Raised by feral wolves in the foothills of the Himalayas he came, back in the day, to these shores intent on wreaking havoc and spreading despair, then he found the dance world and came to the conclusion that mocking people was more fun! It is rumoured, though none will say it, that even the Batman fears him!
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On Friday last week the announcement was made by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) that Arts Council England (ACE) would, in all probability, receive a 5% cut to their funding for the year 2015/2016.
The announcement was a prelude to the government's "spending review" that will be announced in full on June 26.
ACE's chairman, Peter Bazalgette, was quick to release a statement, via the funding monoliths press office, saying;
"This is a good result for arts and culture in such a tough economic climate. It is hugely encouraging to see that the Chancellor and the Treasury have listened to the argument that the arts and culture makes such a valuable contribution to our quality of life and the economy. Maria Miller has done an effective job in making the case for the value of public funding, backed with powerful arguments from the culture sector, who every day demonstrate their worth through the brilliant work they do, day in, day out."
No so fast with buttering up your friends in government Baz!
Numbers Don't Lie, Sort Of
For months now ACE, and a lot of other people, have been making a very simple economic case for the arts. "Every £1 invested returns £6 to the economy", ACE even made some nice graphics to illustrate the point.
Here in TheLab™ we have no idea if that's true or if that number can be reliably quantified but if it is true, and the Treasury really were listening to ACE's arguments, then they just poured £102Million down the drain.
A 5% cut to ACE's budget means they will lose about £17Million in 2015 so the arithmetic is not hard to do. This would appear to be antithetical behaviour for a government allegedly trying to encourage growth in the economy.
Since the coalition came to power ACE has lost almost 37% of their budget. Again, if ACE's numbers are to be believed this has actually cost the economy over £600Million per year alongside doing a huge amount of damage to the arts.
ACE was making exactly the same economic arguments in 2010 prior to a previous spending review that saw a budget cut of 30%.
Without even factoring in local authority cuts, that have seen some arts funding budgets completely obliterated, the DCMS and the Treasury don't deserve one ounce of thanks for their behaviour.
The 5% cut was a bait and switch exercise, one which ACE itself has used in the past. The DCMS ramps up the rhetoric, ACE complies and scares the crap out of the NPOs saying almost 600 of them may be de-funded. Eventually the DCMS makes the 5% announcement and everybody is grateful that arts still has a few teeth left after getting mugged for millions in funding.
ACE Chairman Peter Bazalgette - Photo by Media Parents Blog
A lot of details were revealed from National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) briefings given by ACE over the last few weeks. One such detail was, as stated above, that hundreds of them would lose their funding entirely if ACE received a 15% cut.
The dance world at large didn't raise too much of a fuss about the fact that, evidently, 85% of ACE's NPO budget goes to so few organisations and that their own funding was, once again, at risk.
When the cut announcement came through on Friday the NPO dance companies reacted by saying, absolutely nothing. Akram Khan Company did manage to send out a dozen re-tweets of feint praise for their previous evenings performance though.
Motionhouse Dance Theatre re-tweeted, on Saturday, more than a dozen congratulatory messages for company AD Kevin Finnan who was awarded an MBE in the UK honours list.
One of those messages was from Conservative MP Chris White (the MP for the region where Motionhouse is based).
Congratulations to Kevin Finnan MBE @MotionhouseDT - services to dance & Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games - Queen's Birthday Honours— Chris White MP (@ChrisWhite_MP) June 15, 2013
Mr White is part of the very government responsible for beating the arts with a baseball bat which they had just done, again, the day before.
You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
In his press statement Mr Bazalgette also spoke of the tough decisions ahead for the funding monolith. What this usually means is that a lot of NPOs at the bottom of the food chain are going to lose their NPO status (and their funding). Decisions all made behind closed doors.
Last week we reported that ACE was pushing for lottery rules to be changed by the DCMS so that some of that money (over £250Million per annum) could be used to plug the hole made in the cuts to ACE's regular, tax funded, grant-in-aid.
Later this year all of the NPOs will have to reapply to maintain their regularly funded status. ACE should continue to push for lottery rule changes absent a return to previous state funding levels from any new government.
