres and books, let it not be polished and let us be warned so we can stop it happening again. A play like this must horrify, otherwise it may create the dangerous feeling that it was not so terrible and could happen again.
This production is not as shocking as every review makes it sound – far from it. If anything I left feeling a little disappointed by it.
I couldn’t disagree more with this review. The production was fantastic when I saw it at Sunderland on tour. There was a well-deserved standing ovation, and you could have heard a pin drop at times, the audience was so captivated.