Live chat with Dame Liz Forgan

Live chat with Arts Council Chair, Dame Liz Forgan, Thursday 20 September 2012.

Welcome to the Arts Council live chat blog. Questions and answers from the live chats will be posted below.

Upcoming live chat information and transcripts can be found here. Join the live chat conversation #ACElivechat.


12.00 Liz Forgan: Hello, Liz Forgan here. It's our chance to talk about any aspect of the arts, culture or the Arts Council you like.

12.07 ACE Moderator: Question from Jack Hutchinson via Twitter: How concerned are you about Maria Miller's appointment as Culture Secretary?

12.08 Liz Forgan: to Jack Hutchinson: I haven’t met Maria Miller yet but I’m very pleased she has immediately offered dates for a meeting with me and Alan.

12.09 ACE Moderator: Question from Jack Hutchinson via Twitter: How do you plan to support artists once you have left your current role in January?

12.09  Liz Forgan: And to Jack again: I’m trying to be ruthless about not taking on too much too quickly but I am delighted to say I am going to Chair the National Youth Orchestra, join the Board of the Bristol Old Vic and become a Trustee of the Art Fund. I’m also still a Deputy Chair of the British Museum. That’s the formal stuff. I shall hope to speak and write as ever. And of course buy lots of tickets.

12:09 ACE Moderator: Question from Oz Page via Twitter: Does Arts Council funding lessen the philanthropic responsibility of the art spectator by passing the issue on to the state?

12:11 Liz Forgan: To Oz Page: I think the opposite is true. When an art organisation receives public funding it often acts like a quality mark – a stamp of approval which encourages private investment - because corporate sponsors and philanthropists like to invest in success. The two work well alongside one another, enabling new and exciting work to happen and helping keep ticket prices down so more people can see great work. And with the rise of crowd funding, even the individual spectator of modest means can do their bit to help the art happen. We’ve got a good system of arts funding going in this country and its bedrock is undoubtedly government funding – I don’t see why any sensible person would want to change that.

12:11 ACE Moderator: Question from Nick Williams via Twitter: Given restructure, what will ACE not do in future? Will you consult widely with orgs on what WE need or set your own agenda?

12:12 Liz Forgan: To Nick Williams: We’re currently in the planning and consultation stage of the restructure so I can’t give you a full answer yet. It is inevitable that we will have fewer staff so we know that we’ll need to prioritise very carefully. Our 10 year strategy will still be our framework and we will continue to work with the arts and cultural sector towards our five goals. However, we’ll need to focus both our work and investment and that means an even more rigorous focus on a few key priorities. We’ll talk to arts and cultural organisations about this. What I can tell you is that we know how much funded organisations value their close links with relationship managers, and we’re working hard to preserve that.

12.13 Suzietcce: Question:- What 3 things would you like to tell Peter Bazalgette?

12.14 Liz Forgan: To Suzietcce: I never give advice to a successor. I'd just tell him he's in for a treat - and some very tough challenges.

12.14 ACE Moderator: Question from AIR artists via Twitter: What steps are ACE taking to increase the number of artists on key decision making boards? (Sally Sheinman, Chair of AIR)

12.17 Liz Forgan: To AIR artists: I think Alan covered this in the last Q&A where he spoke of his belief that artists from all art forms have valuable ideas and opinions to contribute in addition to those they express through their work. This is certainly something that I agree with as does the whole Arts Council which is why artists are involved in our decisions and decision-making processes. For example, consultation on our developing policies and funding programmes, through the artistic assessment and peer review systems they helped to develop, and via the artistic expertise of our regional and national Council members. There are changes ahead for the Arts Council in light of the 50% administration cuts it faces- as the shape of the organisation shifts there will be opportunities to take a closer look at how the advisory role of artists is working.

12:18 ACE Moderator: Question from Coventry Watch Museum via Twitter: Can there ever be a real fit for independent heritage museums within ACE ?

