Live chat with Alan Davey

Live chat with Arts Council Chief Executive, Alan Davey, Wednesday 28 November 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.

The live chat begins at 12pm.

Welcome to our chat with Alan Davey. Post questions until 12.30pm. Alan will be here until 1pm to answer as many as possible. Please abide by our live chat rules of engagement .

ACE moderator: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us for our live chat with Alan Davey. You can post questions from now until 12.30pm. Alan will be answering questions until 1pm. 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 chat to Alan - please check for forthcoming dates. We will make a transcript of this chat available online at when it is finished.

Alan Davey: Hi this is Alan, waiting for your questions!

12:01 ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Roger Tomlinson ?@BrandinyourHand via Twitter: Why "probably unachievable"? (in reference to our mission and the BBCR4 Today programme piece)

Alan Davey: To Roger Tomlinson: The words you heard from me on the Today programme were taken from an unaired interview given some weeks before. That interview focussed on the history of arts funding and how things had changed since Keynes time. My point about never being able to reach everyone was that our research tells us there are a small group of people who say they are really not interested in the arts and nothing would make them so. But our mission is to try to reach everyone and that's what we have to do. I went on to explain how engagement with the arts had grown across the country and talked about some of the exciting work that is making that happen. I also spoke about the challenges facing arts organisations as budgets are squeezed all round. Unfortunately my remarks were edited down to a few seconds, making it sound as though I was giving up on great art being for everyone – something I would never do. And those who know me know this is what drives me in my job.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM @FuturePANeK via Twitter: If Alan Davey believes his mission is impossible, should he resign?

Alan Davey: To FuturePANeK: See my answer to Roger Tomlinson – our mission is right, relevant and we can do great things with the support of sustained public funding. It’s about equality of opportunity – everyone in this country should have the opportunity to engage with the arts wherever and whoever they are. We’re still going for it.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Whalley Range All Stars via email: 2 questions for Alan Davey“ Do you know what “Great Art for Everyone” actually means? From your performance on the Today programme on the 20th November it would appear that you’ve confused Great Art with High Art.”“ As an NPO company we supply you with a lot of stats which for a small company can be time-consuming. It’s therefore disappointing to hear you on the Today programme fail to use the sort of information we supply to you (which demonstrates the overwhelming popularity of our art-form - outdoor theatre which the AC has invested in ) and instead get bogged down in how opera and ballet appear to be under-performing audience-wise.If you seem unaware of the stats we are supplying of what use are they exactly?”

12:14 Alan Davey: To Whalley Range All Stars: Of course I know what 'great art for everyone means - we coined the phrase at my first Arts Council meeting. I believe I answered most of your questions in our email exchange on 21 November and I’d repeat my answer to Roger Tomlinson earlier in this chat: my remarks were edited down to a few seconds, making it sound as though I was giving up on great art being for everyone – something I would never do. I wholly believe in GAFE and I wholly believe in creating the conditions for everyone in this country to have the chance to benefit from exposure to great art and everything it does. Great art does not equate to high art. Great art can occur in community settings and formal settings. It's all about the authenticity, the ambition and ultimately the quality of the work itself.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Saddleworth Comedy @OL3ComedyClub @ComedyAtYourPub via Twitter:Why do the Arts Council fail to fund stand up comedy?

12:17 Alan Davey: To Saddleworth Comedy: I don’t think it’s fair to say that we fail to fund stand-up comedy completely! For example, we recently supported Francesca Martinez’s ‘What the Fuck is Normal?’ national tour with funding through Grants for the arts. But stand-up comedy is a very specific artform that has problems arguing the case for subsidy when it is so difficult to differentiate from commercially viable work. We are more likely to fund work that crosses stand-up with other artforms – for instance Ross Sutherland who blends poetry, stand-up comedy and spoken word theatre, or New Art Club, who blend stand-up comedy with contemporary dance.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Max Dixon via email: What is ACE doing to help attract new sources of funding for local public libraries subject to local authority cuts?

12:22 Alan Davey: To Max Dixon: We're helping public libraries attract new sources of funding by investing in innovative projects that really demonstrate the valuable role a public library plays in its community – whether that be meeting local government aims around learning or health and wellbeing, or through working with arts organisations that support active and engaged communities. We hope that by funding these projects through the Libraries development initiative and the Grants for the arts Libraries fund, the really excellent work these libraries are doing will help them attract additional support.

ACTIONTRANSPORTTHEATRE: At Action Transport Theatre we take shows and theatre workshops to schools as we believe it is critical to schoolchildren's learning and development. What are the Arts Council's next steps in the campaign to include the arts in the EBACC?