The Big Bad should also make the entire funding and decision making process completely transparent so that the public knows who applied for NPO status, why they were turned down or why they were accepted and why existing NPOs were turned down or maintained their position on that list.
At present, ACE's funding strategy is top heavy, all the money goes to protect the very large salaries of the staff at large scale organisations.
Just 80 employees at the Royal Opera House cost more than £7.3Million a year with one staff member, Music Director Antonio Poppano, earning more than £740,000 according to their 2011 accounts, the most recent ones available.
Such numbers are indicative of a broken funding system that allows small groups and venues to shutter while the large scale thrives simply because they are given the resources to do so.
The rumours are swirling, or at least staggering about like an asthmatic mouse, that the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is a goner if the up and coming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) has anything to do with it.
Lest you be unfamiliar with the DCMS they are the government department responsible for funding ACE, among many other things.
They also had responsibility for the Olympics in 2012 which a lot of people actually rather enjoyed so, why wouldn't the coalition government get rid of them?
Would the demise of the DCMS necessarily be a bad thing however? Join us dear readers as we explore the details and get those mice some inhalers.
Having a government minister who is directly responsible for culture across an entire country can be a good thing and a bad thing. If the minister is fully engaged and has a passion for the arts and arguing the case for culture in general (which is what they are supposed to do) then it's all good, mostly!
The last two Culture Secretaries however have been anything but. Jeremy Hunt, now the Health Secretary, cut ACE's budget by more than the DCMS was cut as a result of the last spending review. During his tenure he was more wrapped up in the controversy over BSkyB and the Olympics than anything else and showed an almost complete disregard for the arts.
As we pointed out a long time ago, as soon as The Olympics was over and Mr Hunt had proved himself to be the "good Tory soldier" he was promoted to a more prestigious post in government. Also, the last guy at the Health Department was completely incompetent.
Maria Miller, the current incumbent at the DCMS, is comically out of touch with planet earth, never mind the culture sector. Ms Miller gave a speech imploring the arts to make a strong economic case for continued public funding and in doing so managed to overlook the fact that everybody had been doing just that for about 30 years.
The actual "Culture Minister" Ed Vaizey can, at best, be described as a complete pillock (that's a very British insult for sure). As with Ms Miller, Mr Vaizey has been accused, on numerous occasions, of being completely tone deaf when it comes to discussions about culture and culture funding. Much like Boris Jonhson (the current Mayor of London) he's an amiable buffoon of very little purpose.
So, given the line up of completely disconnected miscreants that have been tasked with speaking for the arts at government level over the last few years it's a wonder ACE still has any substantive financial support at all.
You have to ask yourself, are we better off with or better off without a government department that has a culture portfolio?
If the level of support the arts can expect to receive is based almost entirely on whether or not the person in charge is even remotely qualified for the job or actually gives a flying pigs behind about doing their job properly then, really, what difference does it make?
As long as ACE continues to be funded (by no means guaranteed) it doesn't really matter what department is responsible for supplying the funding.
Getting rid of the DCMS may, inadvertently, help shield ACE from having its budget cut any further.
If the bean counters can tally up enough savings from removing the departmental infrastructure they may feel less inclined to cut the budgets of the organisations they fund. It's a very big "if" mind you.
Given that the goal of the coalition government is widely believed to be nothing more than an idealogical push to reduce the size of government then removing an entire department may quench their bloodlust.
Moot Is A Funny Word
Any discussion of the CSR and the DCMS may be rendered completely moot because the changes announced wouldn't take effect, if at all, until 2015.
2015 also happens to be the year of the next general election in the the UK (it's why the current government is doing the CSR now).
If the current polls are to be believed then David Cameron and his henchman are destined for the political dumpster and it's unlikely that any new government would carry through with further sweeping cuts that would be massively unpopular across the entire country.
We would also be remiss in not mentioning that every economic report issued since the coalition took power has shown their austerity measures to be an unmitigated disaster. Those two words side by side are not what you want to hear if you are trying to win an election or stay in power.
