Live webchat with Alan Davey, 26 November 2013

Live chat with Arts Council England's Chief Executive, Alan Davey, Tuesday 26 November 2013.

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Welcome to our chat with Arts Council's Chief Executive, Alan Davey. Alan will be here to answer as many of your questions as possible until 2pm. Please abide by our live chat rules of engagement.

ACE Moderator: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us for our live chat with our Chief Executive, Alan Davey. Alan will be answering questions from 1pm to 2pm. We hope to get through as many as possible in the next hour, but if we don’t get to yours there will be other opportunities to ask us questions on our website or via social media. We will make a transcript of this chat available online at when it’s finished.

ACE Moderator: First question came to us via email from Mike Jones. Firstly I want to say a big thank you for the In Harmony programme my grand child goes to Old Park in Telford and the impact it is having on him and also the school over the past year. Are you able to yet confirm whether this great programme will be able to continue post 2015?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hello Mike, thanks for your question. Yes In Harmony is a really inspiring scheme, I’ve had the pleasure of seeing some of the children involved play in Everton and it was great to see how excited they were and how much their own families were enjoying taking part in the performances too. We’re proud to be part of this scheme and to have played a hand in expanding it so that more children and young people have been able to get involved. We actually fund the project jointly with the Department for Education so any funding decision needs to be made with them and we’re in discussions about what might happen after 2015.

Ana Horton (@anahorton) via Twitter: Is it correct that ACE has plans to fund NPOs solely from lottery? How do you propose to address additionality?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Ana. We’re very mindful of the additionality principle but in the meantime we need to think about how we can support organisations in the best way. The overall budget for the investment round is still under discussion and will be decided at National Council in December. The use of Lottery money legitimately to support NPOs is part of that.

ACE Moderator: One more Q from Twitter, Animation Alliance UK: 18mths ago Liz Forgan said ACE/BFI partnership would look at cross over particularly in animation. Any news?
Alan Davey, ACE: Over the past 18 months we have been working closely with the BFI on a number of areas including: our joint work on the Space (with the BFI curating an animation strand); gifting the Arts Council’s film collection of arts films and artists film and video to the BFI, and beginning joint planning in relation to cultural infrastructure and audiences across England to strengthen provision. The Arts Council is committed to supporting animation and as part of that we recently supported the Accelerate Animation report which will help to inform how we will work together with the BFI to further support animators in both development, production networking and knowledge sharing in 2014/15. More details will follow early next year. We’ve also recently awarded funding too from our Grants for the Arts programme to Animate Projects to support some animation sector networking, knowledge sharing and lab activities in 2014.

Simmo: Can you outline what ACE is doing to nurture home grown musical talent in the UK? Especially considering how countries such as Canada invests in its ‘non mainstream’ music industries.

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Simmo - Well we’re already supporting popular music to the tune of about £2 million plus, through various schemes like Grants for the arts and supporting organisations like Generator, British Music Underground and Tees Music Alliance. But we knew that wasn’t enough which is why we supported the Momentum Music scheme, delivered by PRSF, modelled on those Canadian schemes. It’s early days yet but this support for artists at key stages in their careers seems to be much needed and we’ve funded some really good bands in the first two rounds. It’s something I want to expand. Only last night I saw Tony Dekker, lead singer of the Canadian band Great Lake Swimmers, who is a brilliant example of how small amounts of public support from the Canadian system have helped an artists to thrive and really fulfil their potential.

Kathryn Green via Twitter (@kjgthatsme): How will we nurture the next generation of creatives with no arts in schools & uni fees more than artists will ever earn?

ACE Moderator: Other Twitter users asking about artists pay: @hannahnicklin, @artofnoises... 'Will ACE write fair payment clause into new NPO agreement with galleries next year? 71% artists receive no fee' and 'what will ACE be doing to improve this situation?'. Answer coming for all those Qs.

Alan Davey, ACE: There have been quite a few questions around our work with visual artists our support for individual artists including funding, artists’ pay and opportunities for them to raise visibility so I hope I can answer them all here.We are aware of this issue and recognise there are concerns in the sector. It is a complicated situation in an environment where there is less funding. We are considering the guidance for NPOs applying for funding in 2015-18 and in particular the guidance around artist pay as is already in place for Grants for the Arts in terms of our portfolio clients. It is a complex issue in terms of the implications and the various contexts for each art form and there is more work to be done on this.

Jackie Schneider on Twitter (@jackieschneider): why is funding for music education so complicated?

Alan Davey, ACE: I think that’s more of a question for the Department for Education (DfE) and local authorities. The Arts Council is a fund holder, we distribute the funds which we are given but we don’t determine how the way in which that works across the board.