12:25 Alan Davey: To Actiontransporttheatre: I've just a meeting I convened with educators, umbrella groups and arts organisations on refining our response - to push for a sixth pillar of the EBACC and also to be clear and to present to DfE what good qualifications in the arts should be. There was an intelligent and passionate feeling in the room and we're making these points straight to DfE.

12:25 ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM @TimGap via Twitter:What next for disability related arts? Minds were changed with Unlimited. How is ACE going to build on this success?

Alan Davey: To TimGap: The range and skill of the Unlimited commissions were brilliant. We are talking to the artists involved and partners about how we build on this success. It's something we really must do.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Joe Duggan via email: What impact do you think 100% arts cuts by councils, like Newcastle City Council, will have on young creatives?

Alan Davey: To Joe Duggan: I appreciate that NCC has to make some hard decisions about how to deploy its reduced budget, but a small amount of local government funding in culture can go a long way in making somewhere an attractive place to live, work and visit. Sustained investment over the last 15 years has made Newcastle a centre of culture for the North East, home to some of our most treasured and exciting galleries, theatres and museums – all of which make a big contribution to the regional economy and the quality of life in the area. All that’s at risk if NCC does cut cultural investment by 100% over the next three years. We know from past experience that drastic cuts in cultural funding over a number of years can mean a whole generation of young, creative people don’t get the breaks at a crucial time in their fledgling careers. We don’t want to see that happen in Newcastle or anywhere else and that’s why we’re working so hard with NCC and local authorities all over the country, arguing hard for the value of continued investment in art and culture. Public consultation is a good thing, too – everyone who feels strongly should put their view forward.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Luke Emery @luke_m_emery via Twitter: How do you deal with a govt that seems to be determined to push towards philanthrophy instead of public funding?

12:36 Alan Davey: To Luke Emery: We believe that investment in the arts should be a mixed economy. Sustained but modest public investment in the arts is extremely important – whether that be from government funding or from local authorities. For less than 0.1% of public spending, we get so much. We have to make that arguement - philanthropy comes in addition to public money because philanthropy follows success. It will never and should never replace core public funds. I think the government knows this.

#lostarts: Concern is growing around long term sustainability as lost core funding is having to be made up with project funding. What do you think of this shift and the growing fear that valuable artforms / locations will lose out?

Alan Davey: To lostarts: Well, our core funding for organisations is set until 2015. Core funding remains important, complemented by project funding where appropriate. That mix is key to how we fund the arts in England and remains so.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM NODA @NODAtweets via Twitter demand from NODA members for more professional/amateur collaboration on theatre issues. Can ACE acknowledge + importance of voluntary arts

12:42 ACE moderator: Thanks to all of you who have posted a question. We will not be taking any more questions for this chat but Alan will be here until 1pm to answer as many as possible from those that have come in.

12:42 Alan Davey: To NODA: Amateur theatre companies and voluntary arts organisations are vital to the arts ecology in England. We support Voluntary Arts as one of our NPOs. All the Creative People and Places consortia will work closely with local voluntary arts and amateur theatre companies to increase engagement in places where involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average.

Rubymalvolio: Ed Vaizey has said in the house of commons that ACE is: "responsible for superintending and promoting the library service" How is this even possible with only five library relationship managers?

12:45 Alan Davey: To Rubymalvolio: I think this must have been a slip of the tongue. We are very clear that we do not have a superintending role and nor did the MLA before us. We are, however, about promoting the importance of libraries and their development. We will maintain a presence in all parts of the country despire our current cuts. That's important.

Alistair McMillan: I have a newly formed 'Arts Centre'. Can you advise on how we can start the ball rolling while the NPO application process is closed until 2015?

12:46 Alan Davey: To Alistair McMillan: Ring our enquiries line on 0845 300 6200. Note that it's unusual for organisations to become NPOs straight away. Most apply first to our Grants for the arts open access programme.

12:46 @yearoneteam: Any plans for more State of the Arts conferences? The Lowry was a great venue, but it'd be great to see it move around again each year.

Alan Davey: To yearoneteam: yes, we'll be announcing plans in the new year for some slightly differently formatted events. It's something I'm keen on.

12:48 ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Asif Khan via Facebook:Hello AlanThe Yardstick programme of Black author events and writing workshops in Bristol and Bath Libraries, supported by ACE, demonstrated the value of investing in African Diaspora-themed activities for developing audiences and the professional development of library staff. In an age when targets and indicators are being dropped, how will ACE frame and measure its support for creative practitioners and audiences from diverse backgrounds?

