Live chat with Peter Bazalgette

Live chat with Arts Council Chair, Peter Bazalgette, Tuesday 5 March 2013.

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

You can find out more about our upcoming live chats and download transcripts on our website. Join the live chat conversation #ACElivechat.

The live chat begins at 11.30am.

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

Please refresh this page to see the latest posts.

11:24 ACE moderator: Hello everyone, thank you for joining us for our live chat with our new chair Peter Bazalgette. Baz will be answering questions from 11.30am to 12.30pm. 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 Peter - please check for forthcoming dates. We will make a transcript of this chat available at when it’s finished.

Baz: Hello, and welcome to my first live chat. As a debutante (only one month in) I'm hoping to learn as much from your questions as you will from my answers. Fire away!

QUESTION FROM @AnimAllUK VIA TWITTER: Last June Liz Forgan mentioned an ACE/BFI partnership "as work. crosses over..particularly in animation..". Any time soon?

Baz: To @AnimAllUK - we've got a very good working partnership with the BFI with new things afoot, but they're currently reviewing their position on animation so in this particular instance I have to say watch this space.

QUESTION FROM @pipsterb VIA TWITTER: Could governance structures for arts/cultural orgs be more creative to meet C 21st needs? How might ACE reflect/support this?

Baz: To @pipsterb: The regulations and requirements of boards of charities have become more onerous over the last ten years. And we are also noticing boards becoming more averse to taking risks – perhaps as a result of a tough financial climate. But art is all about taking risk – trying the new and challenging. So we need to be able to provide flexible funding to accommodate more creative and flexible governance structures, if that’s what it takes to keep managed risk on the table. But we still have carefully to account for every precious penny of public money.

QUESTION FROM LOSTARTS VIA TWITTER: How do you feel about arts cuts - & their impact? What role do you feel @ace_national has in championing arts & culture?

Baz: To LOSTARTS: What I'm most concerned about right now is the pressure on local government and the prospect of losing as much as a third, or more, of their investment in arts and cluture over the next three years. They actually invest more than the Arts Council does at the moment, so this is a real threat. But I was in Newcastle yesterday, announcing the new deal there - a big cut but not a total cut - and it shows there is a way forward. We need to remind all local authorities that arts and culture are one of the "essential services".

QUESTION FROM @hartshornhook VIA TWITTER: @ace_national #ACElivechat Are sustainable funding models the future for ACE? If so should that mean closer ties with the commercial sector?

Baz: To @hartshornhook: Just two days ago I visited Live Theatre in Newcastle. There, they've invested in a pub/restaurant specifically to support their production and new writing. Every scotch egg sold helps the cause. This and matching schemes like Catalyst show us the way forward. But public funding is still the cornerstone which enables all these things to happen.

Clinton: Hi. What do you think Arts Council can do to defend the status of arts education in schools, given the current environment and likely impact on Arts Award and Artsmark as well as other education work led by arts organisations?

Baz: To Clinton: It was encouraging that the GCSEs are to survive and the Secretary of State for Education has asked the Arts Council and the arts community to contribute to a process leading to better curricula. But I think one of the most crucial ideas being discussed is that schools could be judged by Ofsted on the quality of their arts education. This could have a really beneficial effect.

QUESTION FROM BERNARD EVANS VIA EMAIL: I would like to ask Peter Bazalgette to organise the Arts Council so that it is more responsive to local needs than it has been in my experience in West Cornwall. The Newlyn Art Gallery organisation has had two 'portfolio funded' galleries for the last five years.Why is it so set against the artists of the area? West Cornwall is an area with a rich history of artists going back 150 years and which included two well known 'Schools of Art' the 'Newlyn School' and the 'St Ives School'. Newlyn Gallery, in its anxiety to show what it terms international cutting edge art, has largely left out the contemporary artists of the area to the despair of many down here. The evidence for this is my knowledge of the attitude of the many artists of my acquaintance plus my many friends in the area. As a result the galleries have abysmally low attendance figures and very little local financial support. The vast majority of their income comes from the Arts Council or from a few national arts foundations. There is the feeling that the public are having a view of contemporary art foisted on them. I and other local artists have reported on this at meetings,in the press and with regional Arts Council representatives. Eventually I wrote to Ian Davey the Arts Council officer in London. We received an email from his office saying that we should address our complaints to the local gallery! Can we hope for a more useful response in the future?

Baz: To Bernard Evans: Yes, I really enjoyed the Cornish art exhibition in London a few weeks ago! I'm sorry you feel that your local galleries are 'against' the artists of the area. But I understand that the Newlyn Art Gallery and the Exchange, Penzance, do regularly show work by local artists, both through the main exhibition programme and in their selling spaces. Then of course there is the education and outreach programme with development opportunities for local artists and CAZ at The Exchange, which develops artists' practice and provides opportunities for other local practitioners. That sounds like a good start but I do hope you're also having a dialogue with the galleries themselves.

NickPoole: Hi Peter. What are the main things that you would like to achieve during your time at the helm of ACE?

Baz: To NickPoole: I think we've got an amazing opportunity to use digital technology to bring more art to more people in more places in more ways and incredibly interactively. We've also been given the responsibility by the government for encouraging fundraising for arts and culture. So, in short, over my four years I want to see us get more people engaged in the arts and persuade more people to support the arts.

emilyDMU: Hello my questions relates to my dissertation on whether Cultural Quarters and culture led regeneration can develop to be the same successful model as creative clusters such as the West End. Do you think Cultural Quarters really work in the UK and how can the Arts Council help to build and retain these developing networks in places such as Newcastle and Sheffield?

