Rage Against The (Mobile) Machine

Monday, 19 May, 2014 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Chantal Guevara

Theatres attract such diverse audiences, and yet there is one thing which all audience members have in common: a universal loathing for those people who cannot put their phone away long enough to watch a full act of a show.

It's not as though theatres leave any room for ambiguity, normally: their anti-phone stance is typically outlined on their website, cast sheets and programmes, and usually addressed in the preshow announcement.

And yet we will always get those people who feel that they are nonetheless above such strictures. Oh yes, they can text, email, tweet, check Facebook and so much more during a show - and that's just for starters! And unfortunately, due to funding cuts, too few theatres have the available ushers (and really long sticks / cattle prods / tasers) to keep audience members in line.

What is the big deal, you might ask? Well, you've paid money to sit in a darkened room to watch artists perform a show which they have spent months learning, rehearsing and perfecting. You are doing this alongside other people who have also paid money to watch and enjoy a show.

You should be aware of how bright the light of a phone is: not only does it disrupt everyone sitting remotely near you, but it's also immediately visible to the performers on the stage, highlighting your lack of interest and engagement in their performances to them.

If you cannot be bothered to watch the show in front of you, then show your neighbours and the performers some respect and leave the auditorium until you are capable of actually watching a show.

The sad thing is that England is one of the few countries which is hyperconscious of the people around us and how our behaviour affects other people. So how is it acceptable to destroy other people's evening because we would rather sit in a theatre and text people for several hours? Or play with a phone during every dramatic climax of a show?

To be fair, the worst culprits I've seen - at Royal Opera House's Linbury Studio Theatre and at Sadler's Wells - have usually been from overseas, typically either Spanish or Italian. Is it acceptable over there to disregard other audience members or the performers while watching shows? And what are theatres doing to combat this?

And there lies the problem. I've long commented on the viciousness of audience members in Royal Opera House's amphitheatre, the unruliness of audience members in the Linbury Studio, and the extreme likelihood of being stuck near someone at Sadler's Wells who is incapable of putting their phone away. And where are the ushers to do anything about this? Nowhere to be seen. When they can be seen, not willing to get involved.

So what does it take for a theatre to actually take action on people who are ruining shows for many of their audience members, many of whom will not return because the theatre does not prevent that from happening.

I saw an incredible show tonight at Sadler's Wells by Scottish Ballet. But instead of enjoying the show, two Italian women near me chose to spend their evening playing with their phones, refusing to put them away when asked.

Sadly, because this is England, nobody else said anything about them. Yes, some people thanked me afterwards for taking action, but that's too little too late.

I watch dance to be inspired and uplifted, and to cherish this industry I choose to work in; I don't watch shows to be abused and bullied by audience members, and to be left feeling upset about what should have been a wonderful night out.

Part of my work involves seeing a lot of shows, so boycotting theatres isn't an option for me, so I can only hope that one of these days, theatres will finally decide to take action and stop others from ruining shows for everyone else - audience members and performers alike.

Chantal is the Artistic Director of the Cloud Dance Festival in London. This article originally appeared on the CDF website and is republished here by permission.

Published Mon, 19 May, 2014 at 11:03 | Share on Facebook |

We Will Never Know

Monday, 16 December, 2013 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Neil Nisbet

Like many individuals and a lot of established groups working in the arts today Article19 has to do as much as possible with the limited resources at our disposal.

You can't always do everything you want to do and you can't always do everything as well as you want to do it. Compromise is what we all have to live with on a daily basis and, like so many others, we could all do so much more, if only....

Over the last year, and for a long time before that, Article19 has reported on a seemingly never-ending stream of issues in the wide world of the arts, almost all of them involving wasted resources and wasted opportunities.

Some criticise Article19 for "complaining" too much, sometimes repeatedly, about the same issues. Criticism that I, as the editor, completely reject because pointing out what's broken is how you get things fixed.

If you have a leaking pipe in your home do you think happy thoughts for a few weeks and hope that it stops or do you complain about it to the landlord to get it sorted out?

It should come as no surprise to learn that the arts has a lot of leaking pipes.

Of particular interest this year has been The Space, a joint venture between Arts Council England and the BBC. The idea behind The Space was to get the arts to more people "for free" using the internet.

The dance content, such as it was, cost hundreds of thousands of pounds to produce and was available online for just a few months. If the level of interest in the live broadcast of the Breakin' Convention was anything to go by then the raison d'être of The Space was not fulfilled.

Such a large sum of money would have been far better spent on the touring costs of dance companies in the real world at a time when touring is being relentlessly squeezed.

The Music Director of the Royal Opera House, Antonio Poppano, was paid over £740,000 in 2011. If you want to get more people into the shows you are touring with the money saved from not doing The Space then consider this.

Mr Poppano's salary could have been used to reduce a £15 ticket for a live performance to £10 for 148,000 people. A £5 drop in the price of a ticket could mean the difference between 148,000 more people coming to a live performance or keeping 148,000 coming to see live performances.

This is especially true at a time when the public are being financially squeezed almost as much as the arts organisations trying to provide them art.

Need I remind you once again about the £400,000 per year being spent on the National Youth Dance Company?

Opportunities missed, resources squandered, it is the story of the arts in the 21st century.

Over the coming year there will be, inevitably, a lot more opportunities missed and a lot more resource squandered on projects trying to meet unquantifiable goals.

Article19, and maybe some others, will write about these issues, bring you the facts and, with fingers crossed, hope for change.

My optimism about that change however diminishes more and more with each passing year because the desire to actually do something about the massive problems facing the arts in the UK simply does not exist.

Given that the applications for National Portfolio Status will be going in to Arts Council England very soon I can only imagine that dance organisations will hunker down and be even more unwilling to rock the boat.

Whatever the outcome of that application process, no matter the casualties in terms of companies being obliterated by an arbitrary decision making process, few, if any, will speak out.

As long as those in the culture world continue to accept the misleading narrative that we are all living in "difficult times" as huge sums of money continue to be demonstrably squandered then nothing will change.

When I see an organisation (DanceEast) spending over £80,000 making some dire videos about dance and they are so indifferent to that material they can't even be bothered to keep a copy it pisses me off.

Why doesn't it piss you off and why don't you do something about it?

As an individual or an organisation what could you have done with that money? How many workshops, how many touring shows, how many new works could have been created?

If you just sit back and do nothing then we will never know.