Before anybody thinks about starting a petition to "save" the DCMS we would urge you to think for a while, realise that the politicians are not listening because they simply don't care and then take your arguments to the people, where the real power is.
We have written often, here in TheLab™, about the fact that when the self appointed upper echelons of the arts complain about funding they often come across as self-serving, pompous buffoons. The reason they sound like self-serving, pompous buffoons is because, more often than not, they are self-serving, pompous buffoons.
Step forward Nicholas Serota, Chief Bottle Washer at Tate Britain. Mr Serota has been all over the press in recent months, (allegedly) sticking up for the arts but more often than not he comes across as a man sticking up for his very large salary.
Last week Tate Britain, aided and abetted by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£15.8Million in public money) and a few charitable trusts with more money than sense, ponied up more than £23Million for a single painting by John Constable, "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows", a painting of a cathedral in Salisbury from a meadow. (!, Ed!)
This act of, if we're being generous, colossal short-sightedness was carried out to "save" the work for the British public. Save it from what is not at all clear because despite the fact the painting was privately owned for more than a 130 years it had been on display
at the National Gallery in London since 1983.
When we spoke with Tate Britain they told us there was no specific threat that the work was going to leave the UK but it was always a possibility when you sell things on the open market. The gallery did confirm that there were other people interested in the painting but declined to say who they were. A spokesperson also said that the family of Lord Ashdon of Hyde, who owned the painting, approached the gallery to buy the work because they wanted it to stay in the country.
Tate Britain did say that there were other interested parties but they would not have been eligible for any tax concessions so the asking price would have been £40Million.
If your "thing" is fanciful pictures of the English countryside then you could see "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows" as often as you wanted to. Failing that you could just go to Salisbury Cathedral itself because it's still there, in Salisbury, for all to see.Not sure about the meadow though, that might have been turned into a Tesco.
"Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows", it's a painting of a cathedral........ from a meadow!
Even if there was any tangible evidence that the painting was going to end up in a private collection or be shipped overseas, so what? It's just one painting, there are plenty of other Constable works to be seen in the UK and plenty of works by other artists filling up galleries across the nation. Tate Britain itself is not short of a work or two to put on display.
Also, we're pretty sure there are plenty of prints of this particular piece so nobody was going to forget what it looked like.
It might also be a good idea to question the need for public galleries to pay out exorbitant sums of money for art work in general. The stock market looks positively sane when compared to the ridiculous sums of money being exchanged by bored billionaires for ancient paintings of fields.
A Deeper Mania
Tate Britain's purchase of this painting deftly illustrates the tone deaf attitude of those responsible. For three years now the arts, and culture in general, have taken a severe beating thanks to cynical government cuts.
This is of course news to our national organisations who are still spending money like water spewing from a broken tap on, in this instance, colossally expensive trinkets of dubious value to the public at large. It's a disconnection from reality matched only by people who willingly vote for UKIP.
Like so many spoiled children in a toy store they screamed 'I Want! I Want! I Want!" and their obliging parents bought them their new toy.
How ridiculous does it sound to the average member of the public when people like Nicholas Serota are complaining about cuts and hard times ahead in the press as they hand over £23Million for one painting? This is perhaps the greatest problem with the large scale, a complete and utter lack of tact, a complete and utter lack of comprehension of the public mood.
Too often this country gets obsessed with the work of too few individuals whether they be painters or choreographers and those individuals, even if they're no longer alive, are singled out for special treatment.
At this moment in time arts and culture organisations need to invest in people and artists who have not been dead for nearly two hundred years. The £15Million public slice of funding used for this purchase could have commissioned many thousands of works from living artists. That's the type of investment that creates economic growth and stability as well as lots of fresh new art work that can be put on display all over the country.
We realise that investment in people and new ideas, not ancient paintings, does not sit well with the massive egos of people like Nicholas Serota and his almost entirely fictional position of importance in this world. However, much like any politician, given enough time, he can simply be disposed of and replaced with somebody that actually has a clue.
A couple of weeks ago a minor storm erupted when an audition notice for Ace Dance and Music, based in Birmingham, was released that stated the company would charge dancers £20 each for attending.
