Now we know what Brexit really means

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There’s something totemic about the European Union Youth Orchestra’s decision to leave Britain where it was founded 41 years ago – by Lionel and Joy Bryer who ran the International Youth Foundation of Great Britain – with a view “to creating an orchestra which would represent the European ideal of a community working together to achieve peace and social understanding”. It has been offered a new home in Ferrara where its founding musical director Claudio Abbado hailed from.

Despite its being based here for all those years, and having British trustees and chief executive, the orchestra takes its 120 young players, aged 17 to 24, from all the EU countries, 13 of them currently being British. It’s quality is testified to by the fact that it is constant demand all over the world, and its music directors have been, successively Abbado, Haitink (now, at 88, still connected as “conductor laureate”), Ashkenazy and currently Vasily Petrenko.
It is funded by the European Union, however, and now we know what Brexit means – that Great Britain need no longer be invited to work “for peace and social understanding”. No more young British talents will be recruited, and if the orchestra plays here again it will have to negotiate the armed border guards that Brexit also means.
Here at fortress home the loss of yet another source of funding, the European Union, means arts organisations have to be even more entrepreneurial and imaginative if they are to survive, and for once there is good news.
It comes from Nesta which yesterday launched the results of its nine-month-long pilot into crowdfunding ( Subsidised by the Arts Council and Heritage Lottery Fund, the pilot, which had been heralded in Ed Vaizey’s arts white paper last year, has found that it works, particularly for small arts organisations with relatively modest targets.  
The pilot took on 59 projects and with the £251,500 grants as matching money raised another £405,941 from 4.971 backers. And the matching increased the average contribution by 17%m, from £63 to £74. If this is the “philanthropy” that Jeremy Hunt in 2010 thought would take over the burden of subsidy he never said so, nor did Vaizey, but what the pilot found, said its enthusiastic lead Pater Baeck, was that 86% who came in for a project had never supported that organisation before, and for 78% of them the money they gave was on top of what they would normally donate, not instead of. The other finding to come out of the study presented as a good thing was that 85% of the organisations running crowdfunding campaigns said their call inspired people to offer non-financial help, such as advice, not in my experience always what you most need when you’re cash-strapped.
There is nothing new about matching funding, Arts & Business did it in its heyday when it had government cash with considerable success and ACE still does it. I’m not suggesting that DDCMS is seeing this pilot as steering the way to replacing subsidy as real Brexit demands more cuts, but if that inkling has occurred it should be strongly urged to forget it. The pilot seems to have worked a treat, but Baeck also found that what encouraged the crowd was that the project it was attracted to had the imprimatur of the offer of match-funding, all be it from the National Lottery.


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