[ Deleted Files ]

Published Mon, 16 Dec, 2013 at 11:39 | Share on Facebook |

Not Going To Russia

Monday, 12 August, 2013 | Comments | Make A Comment

Choreographer Ben Wright was invited to be part of a government initiative of the Ministry of Culture of the Russian Federation to launch a special arts program to develop and support contemporary culture in smaller Russian cities. In light of recent violent suppression of the rights of the LGBT community and the passing of an "anti gay propaganda" law Mr Wright declined the offer, explained here in a letter to the events organisers.

I have watched with growing dismay as the situation for LGBT individuals has intensified under Medvedev and Putin's systematic swathe of anti-gay legislation and institutionalised government homophobia.

Thankfully, the visibility and comprehension of the scale of present circumstances in Russia have been enhanced by the internet and social media. The world is becoming increasingly sensitised to the plight of regular LGBT people and their families and to high profile individuals such as your TV journalist Anton Krasovsky.

I've been appalled at scenes from Moscow Pride; sickened by the brutality of unchecked Neo Nazi mobs, and rendered speechless by the barbaric torture and murder of the gay teenager in Volgograd.

Putin has essentially decreed the lethal legitimisation of prejudice and has allowed discriminatory treatment by his law enforcement to flourish. Unless things change unequivocally, the situation is set to escalate with an unprecedented rise of neo-Nazi groups with anti-gay sentiments.

Jenny, thank you wholeheartedly for your invitation to come to Russia, but after extensive thought, and despite a very real desire to meet and share an experience with your dance artists, it would be utterly hypocritical of me to accept your offer under the present political regime.

The New Russia

For many years now violence has been the response of choice for many opposed to demands for equality for the LGBT community in Russia. Such violence often goes unpunished by law enforcement who, more often than not, will arrest participants in the "pro-gay" demonstrations rather than their attackers.

Marches and other demonstrations are frequently banned in Russia with some politicians calling such gatherings an "outrage to society".

More recently young gay men have been deliberately targeted by kidnappers and subsequently tortured and humiliated, online, by far right extremists opposed to their very existence.

Homophobia has also extended to murder in at least two recorded incidents, both in Volgograd (capital city of Volgograd Oblast in western Russia), this year. In both cases, press reports cite the victim as "unnamed".

Individuals were arrested and charged with committing both of those crimes.

In June of this year Russia's parliament, the Duma, passed a bill that outlawed activities that they described as "promoting homosexuality". The law means that people could be arrested and fined for engaging in any activity deemed to be promoting homosexuality to those under the age of 18.

Foreign visitors can be deported if found to be in violation of this new law that many have criticised for using overly broad language to describe what "promoting homosexuality" actually is.

I cannot consent to an invitation that is funded by a Ministry Department within a State that also promotes the penalisation, maltreatment and stigmatising of LGBT people. I therefore have to decline your generosity, and for that I am profoundly sorry.

As it stands, I perceive this to be the most active form of personal protest I can undertake at this time. Please ensure that my feelings are forwarded to your senior managers and the politicians you work with.

As an artist and a gay man, I cannot support the National Cultural Agenda of a government that has so vehemently declared war on a minority - a minority to which I proudly belong.

I consider my sexual orientation to be nothing short of a gift as it has consistently encouraged me to be aware of alternative perspectives, to look beyond the norm and to question convention.

My 'queerness' is an innate part of who I am, a quality that is not only profoundly reflected in the work I make, but has also impacted my entire outlook on life; in my personal history, my sense of humour, my anecdotes, my humility and my criticism of patriarchal condescension.

I belong to an extended society that has (not without a tremendous fight) evolved dramatically over the last 20 years in terms of the rights and equality for LGBT individuals. I am surrounded, inspired and challenged by a whole range of people, many of whom identify as being gay. I have been in a committed relationship for 17 years with my husband and I will not temper or censor who I am one iota. Putin has made it pointedly clear that people like me are not welcome in Russia.

Were I to accept your invitation, I would have volunteered creative provocation, shared my life experience, spoken of about faith and doubt, and eagerly endeavoured to inspire. But being privy to the absurd knowledge that foreigners can now be detained for up to 15 days and deported - as well as fined up to 100,000 rubles for 'promoting' a homosexual lifestyle - it would be foolhardy for me to attend these workshops for my own personal safety.

I have no wish to be a martyr Jenny, but instead I am actively finding ways to join the greater public outrage focused at The Duma's repulsive policies.

Putin's agenda to engineer and enforce a 'heteronormative' culture in Russia is akin to Hitler's 'solution' to the Jews and the minorities he considered undesirable in Nazi Germany.

When asked on Feb 1st 2007 by Marina Lapenkova, "Do you agree with Iuri Mikahilovich Luzhkov's opinion that a gay parade is the work of Satanists?"

Putin replied,

"With regards to what the heads of regions say, I normally try not to comment. I don't think it is my business. My relation to gay parades and sexual minorities in general is simple - it is connected with my official duties and the fact that one of the country's main problems is demographic. But I respect and will continue to respect personal freedom in all its forms, in all its manifestations." - ref

Where is the respect for freedom in your government's fascist stance towards LGBT people? The current demonisation tactics are barbaric, and just as violence was the very basis upon which Nazi society was built, Putin and his political cohorts have become perpetrators of terror and brutality.

One wonders about his sudden change of face? What kind of home affairs is he trying to steer light away from? - Hasn't that historically always been the case? Totalitarian leaders who manipulate the un-educated with noxious propaganda to erroneously create a sense of 'righteous togetherness' by creating an 'other'. An 'other' to focus hate and prejudice upon; an 'other' who's demonisation can alleviate potential national dissatisfaction?

It is commonly accepted that homophobia is caused by the fear of a threat to masculine power. Is Putin losing his grip?

Putin is now globally identified as ringleader of hate and your politicians have aligned Russia with the likes of Iran, Uganda, Senegal, Gambia, Nigeria, Sudan, Jordan, Jamaica, Cameroon and Zimbabwe as one of the most dangerous place on earth to be LGBT. My heart goes out to those individuals who find themselves at the mercy of Russia's new legislation.

I am certain many of the artists I would have met on his trip would identify as LGBT.

Jenny, I would welcome an opportunity to establish contact and begin a dialogue with the individuals you have targeted for this initiative, but for now this would need to be explored through on-line forums or through social media.

The Anthropologist Kenneth Clark said, "Art must do something more than give pleasure; it should relate to our own life so as to increase our energy of spirit." I am all about the increase of spirit - an increase through compassion and imagination, by engendering curiosity, by bringing people together to question, wonder and to celebrate. It is an anathema to me that your government wants to build these new cultural centres and seek to inspire artists, curators, managers, and creative leaders whilst also coordinating a climate of fear and stigmatisation.