Charging for auditions (or in this case an audition workshop) is generally not accepted practice in this country or any other. We do, on occasion, see Israeli companies charging for auditions but even that is not standard practice.
Leaving aside the issue of companies trying to charge for auditions for now what was more striking was the company's response after we communicated to them that charging was highly irregular and would not go down well in the dance world at large.
Approximately 30 minutes later the company had dropped the charge from the audition notice and their website and other materials were updated within a couple of hours.
It didn't take three weeks, multiple emails and phone calls and lots of hand wringing and clumsily worded emails from press flacks trying to justify the reasoning.
There was a decision, a reaction and a change of policy, all in the space of 30-40 minutes. Which is exactly how it should be.
No Comparison No Contrast
If we compare and contrast the above to two recent interactions we had, one with The Place in London and one with Rambert Dance Company, the outcome could not have been more different.
In the land of pompous self-entitlement the reaction, if you dare to ask actual questions, is a lot of childish fist thumping on the desk as the flacks play out their "Press Strategies For Dummies" book in their heads.
More often than not all that happens is that simple, and perfectly legitimate, enquiries turn in to massively complicated problems for no other reason than too many press people in the arts are playing at doing their jobs as opposed to actually doing their jobs.
We once had to enquire about CRB checks and the change in policies surrounding those checks. The civil service press spokesman we talked to on the phone was able to have a detailed conversation, with no preparation, on the several questions we asked. That person knew the details of their department and its policies and was able to converse, on the record, with ease.
If only it were always that simple.
ACE Dance and Music showed that it is possible in the arts to react to emerging problems and either change the policy or comment about that policy and do it very quickly.
We shall leave you with a famous quote from American novelist Upton Sinclair;
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his job depends on not understanding it."
That quote could sum up quite a few people in the arts. They operate in blissful/wilful ignorance because their jobs literally depend on it.
On Sunday a comment appeared on our piece "Then We Could Stop" which is, in and of itself, a comment on a request for Article19 to change the way we do things around here.
"If you were good writers then the acrid sarcasm and bitchiness might be excusable. There is plenty of space for a cynical voice, but you don't even seem to give thorough well researched information about the things you sling mud-in-the-form-of-bad-writing. In this piece you act like you are champions of the underdog but you've been known to say petty and nasty things about journalists praising those underdog companies and performers. The content on this site is a bit thin and shoddy to endure your taking this manifesto-like high road."
As comments go it's nothing new. We don't like you, you suck, blah blah blah. All written by an individual with the courage to throw some online punches but not leave a name.
Now, we don't mind that the commenter is anonymous, we allow that because sometimes it's important.
The problem with a comment like that though is the argument is not framed with any context. No specifics are given, no mention of the fact free mud-slinging the commenter alleges we are a engaged in or anything else for that matter. We asked for specifics in our response but, as we expected, none came.
You can remain anonymous whilst still giving some details about who you are and what you do and we could frame our response more easily if we knew where the commenter was coming from. It would certainly be easier to frame a response given some specific examples to defend. That's how a discussion works.
We get the feeling the person is a writer, and we have some idea which writer, but it's all speculation on our part.
The Wider Problem
If nothing else that particular comment illustrates a maddening issue with so many discussions in dance and culture in general. Far too much of it is specifically unspecific.
Arts Council England's "State of the Arts" conference, which was a stripped down affair this year, is/was famous for it. Lots of wooly discussion about anything other than real issues or specific problems facing the arts.
How many times have you, our dear readers, attended some conference or seminar only to find your very life essence being sucked out of your body by the whole sorry affair as somebody on the stage waffled on about "parallel marketing strategies"?
As for dance journalists, the ones "praising the underdog"? Well, the vast majority of their published work is reviews. Those writers might blame their editors for not allowing a broader range of writing to appear in the newspapers (online or otherwise) but there are plenty of avenues for them to express themselves away from the constraints of the narrow minded editorial decisions of the broad-sheets.