Baz: To emilyDMU: I'm a huge believer in cultural clusters, spearheaded by innovative organisations. I was at the Sage and Baltic in Gateshead yesterday - wow. Earlier, I was in Margate, where the Turner Contemporary is helping turn round a town. We could talk about the Nottingham Exchange and the Lacemarket, or the Lowry Centre and Salford... there are some brilliant examples of this outside London and we need more.

QUESTION FROM SKETCHES VIA CHATROOM: hi, it would be good to see more jobs advertised for illustrators on the site. Also book writing and book cover design contests too advertised to get people more into the arts and literary field. It would be good to see art prizes posted too, because it would be easier to find it all on one site, rather than Google for different ones.

Baz: To Sketches: I understand that both the arts jobs and arts news site are user-generated - so they're open for use by the whole arts sector. Anyone can post jobs and information - perhaps you could help spread the word in the areas you mention?

Fiona: How do you propose to encourage fundraising? We have been told we are 'not trying hard enough' by the culture secretary. Believe me, we are trying VERY hard, but in an economy and regional environment where there is not money to give. So what role can ACE play?

Baz: To Fiona: The folk I've met in my first month around England are trying very hard indeed, and often coming up with some very innovative solutions. But, as a fundraiser myself for twenty years, I know it's tough. The Arts Council can help in a number of ways - Catalyst has been a very good start and is unlocking new funds. But we'll be developing a broader strategy this year, to see how else we can assist fundraising for the arts.

Baz: A bit more about local government spending on arts and culture - I'm speaking to the Local Government Association conference on Friday in Chester. What should I tell them?

billt: Hi Peter - one challenge facing ACE is working with far fewer staff and a stripped down regional structure. I'm a director of an Eastern region NPO, Writers' Centre Norwich, and I wonder if you think that the NPOs are properly prepared for the new world and what ACE itself could do to provide more support even if no more money is available.

Baz: To billt: I completely get your concern (I was Chair of an NPO up until January!) We know what people value - that's why we've done what we can to protect relationship management in the new structure. It'll be a new world for us all, but we'll still be there on the ground, with our doors open, to keep having conversations with you and working together.

pipsterb: Hi Peter, Please tell local govt that shock tactics of 100% cuts send very potent and negative messages to the constituency about the value of arts and artists. Doubt Newcastle ever intended to follow through but became heroes in reconsidering their 100% position. Local authorities could learn from arts, skilled with creative problem solving, strong work ethic, and vision beyond the next election. LA's could work in partnership with arts orgs for help with some of their other problems and offer in-kind support (space, etc) as well as cash. Part of the problem is power relationship between artists and LA's as funders. This could change for the better.

Baz: To pipsterb: thank you - that's really helpful.

Hammo: Hi Peter, when you say: "I think we've got an amazing opportunity to use digital technology to bring more art to more people in more places in more ways and incredibly interactively" what kind of thing do you mean by that? Could you expand a little? It sounds interesting...

Baz: To Hammo: We're just putting our toe in the water thus far and it's got extraordinary potential. Just look at The Space - the media arts portal which is a joint venture between us and the BBC. Early days for it but a great start. Look at how theatres like The National are sending their great productions into cinema chains and what about some of the apps like Student Pulse from the LSO? We've just begun to imagine what's possible.

pipsterb: Peter, I am also concerned with how ACE keeps strong lobbying/strategic presence in London with services moving to Birmingham. How can you work with other agencies and NPO's to maintain position in the capital when this govt is talking localism but actually centralising power.

Baz: To pipsterb: It's true the Arts Council is determinedly decentralised and distributed leadership is very much a part of our new structure - that's part of our culture and part of what keeps us in touch with what's happening in arts and culture around the country. But I promise you, we are also maintaining a strong strategic presence in London (just this afternoon I have an appointment with a government minister). Your point about working with other NPOs is really important - we're doing so closely as policy develops, and many of them of course have a national role.

QUESTION FROM VEEMCDEE VIA TWITTERl@ace_national #ACElivechat re: social justice? Can/should arts provide valuable vehicle for giving people voice in this political climate?

Baz: To VEEMCDEE: If the arts does not give people a voice it's finished. It's not just political, of course - arts and culture is the soul of the nation. And when you see productions like The Riots at the Tricycle theatre last year, you're reminded how alive and responsive and powerful our creative arts are.

Julie: re: Baz's request for "more about local gov spending on arts and culture" please remind LA's that "culture creates prosperity by attracting international visitors and inward investment" (report findings: Cultural tourism is clearly evidenced to be a benefit to local economies, but it's no good if your city is slashing its own investment in culture.

Baz: To Julie: spot on!

QUESTION FROM ROZINLIND VIA CHAT ROOM: Dear Peter, I wondered if I might be able to ask you what you are optimistic about. Just because I am intrigued by what you are most looking forward to in your new job.

Baz: To Rozinlind: in my first four weeks I've been to Manchester, Birmingham, Newcastle and Gateshead, Margate (Kent) as well as London venues such as the Roundhouse,the Royal Festival Hall, LSO St Lukes and the Royal Ballet. This is what makes me hugely optimistic: the pulsing creativity, the tremendous ambition, the cultural entrepreneurship...we truly do have world class arts and culture. So, despite the problems we know about, what can we achieve? Pursuing the answer to that is something to look forward to.
» Whoops, we're out of time. Thank you very much for joining me - I look forward to the next time.

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 Peter Bazalgette - to stay informed visit or follow #ACElivechat on Twitter.


All the positive examples you have given are for venues based in cities and towns. Providing access to high quality arts in rural areas is a different ball game, but rural touring schemes do a great job. Alas they are also vulnerable to LA cuts and not well placed to generate income from businesses/private donors. Much of their work is very innovative and embedded in communities. Please remember that not just out of London, but across the whole country, away from any major population centres, the arts are vital to people.


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