Of course I appreciate the potential social and artistic benefits of developing contemporary culture in smaller cities such as Vladivostok, but my concept of a progressive contemporary society is one that is based on inclusivity; one that is ultimately loving and that encourages an 'energy of spirit', irrespective of race, religious denomination, class, sexual orientation or gender.

I sincerely hope that the International Olympic Committee will see sense and cancel the Winter Games. I can only trust that through systematic boycotts and the potential withdrawal of competing countries, the Duma will be forced to consider their abhorrent human rights violations.

Ben Wright is a freelance choreographer and the Artistic Director of bgroup a dance theatre company based in the United Kingdom.

[ 'Just As We Are' on Article19 ]

Published Mon, 12 Aug, 2013 at 12:16 | Share on Facebook |

The Open Letter

Tuesday, 15 January, 2013 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Neil Nisbet

Over the last couple of years the talk in the wide world of culture has almost incessantly been about funding cuts. Alongside that has been some fairly muted counterpoint from a few, some would say, privileged members of the arts community.

Every time we read about the case for arts funding it's usually being made by Nicholas Hytner (AD of the National Theatre) or the director of the Royal this that or the other.

Their arguments usually fall on deaf ears since they all come across as people speaking out in defence of their own substantial pay packets and even more substantial pension plans.

Disingenuous doesn't even begin to cover it.

So what of everybody else, the massed ranks of the small and mid-scale? Well, apart from a minor scuffle late last year over the failure of the government to include the arts as a mandatory requirement in the new EBacc in schools, that prompted a few dance companies to openly comment, they have all been as quiet as church mice.

Far from being a rich source of discussion, ideas and advocacy for the profession as a whole, dance companies come across, publicly at least, as being entirely disinterested in the world around them.

Last year when we published the piece on the shockingly poor pay for professional dancers at English National Opera, how many dance companies spoke out, openly, in defence of their profession's most vital resource?


'The Royal Ballet's Women', a piece that focused not only on the lack of female commissioning at the Royal Ballet but the all too obvious sexism in the dance world, elicited the same level of response. In fact, only one dance maker we contacted actually agreed to comment for the piece.

No Idea

Just to give you some idea of the level of the open discussion being conducted in dance I give you the Rural Retreats, run by Dance East in Ipswich.

During the annual get together this month David Nixon, the AD of Northern Ballet, is quoted as saying;

"Dancers often used to be thought of as children and even now they are still sometimes called girls or boys rather than men and women or just dancers. I want to get to the point where dancers don't think of themselves as girls and boys... They need to think of themselves as adults."

Given all the ballet dancers working in the world today who have forgotten that they are adults this is probably sound advice or Mr Dixon should immediately resign, take your pick.

Mark Baldiwin, the AD of Rambert, who was also in attendance, said;

"It's important to create a culture within a company so that dancers can talk to you [artistic directors] whenever they want to."

Essentially, try not to be a semi-autistic, dictatorial, jackass if you run a dance company. Thinking of the very highest level.

Do More

Many would argue that simply doing what they do should be enough to demonstrate the merits of dance companies and culture as a whole to both the public and the politicians. In a perfect world that might be true, but in the current climate it simply is not, nor has it ever been, enough.

More needs to be done, much more. Tweeting links to petitions is just weak sauce. What the dance profession really needs is active and consistent participation in the discussions about the profession and culture in general. That participation needs to come from the company directors, choreographers and the dancers.

However, leadership must come from the top. Adding the voices of company directors and choreographers to the debate and discussion surrounding all facets of dance can only be a good thing for the profession as a whole, no matter what the topic.

This participation needs to be thoughtful and visible to anybody who wants to see it or read it. You all have websites, Twitter feeds, Facebook pages, email accounts, phones, computers and a tongue in your head and I strongly urge you to use all of them.

If Akram Khan wants to go to the national press and complain about the arts having "too much" money then one of his peers needs to immediately debunk his ridiculous reasoning and do it publicly.

It's not about arguing, it's about setting the record straight and creating some balance in the narrative.

Stop waiting for somebody to ask you to get into the fight, just get in here before it's too late.

This Editorial was sent in email form to dance company directors and others across the UK.

Published Tue, 15 Jan, 2013 at 10:45 | Share on Facebook |

A Letter To Equity

Tuesday, 8 January, 2013 | Comments | Make A Comment

On January 17th Equity, the performing arts union, will be holding an open meeting for actors and dancers so they can discuss the issues that are important to them. Writer and Editor Francis Richard sent a letter to that organisation, we have copied it below, in full, with the author's permission, outlining issues that need to be addressed.

Beth Haines Doran
Live Performance Department

Dear Beth,

With regard to your open meeting for actors and dancers at opera houses on 17 January 2013, please find attached my personal observations and proposals based on views I have heard expressed by a number of dancers (and one actor) over the past few years by acquaintances of my Equity member daughter who have performed in operas.

As you know, dancers and actors already striving to eke out a meagre living on short-term contracts and minimal wages are dependent upon being called to auditions. Perhaps understandably, many therefore lack the confidence to rock the boat by expressing their individual views robustly or publicly, or seek to negotiate reasonable improvements to their contracts.

And it has already been said somewhere that trying to persuade performing artists to undertake collective action in order to improve their own situation is like trying to herd cats.

I realise that fighting to introduce performers' fees that reflect a living wage is a perennial problem in the UK, but why is it? It is incumbent upon Arts Council England, performing arts colleges and theatre schools, impresarios and arts journalists alike - not just Equity - to properly address these issues by first asking themselves the following question:

"How is it that the very people who live off the work of professional actors and dancers by teaching them, contracting them, administering them and writing about them enjoy salaries, benefits, terms and conditions the majority of artists can only dream of?"

So I hope you will accept this document from an "interested party" (I'm actually a PR writer and editor). I may have bowdlerised your industry's jargon, and the views expressed in the attached paper may be arrogant, naïve and simplistic, but I hope they can add something to the debate, because I hope and believe your meeting could be a game changer.

All power to your elbow, and good luck!

With kind regards,
Name and Address Supplied

Identified Issues

• Current minimum fees, terms and conditions for actors and dancers at opera houses in the UK start from a pitifully low base (£25), as is highlighted when productions tour overseas.

• Opera company administrators appear reluctant to acknowledge actors' and dancers' expertise, or to value it as highly as that of singers, chorus members and musicians.

• The administrators who negotiate actors' and dancers' fees appear to base them on an arbitrary sliding scale that differs between different productions within the same company, and between different opera companies.

• Some opera cast administrators only forward casting calls and auditions notices to restricted lists of 'favoured' actors and dancers (ROH) - possibly those they know will accept lower fees. Others simply select the first batch of performers to respond to a call and ignore the remainder regardless of their eligibility, experience or expertise (Glyndebourne).