If those writers feel so terribly constrained by the iron fist of their bosses then what the hell, you can have a blog right here on Article19. As long as we know who you are you can even write under a pseudonym if you wish. Come hither and let loose your pointed insight into the wacky world of dance that has, for so long, been tempered by the mighty sword of your editors.
None will come of course. It's easier to say you're a rebel than to actually be one.
Article19 exists for many reasons but one of the most important is to provoke people. Jabbing folk with sticks would be more fun but we prefer to use facts (as presented in our piece about the National Funding Scheme for example) to prod people with because facts are often more difficult to fend off.
The very fact that Mr/Ms anonymous up there posted that comment means we must be doing something right. We got under that person's skin, rattled their cage and other metaphors we can't remember right now.
We want people to talk about real issues that actually exist and have a debate about those issues. You don't need to like us or how we do things, you just need to have a coherent point of view.
Also, if all you can muster is the type of comment we've highlighted above then you're not having a enough fun in show business, and for that, you have our sympathy.
For a long time it's all been about cuts, cuts, cuts in the arts and everywhere else. The world is having a fire sale and if the media was to be believed the four horseman of the apocalypse are merely having a coffee and a danish before they do their thing.
The winter of a thousand nights appears, in some places at least, to be over so we thought, here in TheLab™, that it was as good a time as any to reflect on what's good in the wide world of dance because there is still some good stuff left.
We still have a couple of dozen NPO dance companies in the UK and a lot more dance companies all over Europe and the rest of the world doing their thing. You might not like all of it but there they are, making, touring, teaching and sharing.
The UK also has a lot more small-scale touring companies beating the odds, putting together work and putting together a tour or two. We're talking about Bgroup, Watkins Dance, Parlor Dance, Rosie Kay Dance Company, Tom Dale and lots more besides.
For better or worse the National Dance Network is still breathing and they're doing their thing (stop laughing at the back). Yes, they waste lots of money and are becoming more corporate by the hour but there is evidence to suggest they can be taught to change their ways. You just need to know where to kick them.
The day we spent with the students of Northern School of Contemporary Dance revealed a group of young dancers up for the fight and not at all cowed by the current attempts of the powers that be to permanently disable an entire nation. They've made their choices and they will take their chances.
You can see that video tomorrow.
At Least We Can Laugh
Akram Khan is still making promo videos for his work that make us all smile. We smile for the wrong reasons but at least we're smiling. Sadler's Wells is releasing a book that will apparently tell us how awesome Sadler's Wells is! That's got to be funny, right?
Hofesh Schecter goes nuts on Twitter from time to time which is good entertainment value and he's making a new piece this year (finally).
The press staff at ThePlace are still completely adorable as they work through their DVD box set of 'The West Wing' in order to come up with a communications strategy that works. They're just cribbing from the wrong parts of the script is all!
From the wide world of ballet we have endless amounts of entertainment as they continue to do nothing much at all and spend huge amounts of money doing it. They should make a ballet about the current state of ballet, talk about comedy/tragedy.
It's also incredibly funny reading the ballet "journalists" twist themselves into pretzels trying desperately to defend the antics of guys like Sergei Polunin, a guy that just can't be bothered getting out of bed in the morning. He's lazy and stupid, but he can jump really high and at least he gives the hacks something better to do than watch 'Mayerling'....... again!
We firmly believe that everything is cyclical. At the moment, from a financial point of view, things don't look so good. The hacks and the cynical politicians are always saying how "nothing lasts for ever", "the good times are over".
Well, the same goes for the bad times too and the same goes for the hacks and the cynical politicians, they don't last forever either.
Yes, things are bad right now, even crazy at times but it's not going to last. If a group of twenty year old students can put up a fight then we're pretty sure that everybody else in the wide world of dance and beyond can do the same.
So let's all have a good summer (spring is a bust) and let's try to figure out "what's next?"
It was mentioned to us, here in TheLab™, a few days ago that our "attitude" might not be helping. We should, perhaps, let the facts speak for themselves and leave our particular brand of satire, sarcasm and hooliganism at the door.
To this we simply say..... No!
We would love nothing more than to bring you video features, interviews and all the other general information that we deliver to you from now until the end of time. If that was all we had to do that that would mean all the other stuff had gone away.