12.20 Liz Forgan: To Coventry Watch Museum: Of course there is a fit for independent museums within the Arts Council. In fact, Ironbridge Gorge Museum, Beamish Open Air Museum and several other of our Major partner museums are independent museums. The Strategic support fund (we’ll be announcing the recipients for 2012/13 next week), will also benefit smaller-to-medium sized museums across the country – which could include independent museums. The Renaissance programme is not just for the biggest museums. It’s there to benefit the whole sector. Independent museums can also benefit from the network of professional advice that has been provided through the nine museum development providers, and from a range of initiatives through our suite of National programmes such as Subject specialist networks and Accreditation.

12:20 ACE Moderator: Question from Lost Arts via Twitter: Lots of arts orgs are facing massive cuts, including ACE. How do you think they will affect its work?

12.22 Liz Forgan: To Lost Arts: Cuts are horrible and they can do real damage to the range and quality of work. But artists are resourceful and inventive and they find ways to make art even in difficult circumstances. My worry would be for the risky, the unfamiliar and the remote, where all the problems are magnified.

12.23 fanSHENdan: How do you feel the recently announced cuts in the Arts Council's staff and budget will affect what the Arts Council can do and what would be the best ways to mitigate any damage? What can we as artists do to help?

12:26 Liz Forgan: To fanSHENdan: If everyone is as constructive as you, we'll get through this fine. We are working hard to protect the aspects of the Arts Council's work most valued by artists (the relationship managers, for instance) and prioritising ruthlessly elsewhere. We are going to rely heavily on organisations we fund to share some of the work we currently do ourselves, especially in the field of mentoring and talent development.

12:27 ACE Moderator: Question from Lost Arts via Twitter: We hold Government responsible for arts & culture cuts & their impact. What do you think of the way Govt treats the arts?

12.30 Liz Forgan: Lost Arts: of course I wish all governments would be more generous. The arts repay investment spectacularly well in terms of jobs, regeneration and national prestige. But I wish even more that governments would see the arts as part of the main stream of their job to make a better, happier more prosperous society and not as a nice optional extra.

12:30 brezhnev: would be good to get an answer to the question tabled about Yorkshire Artists Taking the Lead award

12.32 Liz Forgan: To brezhnev: we've answered that question in a number of other places and you can see our answer in full in a letter from the Arts Council currently on the Arts Professional website. I don't want to take up this space by answering it again here.

12.32 Steven: Hi, The annual Acceptance In Lieu Scheme Report has not been released for some two years now- when will the two years of good news be released?

12:33 Liz Forgan: To Steven: We're currently working on this and expect publication by the end of October.

12:33 #lostarts: Hi Liz. Lost Arts holds Government responsible for cuts to the arts sector that have a broad and long lasting impact on arts & culture across the UK, as well as jobs and the economy. Have you got any words of wisdom or advice for all of us fighting the arts cuts?

12.35 Liz Forgan: To lostarts: Make the best work you possibly can. Don't play safe. Talk to your local politicians. Stay close to your audiences.

12:35 Suzietcce: Question:- Who do you think are the most important allies for the arts to win over in order to safe guard treasury subsidy?

12.37 Liz Forgan: To Suzietcce: Journalists. Teachers. Business people. Visitor attraction heads. I'm assuming every artist and everyone who loves the arts is already on side.

12:37 ACE Moderator: Question from Jack Hutchinson via Twitter: To what extent do you support the principle of the exhibition payment right for artists?

12.40 Liz Forgan: To Jack Hutchinson: The Arts Council doesn't have an active policy on this but we do expect arts organisations we fund to adhere to exhibition payments. We also publish a guidance note in association with the Grants for the arts scheme on ‘How to pay artists’, which makes plain our commitment to fair pay for artists and directs people to where they can find out the appropriate going rate for artists working in different art forms. Look under ‘funding’ on our website.

12.42 ACE Moderator: Question from legume via chatroom: In 1981 Raymond Williams claimed that 'the deformation of the arts, by what will inevitably be a commercially selective sponsoring, for prestige or public relations, is something that ought to be resisted while it is still at a relatively early and apparently innocuous stage. If we let in that principle, that the arts which get funded, and where they get funded, are subject to commercial and public-relations calculations, we shall have lost a half-century of effort, of achievement and of dignity'. Thirty years on, how would you respond to this statement?