Both flout industry Best Practice - yet administrators are duty-bound to help directors/choreographers audition or call as many appropriately-qualified actors or dancers as is reasonable.

• Opera company administrators (rather than choreographers or directors) also make seemingly arbitrary decisions about what makes performances by actors and dancers 'worthy' of improved performance fees, including additional fees payments for cinema simulcasts, DVD filming, solo roles etc.

• A reason cited by opera companies reluctant to increase meagre fees for actors and dancers is the claim that "the production has gone over budget" - even as they alter set designs and costumes and pay singers multiple thousands of pounds per performance.

• All of the above results in contracted freelance actors and dancers in opera houses having to individually negotiate improved fees even as intensive (and often collaborative) rehearsals are taking place, ensuring a weak and fragmented negotiating position. It also leads to some productions lacking a 'cover' dancer in case of injury etc.

Proposed Motions

1 • That opera cast administrators follow industry Best Practice by announcing and/or forwarding casting calls and/or audition notices to as wide a selection of suitably-qualified actors and dancers in the UK as is reasonably possible, and assess ALL responses fairly and equitably

2 • That ALL actors and dancers contracted to perform onstage or offstage in UK opera houses, however briefly, be paid an Equity-Approved Minimum Fee, and that this minimum fee be made mandatory for all UK and visiting opera companies from 5 April 2013.

3 • That this Equity-Approved Minimum Fee be subdivided as follows:

a. Rehearsal Fees: Minimum £100 per day/£500 per week (Monday to Friday);
Minimum £150 per day (Saturday and Sunday).
b. Performance Fees: Minimum £150 per performance, however brief.
c. Additional Fees: Solos and/or featured roles: Minimum £75 per performance; DVD filming, cinema simulcast transmissions etc: Minimum £100 per day.

4 • That when requested to do so by any party Equity will arbitrate and/or negotiate on behalf of actors or dancers contracted by opera houses when disputes arise, with no subsequent professional disadvantage being conferred on the performers by the opera houses.

The views expressed here are those of the writer and not necessarily those of Article19.

Published Tue, 8 Jan, 2013 at 03:50 | Share on Facebook |

What Needs to Happen in 2013

Tuesday, 8 January, 2013 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Neil Nisbet

More than five years ago we published a piece entitled "10 Things That Need To Happen in 2008". As the dance profession, en masse, moves into another new year what better time to take a look back and see if any of the things we discussed actually happened.

"ACE needs to support DanceUK's National Centre for Dance Health and Performance."

Not only did Arts Council England not support the renamed National Institute for Dance Medicine at all but they completely de-funded DanceUK. Despite that set back DanceUK did manage to open a starter clinic in London last year of which we shall have more in the coming weeks.

We should note that during the last 5 years ACE has squandered huge sums of money propping up failing, large scale arts institutions, handed over millions for pointless new buildings (looking at you Rambert) and continues to pay its senior executives salaries, that evidence suggests, they are entirely undeserving of.

So if it wasn't the lack of money, then what was it?

"Dancer's pay needs to get real."

Given the debacle last year with the English National Opera and the notorious £327 per week pay cheques and the fact that many dancers report not earning enough money to even qualify to pay any income tax we shall go out on a limb and suggest things have not improved a whole lot.

Equity minimums are still a complete joke and long term employment prospects and career development are pretty much just a fantasy for most professional dancers.

Over the five year period we have failed to note one single substantive position piece written by somebody in the dance profession about creating jobs for dancers.

If we missed it, then do point us in the right direction.

"A touring structure for new companies."

The National Dance Network had a brief experiment with some touring project or other but it was so brief and so badly publicised we can't remember what it was called. Resolution is the same as it ever was and a grander plan to get the work of new dance makers touring around the country on a regular basis is nowhere in sight.

"Dance companies need to actually embrace new technology, not just pretend they do!"

On this front there has actually been some progress. Websites, at least some of them, have improved and the overall content is better, if a little dry most of the time.

The standard and type of videos being produced is still very hit and miss however with too much emphasis being placed on marketing strategy as opposed to providing actual information or a compelling watch.

Just last week Dance4 released a video about 'Big Dance 2012' that was so laden with meaningless statistics you could have printed it out on paper and it would have made more sense.

"Dance bloggers need to write about stuff that's real."

This one is a little more difficult to measure but most of the blogs that were active in 2008 have either completely disappeared or are languishing, unloved and lacking any updates., started by former NYC Ballet dancer Kristin Sloane, had a grand total of three updates last year, a depressing fall from grace.

If you know of any other dance blogs that may be of interest then please let us know, because we sure as hell can't find them.

"National Dance Agencies need to work together more."

Not only is that not happening but a few them are directly responsible for undermining the profession as a whole with some pretty ludicrous projects and wasting huge sums of money. Far from being a wealth of experience and knowledge they come across as ivory towers, in a swamp, surrounded by an impenetrable forest!

"Arts Council England needs to open up."

Stop laughing at the back. If anything they have gotten worse and the funding monoliths fake "live chats" over the internet are evidence of nothing at all.

Spare Change

So five years later and it seems not a lot has changed in the wide world of dance. If anything things might actually be getting worse.

Change is often slow to happen but some of the things we were asking for, like ACE being more open to the public about discussing their policies and admitting their failures, are pretty simple things to achieve.

Far from dance companies and agencies becoming more collaborative, at least in terms of how they talk about, debate, promote and support the art form, they look increasingly isolationist in their behaviour.

We are of course generalising but that still doesn't excuse the lack of progress in a lot of areas. Bad policy and bad decision making still persists throughout the industry.

Here in TheLab™ we can't make people do things differently, all we can do is keep highlighting the problems. We did ask for Phenomenal Cosmic Powers™ for Christmas but none came.

Without sounding like a commercial for Coca Cola the only thing left is for you, whomever might be reading this, to lead the charge for wider changes in the dance world on a whole range of issues.

Proactive organisations like the Female Choreographers Collective are one example of a big idea led by just two people (Holly Noble and Jane Coulston). It might work it might not work but at least they're giving it a shot.

Carol Lee, a costume designer from Leeds, took on the Big Bad (ACE) and lost, sort of, over their less than honest funding practices. Ms Lee fought the good fight however and that's better than nothing.

If you don't ask then you don't get, so start writing, start Tweeting or start calling because the ways things are going we won't see any substantive change until at least 2346.

Published Tue, 8 Jan, 2013 at 01:04 | Share on Facebook |

A Year Out Of Focus

Tuesday, 11 December, 2012 | Comments | Make A Comment

by Article19

2012, for us at least, started with some trouble after we published a piece that suggested Resolution, The Place's annual new-dance bun fight, could probably do with an overhaul. Funding the choreographers that take part was one of our suggestions.