It would mean that all the dreadful, infuriating and crazy things had simply stopped happening and we could just spend all our time talking about the good stuff.
If Arts Council England would stop pouring money down the drain on projects like The Space, the Dance Register, Sustain and so many other things then we could stop.
If small and mid-scale touring wasn't being squeezed to breaking point through the lack of funds while ACE is blowing money like a drunkard in a casino then we could stop.
Just one of the dance projects funded on The Space would have paid for 33 touring performances.
If the dance profession in this country would work more collaboratively with one another, lose the egos and understand their single, common purpose then we could stop.
If theatres that have booked companies for performances actually helped to market those shows (assuming they have the money and resources to do so) then we could stop.
If dance companies could show that they at least support, in principal, ideas like 'The Fifty' and talk more openly about creating more full-time permanent jobs for professional dancers, then we could stop.
If ACE could stop being so completely clueless when it comes to how the public and the people they fund perceive them and why that perception matters then we could stop.
If ACE's response to public perception questions wasn't this "It is not for the Arts Council to speculate what anyone else's opinion may be." Then we could stop.
If ACE could grasp for just a second that what doomed the Film Council was arrogance, stupidity, incompetence and indifference then we could stop.
If all of that and a lot more like it stopped, then we could stop.
Here in TheLab™ we are, as always, just a few short days away from online oblivion but we would rather keep fighting on our knees and then on our backs before we yield. Before we become like so many in the arts press. That is; boring, predictable, compliant.
Most of our readers would expect nothing less from us and we hate to disappoint. So if it's alright with you, we will just carry on until we can't carry on any more.
Some newspaper or other was reporting on the exploits of professional hair care products salesperson Justin Bieber. What the story was about is irrelevant but the online piece included a tweet, from Mr Bieber, embedded in the story which stated "worst birthday ever" and nothing more. The data within the embed noted that Mr Bieber's nugget of banality had been re-tweeted over 170,000 times.
So our question is this; Why are 12 year old little kids better at sharing information than the grown up professionals in the wide world of dance?
Back in the day, during training, one of the first things we remember being told was to "immerse ourselves in the dance world". Know who was doing what, why they were doing it and where it was happening.
The web was just getting started back then but had it existed in its current form we imagine that knowing what every dance company and dance organisation was up to at all times would also have been part of the plea to get immersed.
Social media, if it gives us anything at all, provides the outsider with an illuminating insight into the thinking of your average dance organisation and, in many cases, it's like reading the playbook from some speaker at a marketing conference.
From what we can see there's not a whole lot of immersion going on at all. In fact most people appear to be caught in a bubble of their own making where they can only hear and see what their own company is doing.
Should something or someone else enter their orbit then that may warrant a mention but for the most part it's like being on the worst date ever.
A lot of dancing folk talk about engagement but they don't appear to know what that word means.
A couple of weeks ago we published a feature on Verve, the post graduate company from the Northern School of Contemporary Dance. Late last week we did a little test tweet that you can see below.
Of the 9 re-tweets we mustered only two of them came from dance companies (2Faced and James Wilton) although Mr Wilton was one of the choreographers for Verve 2013 so that doesn't really count.
As for all the other dance companies out there? We know that nearly all of them follow us so why didn't they "show a little love" for Verve?
Chances are they never saw the message at all and wouldn't have no matter how many times we posted it because in the arts and dance in particular too many people are talking and not enough people are listening.
Tweeting or re-tweeting something in and of itself is a fairly minor thing and even if they had all done so the very nature of Twitter and tweeting would have resulted in only a small amount of additional click through traffic to that particular feature.
The bigger issue here though is one of engagement by the dance profession in the very profession they are a part of.
The Most You Can Do
For sure dance organisations are constantly telling us about shows and workshops and anything else that they might be a part of. But there is no larger, more general discussion of dance and the profession as a whole going on.
Some people are trying to make that happen (Female Choreographer's Collective for one) but as with so many other things they don't seem to be getting a lot of help from the profession at large, especially the NPO companies.
