Dundee could follow up V&A with new concert hall

Dundee could follow up V&A with new concert hall

Plans follow successful launch of new museum

ACE appoints South West chair

ACE appoints South West chair

Helen Birchenough has been appointed as chair of Arts Council England for the South West.

Hull wins National Lottery award

Hull wins National Lottery award

City of Culture voted best arts project

Welsh arts ‘invisible’ overseas

Welsh arts ‘invisible’ overseas

Welsh cultural talent is hiding its light from the rest of the world, according to a report for the British Council.

ACE/HLF firm up museums support

ACE/HLF firm up museums support

Arts Council England and the Heritage Lottery have signed a new, reinforced memorandum of understanding (MoU) to improve support for museums in England.

Lifting off after novichok

Lifting off after novichok

AI PROFILE    Gareth Machin, artistic director, Wiltshire Creative

Digbeth - 'artistic powerhouse'

Digbeth - 'artistic powerhouse'

Digbeth, Birmingham’s creative quarter, “all the potential to be the UK’s top creative hub”.

 O’Riordan to take over at Lyric Hammersmith

O’Riordan to take over at Lyric Hammersmith

Rachel O’Riordan, artistic director of the Sherman Theatre, Cardiff, since 2014, is to be the new chief of the Lyric Hammersmith.

TAITMAIL   Salisbury’s art of recovery

TAITMAIL Salisbury’s art of recovery

Salisbury’s Novichok horror might, perversely, have been a mixed blessing for the city – and for the Arts Council. 

BAC grand hall reopens after fire devastation

BAC grand hall reopens after fire devastation

Battersea Arts Centre today reopens its grand hall following the 2015 fire that all but destroyed it, and also reveals the results of a 12 year development programme for the centre.

Freeman to join Royal Exchange

Freeman to join Royal Exchange

Stephen Freeman is to leave his job as CEO of the Stephen Joseph Theatre, Scarborough, to  be executive director of the Royal Exchange in Manchester.

Labour pledge on creativity in schools

Labour pledge on creativity in schools

Labour is committed to putting creativity back onto the school curriculum, shadow culture secretary Tom Watson said today.

Bush’s Younis takes over at Southbank

Bush’s Younis takes over at Southbank

Madfani Younis has been appointed to the new role of creative director at the Southbank Centre.

McBean and the RSC’s’ golden age

McBean and the RSC’s’ golden age

The photographer Angus McBean, best known now for his portraits of the Beatles, Audrey Hepburn and Vivien Leigh, took some of his finest pictures for the Royal Shakespeare Company.

Meet the first ever Pet Poet Laureate

Meet the first ever Pet Poet Laureate

Blue Cross, the pet charity, has appointed Russell Jones as the first ever Pet Poet Laureate.

MY STORY		Trusted with Shakespeare

MY STORY Trusted with Shakespeare

Louisa Davies has been appointed to the new post of head of creative programme for the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, the independent charity that cares for the world’s greatest Shakespeare heritage in his hometown of Stratford-upon-Avon.

Stenning leaves Bristol Old Vic

Emma Stenning is stepping down as chief executive of the Bristol Old Vic after nine years at the theatre.

Rescue plan for Farfield Mill

Artists have agreed a rescue plan to save Farfield Mill at Sedbergh in Cumbria.

THE WORD Partnership and Risk: a balancing act for creativity

It’s time to look at a different approach to partnership in the theatre, says Damian Cruden, artistic director of York Theatre Royal

In common with many artistic di- rectors I am entering into the next NPO period in search of what might be called strong and stable partnerships. The call to co-production as an integral part of our programme of work is loud and clear. We are all on the lookout for the right combination of partner, title and star.

When we get it right the value is clear. We start to climb out of the “four hander” into casts of six or even eight and this opens up a wider range of titles, many not seen on our stages in the last 10 years. The work is fully exploited and reaches a wider audience and there may be slightly greater re- source available to make the piece.

Co-production with commercial producers of varying scales and their support in the project, sometimes even a third partner, can grow possibilities even further. However, with this type of partnership, certain challenges need to be confronted, if there is to be commercial FInance mixed with public investment or the mix of subsidised touring risk with building only risk.

For example, the typical model of co-production is to split the origination costs, with the participating houses paying the wages and keeping their own box office. The touring partner (whether commercial or not) then takes the risk on the road. This model can be tricky. The loss of perhaps three to five weeks’ worth of income means taking the work to houses with established audiences and a good reputation on deals, a combination that can be difficult to secure. For a commercial producer, particularly at midscale, the time left to recoup can be far too marginal to be safe.

Neither does this approach help with either ACE’s or the industry’s desire to build drama audiences in communities that are currently low at- tenders. It also means that any investors don’t get a cut in the co-producing houses, often houses with good drama audiences that would bring recoupment sooner.

With this in mind, some of us in the regional theatre world are having conversations about spreading risk in a different way. The idea is to see each project as a stand-alone, and to create a very clear and transparent budget that shows all the costs, setting agreed rates between the partners for the roles and tasks which will deliver the project. Each partner invests an appropriate portion in the project and then shares in the income over the whole duration of the life of the work.
The pluses are that it opens the work to investment from other sources because all partners will share in the total income against the project, and all the partners retain an interest in the project throughout. By using existing resources that the given partners may have will be paid in their entirety by the project, nothing would be given in kind. All partners would be able to exploit future income from the project if it continues to tour beyond the initial run.

The minuses are that building based producing theatres would be taking risk out on the road alongside the touring company/commercial producer and they don’t get to exploit their own house for themselves alone. Persuading a theatre board that this risk is acceptable will be difficult. Of course, some projects will carry acceptable risks, others less so and some will be financially foolhardy even if they are creatively wonderful. The latter are not really suitable for this new kind of partnership. While the box office certainties, if such a thing exists, should be easy to argue, it’s those that are difficult to call that are the problem and as any theatre director will tell you, these are the most common type of project.

ACE is currently engaging in a series of conversations with commercial and funded producers to talk about how touring can be supported into the future. It is keen to experiment with a variety of different models. Under- writing against loss is one of the areas it is keen to explore. There are various nuances and at the discussion I at- tended there were a variety of different suggestions and concerns around the concept.

One size never fits all when it comes to cultural investment. There will always be a need to invest in work that has to be made because it says difficult things and speaks to smaller groups, or work that needs to be taken to places that will struggle to find audiences. Projects that take this on need support in a very direct way. Other work, created and managed well, might stand a chance of washing its face and it is these that could benefit from loss underwriting. To qualify for loss underwriting there must be a good financial case that the project can break even and possibly bring a return greater than the investment. It is these marginal projects that often fail to get started because of a very understand- able nervousness to take risk. If risk were to be removed, we might be able to commit earlier to work and truly share in the whole project. This would in turn increase the amount of quality touring work available on realistic terms to theatre managements.

 

 

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