Some readers disagreed though with one in particular saying;

"If you want to patronize, ridicule and insult those choreographers works, then i suppose you are entitled to your own opinion, but your poisonous - and frankly bitchy - wording that you seem to use, almost constantly, on your articles only support the downward spiral of support for young emerging artists."

[ Resolution Revolution ]

So, a good start to the year then and nice to know we are playing a big part in destruction of support for new artists.

Right on the heels of that was a review, of sorts, of the Ballet Boyz lamentable attempt at documentary film making as they got their fledgling dance company off the ground. It was all a bit self involved, pointless and, in parts, probably made up. This time the majority of reader comments and emails agreed.

Little did we know that the "Boyz" would be back in our sights, for much the same reasons, just 11 short months later.

[ Jingle Boyz ]

Clinical Bullying

February saw Janet Smith, the venerable AD of Scottish Dance Theatre, move to her new post at the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. The move was accompanied by much cheering and swiftly followed by many a puzzled expressions as her replacement at Scottish Dance Theatre was revealed as one Fleur Darkin. The jury remains in deliberations as Ms Darkin embarks on her first tour in charge very soon.

In March we had some fun on Twitter. As those who follow us will be only too aware we do love a bit of heckling from the back. This time it was the vapid Digital Capacity Building project so beloved of ACE and those that directly benefit from it.

One of those beneficiaries is Marcus Romer, AD of Pilot Theatre, who decided to respond to our heckling by calling us "bullies" and "trolls". TheImp™ was having none of it and delivered a swift and decisive verbal beating and all was right in the universe again.

Freedom of expression just doesn't cut it for some apparently.

[ Please! ]

ENO Foot in Mouth

The month of March also brought one of our most comprehensive pieces when we tackled low pay for dancers at the English National Opera.

Throughout our investigation what struck us more than anything was how little anybody actually cared that this situation existed at all. Neither ENO, Equity or ACE could summon a coherent answer to any of the questions we put to them.

It takes a particularly kind of mendacity to try and justify low wages being paid by an organisation that has millions in subsidy and even more millions in surplus funds.

[ The United States of Nobody Gives a Sh*t ]

Dance UK finally got the National Institute for Dance Medicine off the ground in May with the opening of a new clinic at the Royal National Orthopaedic Hospital in London. It's a slow start for sure and funding cuts are not making it any easier. We'll have more in the new year for a follow up on how it's doing.

DIGIC Say What Again?

For our May feature piece on The Space (an ACE/BBC project that's supposed to bring the arts to the masses via the internet) we highlighted the massive and completely unnecessary amount of money the funding monolith was lavishing on their pet projects.

TheImp™ later highlighted the "Betrayal" of the arts in general by both DanceXchange and Dance East who had made the two most expensive pieces for The Space and then declined to talk about what they had spent all the money on.

It was pretty much 'The United States of Nobody Gives a Sh*t' all over again.

[ Betrayal ]

A theme that continued in our piece 'The Royal Ballet's Women' that highlighted the complete lack of top tier opportunities for women in dance. The Royal Ballet prompted the piece with their new show 'Titian' that featured no women in choreographic or creative roles.

It transpired that Monica Mason, the RB's former AD, hadn't bothered to hire a female dance maker even once during her tenure and the company in general hadn't bothered with a female dance maker for over 13 years.

Again, ACE said nothing, Monica Mason waffled and the dance world in general remained unsurprised and shrugged.

[ The Royal Ballet's Women ]

Dark August

August came with the very sad news that Nigel Charnock had passed away after a very short illness. Mr Charnock was one of the most vibrant dance makers/theatre directors in the business and his passing came as a shock to many. Watch the complete un-edited video we did with him, you won't regret it.

As we strolled into November something very reassuring came our way. A man called Peter S. Phillips (who just happens to work for ACE) told everybody in the arts that all would be well. Don't worry about cuts to funding because philanthropic giving, championed by ACE and the government at large, was an "infinite" resource.

Either Mr Phillips doesn't know what infinite means or he's fallen down and hit his head on something hard. This man's babbling theories were swiftly put down by TheImp™.

[ A Man With A Plan ]

With that we come full circle back to the Ballet Boyz who decided, against whatever practical and legal advice they may receive, to publish a ridiculously exploitative image of their own dancers.

When challenged by TheLab™ the old "boyz" said the whole thing "wasn't a story" and they would like it very much if we would leave them alone. Unluckily for them they don't get to decide what we think is a story. The image was removed, they remained tight lipped and the Ballet Boyz remains a completely ridiculous entity.

[ Hold The Junk ]

And Finally

Following a two week stint in Oslo for the Coda Oslo International Dance Festival we put together a short form documentary on a dance education project. Delivered between the UK's 2 Faced Dance Company and Oslo's Panta Rei Danseteater it's the perfect example of why dance education is important and why the arts "matter".

With funding cuts and the continued nonsensical behaviour of ACE there has never been a more uncertain time to be in the arts. As ever, you get the feeling that everybody, apart from a chosen few, are hanging on by their fingertips to keep the whole thing working.

2013 will be, if nothing else, interesting.

Published Tue, 11 Dec, 2012 at 08:34 | Share on Facebook |

On Equity

Tuesday, 29 May, 2012 | Comments | Make A Comment


Op-Ed. Nick Keegan is a professional dancer currently running for a position with Equity as a Dance Specialist. The views expressed here are his own and not necessarily those of Article19

by Nick Keegan

As any of you Equity members out there might know, if you go on their website in the members section, there are quite a lot of different categories that Equity provide guidance on. There are different guidelines, conditions, and rates specific to the 17 different categories, each one with documents for performers/directors etc.

There is not one basic Equity minimum wage, as many people think.

It can be quite difficult to find the documents that are relevant for a job because it is dependant on who's employing you, where the funding comes from, if it is 'independent' theatre , West-End Theatre etc etc.

Which is a good thing, because it should be specific to the line of work that you are in. An actor wouldn't need the same level of health and safety terms and conditions in their contract as an aerialist or circus performer for instance.

If the engagement is a large budget project then the extent of your contribution to performing/devising the physical and intellectual content should be reflected in your salary as a reasonable percentage of the total budget.

For instance, in a lot of touring ACE funded projects that I've come across, the weekly expenditure per person on travel and accommodation can often far outweigh the performers weekly salary. This might not seem that surprising, because touring can be very expensive, but if you consider a few other factors it is a very clear display of how little performers are valued when it comes to arts budgeting.