On the whole the industry appears to have adopted an "everybody for themselves" kind of attitude and in a profession as small as this one is, that's not gonna work.
Sharing information via social media is as simple, often times, as pushing a button on a web page and if the profession as a whole can adopt a more pervasive, engaged attitude about something that is so simple then bigger more complex things would surely be possible.
Too often we here from small-scale companies that have managed, against all the odds, to put together a tour only to find out that the venues that have booked them can't be bothered to actually market the performance. That, right there, is Monty Python levels of satire.
NPO companies need to be openly and actively involved in helping out project based and independent dancers and choreographers (and vice versa if at all possible) in any way that they can and not just the ones they happen to know.
If a small scale company comes into their area then they should be immediately aware of it, reach out, ask them if they need any help with getting the word out, professional classes, setting up a workshop or two, providing some contacts or whatever it is they can do to provide some assistance.
Fundamentally, don't say "that's the least we can do!" ask "what's the most we can do?"
Perhaps, as an NPO, you are already doing these things or have provided support like this in the past? If that's the case then write about it and put it on your blog, the one that's on your company website. You do have one of those, right?
Most importantly though, make sure you tell somebody what you've done so others can learn from it, so that you, as an NPO, can lead by example.
Again, as an NPO company, ask yourself if you have done everything you can to make sure as many people who need to know something about your company are able to find that information. The more organisations and individuals that help you out with that the better things will be.
Even if the "most" you think can do is write about another company or tweet about them then make sure you do it. (TopTip™ it's not, nor will it ever be the "most" you can do!)
For a lot of people in dance the profession itself can be a very scary place, even inside an NPO with regular funding and a modicum of security.
The advantages of the profession as whole being fully engaged (that means listening as well as talking) at all times are far too numerous to mention.
As a job it's always going to be hard but it could get a little bit easier to do so many things if the collective chipped-in and checked all the egos at the door.
Start with the simple stuff, like Twitter and Facebook, spend a bit more time talking about others (out loud where everybody can hear you, not in pointless meetings) and get engaged with the profession. Don't just say it, mean it!
A reader asked us why Article19 didn't ask Arts Council England any questions regarding the announcement from the Brewhouse Theatre in Taunton about the fact the theatre was going into administration and essentially closing down.
Arts Council England was one of many organisations responsible for the venue simply not having enough money to operate. Funding had disappeared, in turn, from ACE, their local council and their county council. Closure was, perhaps, inevitable given how heavily the odds were stacked against them.
When you deal with an organisation like ACE, as a journalist, you go through the press office and, contrary to popular belief, the press officers inside organisations like ACE are not there to answer questions. They are there to run interference for their employers.
This is why there are often referred to as "flacks". Named for the weapons used by defensive ground forces against hostile aircraft.
Without actually calling the press office at ACE towers we already knew what they were going to say, that is, they were not going to say anything at all.
Of course they will put out a statement with a few platitudes about the, now, ex-venue along with a few more benign sentences about funding constraints, policies and national expectations but obtaining and then reading meaningless "statements" is not our job as journalists and it's not your expectation as a reader.
If we actually got through to one of the people responsible for removing the theatres funding in the first place and we could lean on them for 20 minutes, twisting them into a pretzel shaped object would be pretty straightforward.
The flacks know this of course which is why they won't put any of those people on the phone or in front of camera if they think for one second that the person on the other side of the questions will be, metaphorically, wiring their boss up to car battery.
Why do you think Alan Davey, the CEO of ACE, only exposes himself to the public (pun absolutely intended) via text based "web chats"?
What To Do?
Doing something about this intractable behaviour is a complex and slow affair. We do have the Freedom of Information Act which can be useful but is very slow and easy to get around for the organisations fielding the requests. So much so it should be called the "freedom to not give out information if that information in any way makes us look bad".
A more direct method is to do what we, here in theLab™, do all the time. Relentlessly and publicly needle them, point out every embarrassingly stupid thing they do and highlight the funding monoliths never ending hypocritically stupid behaviour. The same goes for everybody that enables them.