12:45 Liz Forgan: To legume: I would say that I profoundly believe in the merits of a plural funding system for the arts, including public subsidy, sponsorship and commercial revenues. That is a stable structure and one which ensured cultural pluralism, too. A wholly state-funded system risks monopoly and political interference at every point.

12.47 ACE Moderator: Question from chrisdavies 71 via chatroom: Liz, how do you see the future for small non-for-profit arts and culture organisations? Given the budget. (on behalf of BECTU Young Members)

12.50 Liz Forgan: To chrisdavies: Small can be vulnerable because the margins are so tight and the options so few. But small can also be fleet of foot and resilient. I'm sure the immediate future is going to be tough but if BECTU's Young Members step up to the plate to fight for their future there is real hope.

12.51 Carol Lee: The Regional Director of ACE Yorkshire accused me via the Arts Professional article of making “unfounded but serious allegations of corruption and bias against a volunteer selection panel" rather than answer the questions. WHY is ACE avoiding the issue.

12.53 Liz Forgan: To Carol Lee: Carol, as you well know, we're not avoiding this issue in any way, shape or form. We've corresponded with you by letter, we've made a full disclosure to you under FOI and there is a very public debate taking place on this issue on the Arts Professional website. We're simply not allowing it to dominate this live chat, which is for everyone.

12.53 NickPoole1: It can sometimes be hard to make a clear case for long-term investment in the arts because their impact can seem intangible. With your experience at ACE, what do you think are the most compelling strategies to encourage Government to view the arts as an investment opportunity rather than a funding obligation?

12.56 Liz Forgan: To NickPoole1: I think the experience of those great cities which have really taken culture to the heart of their thinking give us the best case. Liverpool, Bristol, Manchester, Newcastle are all brilliant case studies of what happens to the economic health of a city when you invest properly in its culture.

12:56 ACE Moderator: Question from Ruth Elizabeth via Facebook: How are you going to provide funding for mature artists who want their art work to be noticed or able to fund an artist studio space?

12:58 Liz Forgan: To Ruth Elizabeth: We don’t have a specific policy for mature artists and don’t believe we need one because our GFTA programme is already non-discriminatory of age and open to applications from anyone of any age. It’s entirely about the merit or promise of the work.

12:58 ACE Moderator: Question from AIR Artists via Twitter: What financial support can ACE offer to enable artists without regular incomes to sit on boards? (Sally Sheinman, Chair of AIR)

13:01 Liz Forgan: To AIR Artists: This is a difficult one because first and foremost the Arts Council funds organisations, we do not run them. They are independent organisations and their governance is entirely a matter for them. There is also the fact that many arts organisations are, by and large, charities - making their directors trustees too. They have to be very careful about conflicts of interest and many cases they cannot receive remuneration for their services. If, for example, a board member had a financial connection with an organisation that was a major funder of the charity (eg the Arts Council) it is likely that they would be deemed to have a conflict between their responsibilities to that organisation and their duty of care towards the charity, a situation which would fall foul of charity law. If the Arts Council were to pay these positions then many would argue that this would interfere with our ability to make judgements about where to place our investment.

13:01 ACE Moderator: Question from IdeasTap via Twitter: At what point do you think young artists should start to get paid for their involvement in creative projects?

13.03 Liz Forgan: To IdeasTap: All working artists should be paid. However we know it's particularly hard for young artists to get a first paid break, so we have just announced the £15million Creative Employment Programme to create up to 6,500 entry level jobs for 16-24 year olds, graduates or not, wanting to work in the arts right across the country. You can read more about it on the web site.

13.06 Liz Forgan: Time's up - as ever, good to talk. It's really important that everyone who cares about the arts stays in touch with the Arts Council. The more we know about you and you about us, the better we can do our job. Alan's next up for a Live Chat, but I'll be back before I leave the Arts Council. Thanks for all your questions today. I'm sorry there were a few we didn't get to - we'll try to find a different route to get answers to you.

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