1. Almost all professional dance job listings require something along the lines of at least three years professional experience before you even get an audition.

2. The salary for those jobs are very likely to be the absolute minimum weekly wage they can get away with. (Some will even find loop-holes like 'contribution to expenses' to pay you even less.)

3. A lot of touring dance projects will arrange the performers' travel and accommodation in advance in an effort to be cost effective, but not pay performers for travel days.

So to sum up... they require professionals with years of experience, who have auditioned and proven themselves to be better than up and above of 600 other applicants, but they are unwilling to pay them what even they consider to be a reasonable wage. Performers are left fighting just to be paid the basic minimum wage for their profession, which can, in turn, damage their prospects of being re-employed in future.

There are many instances where you think to yourself; "I could have worked the same number of hours in a bar and earned more money." (and lets face it, most dancers are very experienced bar workers..)

If that's not under-valued and degrading for a trained professional (with a BA degree and a hefty student loan) then I don't know what is.


OK so I went off on a bit of a tangent there. But to get to the point...

These documents and guidelines from Equity are there to protect performers from all of the above. For dancers, they are failing. One reason for this may be that they are completely irrelevant and outrageously out-dated.

The current up-to-date standard agreement document for Ballet and Dance working in theatre, was made between the Society of London Theatre/Theatrical Management Association (SOLT/TMA) and Equity on 22nd of March 1994.

It lists the minimum weekly salary as £199.00.... try living off that in London!!

Now the rates have at least been updated in a separate document from 2010, but if the conditions suggested by Equity for the safeguarding and protection of dancers' rights hasn't been updated since 1994 then what does that say about how well they are representing such a fluctuating profession??

Personally I think it is the Councillors' job to keep Equity's representation relevant to each genre, and it seems like that this has been lacking for a long time now.

Thanks for reading, and please follow and share my bid for Equity Council on the Facebook Page below, and feel free to contact me at [email protected]

[ How To Vote ]

Published Tue, 29 May, 2012 at 04:51 | Share on Facebook |

The United States of Nobody Gives a Sh*t

Wednesday, 7 March, 2012 | Comments | Make A Comment


by Neil Nisbet

The tale of professional dancer's pay is a very long story that's never going away but things have reached a new low with the revelation that dancers working on the English National Opera production 'The Death of Klinghoffer' are being paid just £327 for what amounts to a 40 hour working week during rehearsals.

Perhaps more telling than the money is the attitude of the three key players in the latest farce that is the arts in the UK.

Those key players are the English National Opera (ENO), the performers union Equity and our old friends at Arts Council England. Between them they form the perfect circle of indifference, ignorance and incompetence.


Our story begins with the UK's second largest opera company currently in receipt of £17,078,058 for the financial year 2011/2012 from ACE.

Their production of 'The Death of Klinghoffer' required 12 professional dancers and those dancers were employed on a contract that required them, for rehearsals, to work a 33 hour week. Not included in that 33 hours, and noted in the contract, is a mandatory "warm-up" class or what most professional dancers refer to as "class".

Such classes are, of course, very important to a dancer's working day but as far as the ENO and their contract are concerned this class is not part of the working day and is therefore unpaid.

In an attempt to draw attention to these issues dancers from the production contacted both The Stage and Article19. In our case we were also supplied with a copy of the contract (published below).

When contacted to answer questions about the dancers pay and the terms of the contract ENO, via a spokesperson, initially declined to say anything at all simply stating that;

"[ENO] don't comment on individual contracts or payments as these are confidential between ENO and the individuals concerned."

When Article19 pointed out that we had a copy of the contract and the dancers had, obviously, waived their confidentially aside ENO disagreed. ENO had not chosen to release the information and they would not discuss the matter any further, except they would.

As we pressed them for some answers some notable snippets of information did come out. Concerning the unpaid classes the dancers are required to attend but not get paid for the spokesperson told us;

"We would argue that they are paid because that's part of the contract."

Apart from the fact that the contract specifically states that the "warm-up" class is not included in the dancer's contractual obligation ENO just admitted that the dancer's working week was longer than 33 hours.

Article19 asked again why the dancers don't get paid to attend class. The response this time was; "...within the contract, they signed the contract, then they are required to attend the warmup."

But why don't they get paid for it? "[I] need to get you and answer on that!"

The spokesperson never did get us that answer.


Beyond the specifics of the contract was the issue of the pay level itself a pay level of just £327 per week.

Here in TheLab™ we publish many many auditions. On average the pay level offered by independent dance makers to professional dancers ranges from £375 to £475 per week.

These dance makers are often working on a project basis with funding from Grants for the Arts. Funding that is almost certainly less than the £17,078,058 the ENO received from ACE for 2011/2012.

Never mind the £5Million surplus that the opera company has available to it according to their 2010/2011 published accounts.

After we had confirmed with ENO that the jobs the dancers were doing did actually require the skills of "professional dancers" and could not be done by your average press officer we received this, somewhat rambling, response;

"You are comparing apples and pears really, what I tried to explain in that [email] was that for an opera production, where, I've got to be very careful about the words I use here, for an opera production where of course dance isn't an [integral] part of it.
I wouldn't want to disparage the importance of the dance elements. Of course they are there because that is the vision of the director and it's not like a bolt on, it is an [integral] part of the performance but it is not the central focus.
So where, a dance company is putting on something that is essentially dance focused this is just one more element in an opera which is pretty much there to serve the music and the singing. So it seems unreasonable for a comparison between a dance company and an opera company where dance is, although an [integral] part of the production not the central focus."

I leave it to you, our dear readers, to decide just how "integral" ENO considers the dancers to be to the 'Death of Klinghoffer'

In our discussions with ENO, ACE and Equity the issue of just how integral the dancers were to the production was a recurring theme.

Missing the Point

What seems to have been missed by all three however is the fact that ENO needed professional dancers. You're paying for their skills and experience they don't get paid based on how long they are on stage or how important or not you consider them to be to the performance.

In response to that point ENO said;

"the pay level is agreed with the individual concerned and it is entirely legal and the contract has been signed by those individuals."

That the dancers signed the contract is a perfectly valid point. They knew what the pay levels would be, they knew about the hours, they also knew about the unpaid class, the lack of travel expenses and so on.

So why did they take the work?

Bargaining power over wages and working conditions comes from the existence of choice. If a company needs a skilled workforce then they need to pay for that skilled workforce. Should the company fail to offer the appropriate level of compensation dictated by the skills of the worker then the worker will go elsewhere and the company will suffer.

Unfortunately for dancers however there is a complete lack of choice. Jobs are hard to find, very hard to find. If these 12 dancers didn't take the work based on the pay and conditions offered then ENO would have found another 12 dancers who would take the jobs.