Alan Davey: To Asif Khan: We collect background data on those who receive funding from us. We use it to monitor our investment and meansure our support for creative practitioners, artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds. WE wnat to ensure that we're developing talented artists, curators, programmes and producers that truly represent our contemporary culture. We'll do this in a range of ways, including expecting NPOs and MPMs to implement Equality plans and think about how they can widen the range of people they work with; encouraging a wide range of individuals to apply for funding streams for their own individual development; and supporting showcasing and talent development initiatives that support diverse artists.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM MARCUS ROMER: 81% of all private philanthropy is in the capital. Around 75% goes to 25 institutions - how best to help the regions then considering the per capita arts funding is already 9 times lower than than of London.

Alan Davey: To Marcus Romer: Our West Midlands Chair, Peter Phillips, is publishing a report - today I think - on this subject. Our Catalyst programme is building capacity in the regions and also offering matched funding. It's not easy, I know.

ACE moderator: QUESTIONS FROM Norman Lebrecht via Twitter:1 Exactly how many ACE staff will leave the building by the end of the year? 2 Why has it taken you so long to make personnel cuts that you knew were necessary 18 months ago? 3 How much has this delay drained from the overall arts budget? Please breakdown the cost into salaries, meetings, legal fees. 4 How do you justify the above-inflation increases in your own salary? 5 How does it feel to earn more than the Prime Minister? 6 Will your lawyers pull a George Entwistle on the public purse when the dread day comes, as soon it must?

Alan Davey: To Norman Lebrecht: These look like media enquiries to me - with a great deal of misinformation in the questions. You know the number of our press office - they'll see you right.

13:01 ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM GEM ‏@gem_heritage: How are you altering your offer now that the "Arts" Council also has responsibility for supporting museums too?

Alan Davey: To GEM: This is set out in our policy framework 'Culture, Knowledge and Understanding' which is on the Arts Council web site.

13:02 Carlos: Despite your previous statement about GAFE, Do you thing that the ACE distribution of funding doesn’t suggest that Great Art equals High Art? It can be justify this inequality when the objective suppose to be engaging those that are quite unlikely to ever participate/enjoy on these kinds of performances?

ACE moderator: GAFE = great art for everyone

Alan Davey: To Carlos: We core fund nearly 700 organisations of all sizes and all art forms. Through this network and also through other funding streams we hope to encourage as many people as possible to experience the arts.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM FLOGGER WILSON: Is there a better option for arts funding than the Arts Council?

Alan Davey: To Flogger Wilson: Most countries who fund the arts have an Arts Council. Making decisions on artistic grounds, free of politics, is an effective way of doing things. With our admin at around 3%, it's an efficient way of doing it, too.

ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM trick2309: Hi Alan. What is your view on the increasing pressure that Maria Miller is receiving to meet with the heads of regional theatres? It it justified? Is she playing a dangerous game, or is she simply working things in a different order to what we're expecting?

Alan Davey: To trick2309: I think she would get a great deal our of meeting those who lead our regional theatres. We've been talking to them about the pressure they are under and how we can keep regional theatre strong.

13:11 ACE moderator: QUESTION FROM Supriya Sobti via Facebook:Hello Alan,Inspired by music festivals across the UK and various events and artists that the Arts Council supported year on year (and continues to support!) during my time in London as a student and then a working professional, I returned to India to organise my own music festival Ragasthan that saw it's first edition earlier this month.With success and a huge thumbs up by festival-goers from across India and abroad, we'd now like to develop a relationship with the Arts Council so as promote new and emerging artists and musicians from across England. India is a huge market and one certainly worth tapping into given its population and appetite for all things new and out-of-the-box. I'd like to explore the possibility of the Arts Council partnering with us for the festival in some capacity wherein we provide a platform for some of England's new found talent and have your team assist us with the same. Would this possibly interest you? Could you help nurture this as a cross-cultural project perhaps? Any pointers?Many thanks, Supriya

Alan Davey: To Supriya Sobti: You should first talk to the British Council in India, who undertake this kind of activity.

13:14 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 chat to Alan Davey. To stay informed visit , where will will also post a full transcript of today's chat, or follow #ACElivechat on Twitter.



I'll try again. Have asked this 3 times. Is it a sensitive issue? Why are organisations that are core/regularly funded not expected to advertise the lead posts after a certain period of time? I know arts orgs who have people been there over 21 years, holding on, and things looking decidedly same old same old. They could apply & be reappointed but opportunity for fresh innovation should be encouraged & looked at. So why please?

It's not a sensitive issue, it's just one that has been covered in a previous Live Chat (with Liz Forgan on 14 June) and in the interests of covering as many different issues as possible, Alan chose not to address it this time around. 

As Liz said: It’s not the Arts Council’s role to micro-manage organisations – they need the freedom to set their own course. Your point about making sure artistic leadership remains fresh is a good one, but it is the responsibility of Boards to manage this in the best way for their organisation.

Just listening in

just joining in :)


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