We don't do it because we think it's funny, which it often is, but because it needs to be done. Bad people are doing bad things and somebody needs to get in their face, so to speak.
While doing all that we have to, somehow, defend the existence of the Big Bad in the face of those that seek to erase it. What a strange world we live in.
Since we are discussing the Brewhouse Theatre allow us to point out one more thing.
A blog post appeared on the theatre's website that has since been deleted. Who wrote it is not clear, it was not particularly inflammatory, but one thing did catch our eye;
"The beauty of being unemployed is that I can say what I like, so here goes".
Behind that sentence lies, perhaps, the crux of the problem. Only when the axe had finally fallen did somebody decide to speak out in very clear terms about the importance of the work the theatre was doing and take a jab at those responsible for the venues downfall.
Even then, somebody decided to pull the plug and pretend it never happened. So swiftly was it removed even Google's legendary cache failed to catch the page in its clutches.
We would like to remind everybody that works in the arts (yet again) that your right to freedom of expression is not rescinded just because you get a monthly wage, receive funding from ACE (or not) or because you believe in little more than self preservation.
You work in the arts, which is all about freedom of expression, and we would rather you exercised the right to free expression sooner rather than later or at the very least before pretty much everything gets closed down.
If you can't do it directly then find another way. You are, after all, adult human beings.
Many folks working in the performing arts will tell you that one of the biggest problems they have is actually getting people into the theatre in the first place. Judging by the behaviour of certain ushers at one particular theatre last week (as witnessed by members of TheLab™) the problem they had was people actually daring to show up.
You would think that paying for a ticket would give you some sort of license to hang about after the show was over for a chat with your fellow patrons about the virtues (or not) of the work you had just witnessed.
Not so in some places apparently because as soon as you're done with all that pesky clapping and cheering you can bloody well get out and go home.
If you like, you can hang about in the overpriced and somewhat soulless bar area and have at it but after being tossed out of the auditorium by overbearing ushers why would you bother?
Some theatres have a tendency to operate like high end clothes stores. You know the ones; They never have any people in them and are staffed out with snooty, overly made-up individuals who, upon seeing you enter, give you the once over with a half cocked smile and a look in their eyes that says "you don't belong, this store if for anybody but you!"
Time To Go
We get that people who work in a theatre might want to go home but if you don't like being out late then perhaps the theatre is not your game, so to speak. The folks who paid for the ticket, and in most cases towards the subsidies that help keep the theatre operating, have come for a night out which means, more often than not, staying up past 10pm.
They also want to enjoy a polite, calm, welcoming experience when they come to your venue. Being herded about like cattle in an abattoir and then chucked out with the garbage at the end is not conducive to a pleasant evening.
Here in the most bitter north we have Northern Stage. After a very expensive refurbishment they ended up with one of the nicest restaurant/bar areas we've ever seen in a theatre. The food is good, the service is efficient and you can hang around as long as you like, or at least until it closes, after the show is over.
It might not be the cheapest place in the city (it is certainly not the most expensive) but it actually has an atmosphere that makes people want to stay.
Every theatre in the country should try and mimic the Northern Stage experience. Of course, some theatres do just that but far too many don't. It might be bizarre to suggest this but some theatrical venues seem to have a people problem.
Absolutely every facet of a theatrical venue should be geared toward making the people who come there (performers and audience) feel as welcome as they possibly can because why would anybody want to come to a place that is hostile, unpleasant and expensive?
If you run a theatre and the bar area and other social spaces are miserable, cold and unwelcoming then fix them. If your staff are sullen, uncooperative and rude then get new staff or beef up your training to include a whole day on "How Not To Be A Git and Other Tales".
Getting people through the door is hard, in fact it's very hard if not nigh on impossible at times, so when they do come make sure they have an experience they will never forget. That's how you get them to come back, over and over again.
It's amazing what you can achieve with a pleasant demeanour, a bit of patience and some, dare we say it, charm!
Theatres can't do much about the quality of the work in a show but they can do everything to set the tone of a patrons personal experience. It's not about getting people in and out as fast as possible so you can lock up and go home. That's what Ryanair do, and we all know just how much everybody hates that wretched company.