Absent that choice the pay and conditions provided by ENO are a simple case of exploitation. ENO is not paying £327 per week for financial reasons or because of how important the dancers are or are not to the production. They are paying this rate because they can get away with it, because nobody is going to stop them.

As for the ENO protesting that what they are doing is "entirely legal"? I can only imagine they are referring to minimum wage laws. Laws that were introduced to protect low paid, un-skilled workers from being exploited by employers. Yes, that's what professional dancers are, un-skilled workers, no different to a shelf stacker in Tesco.

The Union

Another part of the bargaining power of the collective workers lies with their union, in this case that union is Equity.

Unfortunately for the dancers Equity doesn't really seem to know what a union is supposed to do, at least if our conversation with Hilary Hadley, Equity head of live performance, is anything to go by.

Equity were not at all surprised to learn about the low rate of pay for the dancers, which Ms Hadley described as "woefully low". They were not surprised, because they are the ones that negotiated the rate.

In the quote above from the ENO their press officer mis-spoke when they said "the pay level is agreed with the individual concerned". The individual dancers have no say in the matter and that's all thanks to Equity.

In an interview with The Stage, Ms Hadley came to the defence of the ENO, not the dancers, when they reported that;

"Hilary Hadley stressed that ENO is heavily dependent on arts council subsidy and has recently suffered an 11% cut to its core funding."

In fact ENO's funding from 2011/2012 to 2012/2013 is exactly the same, it's £17,078,058, not to mention the £5Million+ surplus referred to earlier. The company's funding will continue to rise to just under £18Million over the next 3-4 years.

When we pointed this out, Ms Hadley doubled down;

"funding cuts are the reason the pay has not gone up in the last two years...... there has been a pay freeze because of the cuts in Arts council subsidy. So the fact that they may have received 18 million or whatever the figure was that you've just said is irrelevant in terms of it being their ability to pay an increase if it's actually been a cut"

If you're reading that thinking it doesn't make any sense, then we're right there with you.

With regards to both the pay levels and the surplus Ms Hadley explained;

"They are unwilling to pass on any of that £5million reserves or the £18million to anybody who works at the ENO. ENO can contract at that amount, they are unwilling to raise it"

It's here that we begin to realise that Equity doesn't understand what a union is supposed to do.

If an employer is unwilling to pay a fair wage to skilled workers when that company has admitted it needs those skilled workers, when it is demonstrable that the employer has sufficient financial resources to pay those skilled workers then the union is supposed to dig in and negotiate a better deal for its members.

If that deal is not forthcoming then the union would have little choice but to recommend to their members and non members, that they not work for that employer and also denounce that employer publicly for blatantly attempting to exploit potential employees.

Of course that would require the union to be armed with the same information we have but once again, if our conversation with Equity is any indication, they seem to be blissfully ignorant of even the most basic facts.

As mentioned, Ms Hadley had stated to Article19 that the pay level was "woefully low" and she would " it to be much higher". When we suggested that Equity recommend to their members that they not work for ENO as long as pay levels were so low she suggested that Article19 was trying to get her to "criticise" Equity's members.

Ms Hadley repeatedly refused to answer when we put it to her that Equity was not doing anything to protect professional dancers working under these conditions.

ACE In A Hole

Arts Council England over the last 10 years has provided ENO with approximately £170Million in funding to conduct their various activities.

The funding monolith's actions over the pay and working conditions at the organisations they fund have been sketchy at best. No matter how much money a company receives, the Big Bad doesn't like to get involved.

They told Article19;

"Individual contracts are a matter for each employer and, as mentioned, the Arts Council can't be seen as fixing rates. In regards to this particular circumstance, we understand that the 33 hour (plus warm up) is the contracted working week, however some weeks, particularly during the run of performances, fewer hours are required to be worked."

They can't be seen as "fixing" rates but they don't mind taking sides here, the side of their multi-million pound client.

The reference to "fewer hours" being worked relates to the performance schedule for the production. It isn't what we were asking them about but not to worry, let's pick it apart all the same.

For a performance week involving three shows the dancers are paid £305 which amounts to just over £100 per show. 'The Death of Klinghoffer' has a run time of 2 hours and 55 minutes (what? Ed!) To keep things simple let's call that 9 hours for the week or £33 per hour.

Sounds pretty good huh?

Not really because it's not 9 hours at all. All freelancers, in any profession, understand that the first tenet of doing business is understanding the "cost of doing business". That is, the costs incurred by the dancer to get their job done.

For the show day the dancers have to do class which is an additional hour or (done properly) would be 90 minutes. Then there is the travel time (which is unpaid and travel costs are not reimbursed), the pre-show prep with make-up and costumes, the post show time just getting out of the theatre to say nothing of taxes and national insurance.

In addition to that, what with dancers being dancers, they need to pay for regular classes to keep in shape, gym membership, health insurance (if they can afford it), physio costs, cell phone bills, the power to charge that cell phone's battery, etc, etc.

What's that I hear you say, "why should ENO consider cell phone bills?"

When you hire a photographer their daily cost factors in not just their time but everything else. From the cost of their camera gear through insuring the camera gear to paying for the electricity to edit your photographs the photographer factors all of that in as "the cost of doing business".

£105 per show does not cover a dancers cost of doing business, not even a little bit. Top price tickets for this show by the way are £95.

Static Interference

Funding application guidelines issued by ACE state that artists must be paid an "appropriate" amount for the work they are being asked to do. ACE has no definition for what is "appropriate" but in response to some questions a spokesperson did say this;

"As I mentioned regarding Grants for the Arts, if artists aren't appropriately paid for what they are doing we would reject the application."

That response would suggest that ACE, despite their protestations, does have some guidelines in place for what constitutes low pay and their willingness to act on those guidelines.

So we pressed a little further and put it to ACE that if they had prior knowledge of the pay and working conditions of the dancers working for the ENO on 'The Death of Klinghoffer' would their NPO funding application have been turned down.

"If this were a Grants for the Arts application, it would have been flagged as a concern and would have been followed up with a discussion to clarify terms and conditions. This is what has happened in this instance."

We've gone from an application being rejected to getting "flagged as a concern" all in the space of two emails.

At the time of publishing we were unable to clarify with ACE the details of the discussion they had with ENO.

ACE also did not provide any specifics or mention any specific applications or companies that the funding organisation had dealt with because of concerns over low pay.

Bad Attitude

As I pointed out a long time ago, at the start of this editorial, what we have here is a perfect circle of indifference, ignorance and incompetence.