Philip Flood on Twitter (@philip_flood): I would be interested in Alan's thoughts on future relationships with @youthmusic and music hubs moving forward.

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Philip, Music hubs are still in their infancy but really want to work with them to strengthen their ability to work in new ways, perhaps in new partnerships, to deliver quality musical opportunities to young people and to ensure that schools are offering something rigorous, that’s real and that young people will want to engage with. When I addressed the music hubs the other week I talked about my own tragic music education and I want to make sure that young people nowadays have better opportunities than I had.

@loumackenzie on Twitter: as arts cuts affect us all can ACE do more to promote relats between artists and private/other public investors?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Lou, We’ve got Catalyst schemes which include awards for small organisations and developing relevant fundraising skills within leadership roles. But I would be interested in your thoughts aboutwhat more we could with individual artists and other investors bearing in mind that our resources are scarce.

ACE Moderator: Questions on support for arts and culture in London and elsewhere: From @iris_priest: Is the support for arts in the UK too London centric?

ACE Moderator: and from Roger Tomlinson via email: Some people are saying the 30 year failure of ACE to tackle the imbalance and inequity in regional funding compared with London is near scandalous, in both the application of taxation and Lottery derived income. Sir Peter has said that the Arts Council should be judged on the situation in two years time. I presume you agree that the past situation is unacceptable and unfair? What is the strategy to enable the regions to catch up on per head of population funding?

and from Luke Jeram on Twitter: With massive discrepancy of ACE spend between London & restofEngland, is there a 5yr plan 2rebalance? what % change?

Alan Davey, ACE: on regional funding: Lots of questions on regional funding here. The report which has sparked the debate is pretty misleading in some of its figures- suggesting for example that £86.40 is spent in London per head compared to £8.50 in the regions. Actually the numbers are quite different – of our total Gia spend 41% is on London and 59% on the rest. They also add £100 million to our Lottery income. But I am not here to argue about dodgy numbers. We do need to follow what Jennie Lee wanted: strong arts and culture in the regions and in the Capital. Since she published her White Paper there are now national companies in the regions, new galleries and theatres, and a strong cultural scene all over the country. Going back to tired old arguments about London vs regions, rural vs urban won’t help. We have to build and strengthen from the bottom up, at a time when our major partners - local government – is under real pressure. You can’t draw conclusions about the destination and reach of art from looking at the artist’s home postcode. Work that is funded in London does not mean it’s just for Londoners. On Sunday I saw a company, funded by our London office, who have performed eight times in London out of more than 60 performances nationwide this year. National organisations based in London belong to the nation. They have a role in artistic development, pioneering digital platforms and touring across England. They, along with great art and culture from the regions, also give us a leading role on the international stage. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that if you look at where we’ve spent our Lottery money in the last three years, 70% has been outside London – and if the figures remain buoyant, Arts Council Lottery investment in the regions will equate to around £870 million over the next five years.

Alan Davey, ACE: cont'd: National Council has also made a commitment to manage the proportionality of our funding to London. The strategic funds used to address specific needs are currently split about 70/30 in favour of the regions. Our recently refreshed 10- year strategy (link to Great Art and Culture for Everyone) looks at how we can build on the regional ecology of the arts across England and as we head into our next three-year investment process, geographic criteria will be central to our decisions. We have already said that the amount spent in London won't grow - and we will look to further increase the regional Lottery spend. The biggest challenge to regional funding is the cuts that many local authorities are having to contend with; we cannot fill this gap. This is something that we must address as we work closely with local authorities to find reasons for their continued investment to help support a diverse range of arts and culture across England. FYI: Subsidy per attendance in London is much lower than elsewhere. Minus our investment in the four big London based organisations – the Royal National Theatre, The Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre and English National Opera - it’s just over £4 per attendance, the lowest in the country; with the big four added it, it’s still just £6.15 – lower than anywhere outside the South West.

Additional note from Alan Davey, ACE (added 09/12/13): I feel I ought to add a footnote to these remarks typed in the heat of a webchat. I’m not suggesting that anyone’s numbers are ‘dodgy’, but that all numbers are capable of being used to prove particular points. In getting hung up on numbers, we are in danger of missing the essential point: that culture outside London is under pressure right now, due to cuts in Local Government funding and before that RDA funding, and we need to consider what we have to do to save and further strengthen cultural provision and opportunity. I’m encouraged that the tone of the debate is not a return to a ‘London vs the Regions’ that has been been a rather negative feature of debates in the past, but is more nuanced, and recognises the wider cultural ecology in the country. But the fact remains: there is a great deal to do to sustain and secure cutural invesment in the regions – and we have a key part to play in that. 