It's hard to determine which is most damaging but throughout the discussions with Equity, ACE and ENO what comes through is their absolute indifference toward the dancers.

Equity adopts the defeatist position of "that's just how things are", the ENO can, evidently, do whatever they choose and ACE adopts the default position of lapdog.

Were Article19 the performers union the only thing we could recommend is that dancers simply refuse to work for ENO under these conditions.

Failing that we would actively encourage them to take to the stage in the last evenings performance and simply stand still. If they are of such little importance to the show, if the amount of work they do is so trivial, according to ACE, Equity and ENO, then it shouldn't matter one little bit. Of course we all know that's not true.

In situations like this it comes down to somebody taking a stand and the only ones left to take a stand are the dancers. Once again, they have to make the hard choice to tough it out and say no to the work or take on their employers and try to get better pay for themselves and all the dancers who will come after them.

Their union doesn't care and doesn't even know how to be a union. At this stage the only option for Equity is to bundle itself up into a bag with some heavy weights and have someone throw them in the Thames.

The ENO are the ones exploiting them and can't seem to decide who negotiated the pay rate, how "integral" the dancers are to the show or how they arrived at their pay levels to begin with.

ACE, meanwhile, is busy planning the next State of the Arts conference where they will not talk about issues like this.

As the title suggests, this is The United States of Nobody Gives a Sh*t.

ENO Dancer's Contract

Published Wed, 7 Mar, 2012 at 01:48 | Share on Facebook |

Stress Test

Monday, 28 November, 2011 | Comment | Make A Comment

by Neil Nisbet

There are many tasks that journalists must undertake during any given day but one of the most fundamental is conducting interviews.

Whether it's discussing the nature of things with a dance maker or a dancer about their work and profession or haranguing a politician or bureaucrat about their policy decisions the interview is a fundamental part of obtaining, more often than not, hidden information.

Sans diligent questioning from an inquiring mind such information may otherwise not come to light.

A journalist that never speaks to anyone is not a very good journalist at all. How can you ever understand something if you never speak to anyone about things that, on close inspection, don't make a whole lot of sense?

Due diligence is how we all know that the press are writing from a position of informed opinion and not just howling at the moon as many have accused this writer and this publication of in the past and near present.

Howling at the Moon

The problems begin when you actually try and obtain an interview. More often than not getting a choreographer or dancer to talk about their work is easy. You ask them, you sit down with them, often on-camera, they have little or no idea the questions you are going to ask them, and they discuss their work with you articulately and intelligently. It's simple.

Not so when you approach Arts Council England however. Not since we interviewed former ACE North East CEO Andrew Dixon, chaperoned by his press officer, in 2005 have we been able to interview an ACE employee on camera about any of their, for want of a better word, schemes.

ACE's most recent high profile scheme is the 'Catalyst Arts' project that, in theory, is going to solve all of the problems related to the government arts funding cuts using methods that don't make a whole lot of sense.

Our piece 'The Philanthropy Gambit' covers these issues in great detail. That piece was written after the communications office at ACE in London had declined to give us an interview with a staffer. The reason they gave, at the time, was 'Catalyst Arts' had not been formally announced, we could have an interview when it was announced.

When the project was formally announced we waited a little and went back to ACE on October 28th and asked them once again for an interview to discuss the issues we had raised in 'The Philanthropy Gambit'.

This time ACE declined because they said all of their staff were too busy and would be too busy until November 14th. On November 15th we contacted ACE one more time and requested an interview with a staff member with knowledge of 'Catalyst Arts' and, once again, we were rebuffed.

Same Old Song

The reasons given were, as the sub heading says, the same old song we've heard before.

ACE wanted to know the questions we would ask (we don't do that), the issues we wanted to raise and why we wanted to raise those issues when ACE had made sure they had explained everything in their own documentation.

Leaving aside the fact that all of those things had been explained to ACE time and time again and the communications staff in London had actually read 'The Philanthropy Gambit' think a little more closely about the last reason they gave for not speaking on the record about 'Catalyst Arts'.

ACE don't think they need to answer questions about a major policy initiative because they have already told the general public everything the general public needs to know in their own documentation.

Don't look now but ACE just became the United States of China.

They tell us what we need to know and how dare we, or anyone else for that matter, be so impertinent as to suggest they explain themselves further.


As media strategies go, refusing to do a simple interview is puzzling to say the least because there is no way for ACE to win.

Let's look at this from ACE's point of view.

If you don't do an interview you look like you have no confidence in the scheme you are proposing. Lose!

If ACE thinks Article19 is irrelevant and not worth talking to then they look conceited and smug. Lose!

If you don't do the interview because you think you have told everybody everything they need to know then you look smug, conceited and dictatorial. Lose!

If you consistently stall, give different reasons for not doing an interview and, ultimately, don't do the interview, you look incompetent. Lose!

There is no way to win with this strategy. It's the equivalent of a petulant five year old stamping his or her feet and screaming "I won't, I won't, I won't!"

On the other hand if you do an interview you make the organisation look open, confident, competent, professional and whatever else you need to be to inspire some kind of trust from the tens of thousands of people who depend on you and your policies for their livelihood.

Of course the interview might go badly and expose your £50Million scheme as having more holes in it than a thousand year old fishing net but that's the price you pay for not living in China.

Sound The Alarm

It should be more than a little alarming if not downright terryfying to learn that when faced with a reasonable request for an interview ACE cannot provide a member of staff who can speak with both intelligence and authority on a policy that will ultimately cost £50Million.

The amount of preperation that would have gone into creating this kind of scheme would amount to many thousands of work hours, right?

Meetings and discussions with arts organisations large and small, policy experts, economic experts, communications experts, political experts and experts I can't even think of. Endless discussions running into to the wee small hours fine tuning every little detail, considering every possible stumbling block.

All of these experts feeding their cumulative experience into the hive mind of ACE, honing their knowledge of philanthropic giving to a razor sharp point.

This is of course pure speculation on my part.

Also, given that the member of staff (whom at this point is entirely fictional) would have had several months to prepare for the interview, thanks to ACE repeatedly stalling, talking about 'Catalyst Arts' should, in theory, be easy.

So their decision to hide under a rock is only more damning.

Arts Council England holds the cultural well being of this country in its metaphorical hands and you want those hands to belong to the best and the brightest.

The best and the brightest would be able to handle any question you throw at them about any ACE policy and do it at the drop of a hat.

Amatuers on the other hand will stumble, stammer and stall for all they are worth because deep down they know they really don't have anything to say.

'Catalyst Arts' won't stand up to a stress test and they know it.

Published Mon, 28 Nov, 2011 at 02:46 | Share on Facebook |
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