ACE Moderator: Question from user 'RM': How to ensure and support the sustainability of Social Enterprise projects led by artists, as a means of addressing and meeting the needs of a community, whilst best utilising local and national assets, ie in this instance our creativity? Would ACE funding be considered for projects/aspects which are designed by artists and creatives and yet contribute to a wider and essential infrastructure of society directly? Thank you RM

Alan Davey, ACE: I think the simple answer that we’re open to applications of this kind provided that art is at the heart of a project. We know that art can do many things, including meeting the needs of communities in various way. This is part of the holistic case for the arts which we are developing over the next 12 months.

From @wylie_alan on Twitter: Libraries are far far more than cultural assets, how will ACE seek to develop their key role in literacy, education and info?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Alan, Libraries are a cultural asset and far more. As set out in Envisioning Libraries of the Future, we see libraries having broad and increasing role in society. We see it as our job to encourage this broad role. For example our recent joint initiative with DCLG and the British Library called Enterprising Libraries.

@stonecrabsTC via Twitter: Can you tell us which small arts organisations have benefitted from Catalyst? asaik they are all medium-scale and up.

ACE Moderator: And one more: ACE officers are now delivering invites to specific arts org/venues to apply to NPO - how can we be sure of a fair process?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi @stonecrabs. We’ll be announcing the criteria for our NPO process, based on our ten year strategy, at the time we invite applications. It will be a two stage decision-making process with scrutiny from Area Councils and National Council but we are always clear that at some point we have to exercise judgment because there will be more applications than we are able to fund. We are committed to this process being open and transparent and want to be sure that we fund the best applications that we can using a range criteria.

Re Catalyst- I don't have the list off the top of my head because it's quite long! But we had a special element of Catalyst for smaller organisations. There is more information on our website.

Peth: Hi Alan, I was at your ITC presentation yesterday, thank you for your honest appraisal of the situation. What struck me as questionable, was seems to be an assumption that partnerships between NPO's and smaller/independent organisations and artists are always a good thing.

ACE Moderator: Last Q from Torbay Council: Here at Torbay Council we (like the rest of country) face a yearly fight to survive local authority cuts (some areas as you know have been cut totally). Recent changes to ACE G4A processes are making our work even harder – in that local authorities used to receive copies of all G4A’s which had been submitted for comment – we now don’t. This makes our work more difficult as we don’t know what’s going on (with ACE money) in our area until funding is awarded, this makes it very hard for us to plan strategically and input good practice into projects, which really is a big part of our work. Therefore our positions become more vulnerable. Please can you reinstate the process whereby LA’s comment on and see g4A bids?

Alan Davey, ACE: On your question regarding reinstating the way that we used to process Grants for the Arts bids; we had to make those changes to help to streamline the overall process as part of our organisational review which saw us making savings around administrative costs. The changes mean that more of the Arts Council's time is spent providing a range of development and pre-application support to applicants. We want Grants for the arts to keep providing small grants, supporting emerging talent and making a difference at grass roots level. The changes have allowed us to continue to deliver this funding in a way that works for applicants and is efficient to run but we do take on board your concerns.We recognise that cuts to local authority budgets mean that many of you are facing tough decisions which may have an impact on arts and culture in your area. We plan to continue to work with you and relevant partners closely through our next investment process to help make intelligent and collaborative decisions around funding which we hope will address some of these issues.

Lara: How can we sqaure off the need to allow art to be about "the discovery of the unknown and unimagined" and give "cultural institituions the freedom to take risks" as cited in the "green book" when there are so many requirements for the outcomes and measurables of any funded project to be so tightly defined at the outset?

Alan Davey, ACE: Hi Lara, this is an interesting question. And it gets to the heart of what our job is. We have to make judgements and we have to be accountable at the same time. In the end we all have to take risks and that’s when the magic happens. I feel I could give you a much longer answer but we’re out of time now and I’m going to have to sign off. But thank you and thanks to everyone for all your questions.

ACE Moderator: Thanks everyone for taking part in today’s chat. If there wasn’t time to answer your question, there will be another opportunity to take part in live chats - to stay informed visit or follow #ACElivechat on Twitter.


I have to take issue with Alan Davey's comment that "National organisations based in London belong to the nation. They have a role in artistic development, pioneering digital platforms and touring across England". Regionally-based organisations can and should belong to the nation too. And they too should have an equal role in artistic development, pioneering digital platforms and touring across England. London doesn't have a monopoly on talent, ability and exciting ideas.

Thanks for answering the question. And we're pleased that the Accelerate Report will help inform how you'll work with BFI -but ACE didn't fund/support the report - we were supported by London College of Communication and Jerwood Charitable Foundation. Could you correct this please? Thanks.


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