By Tim Whitehead
REPORT OF THE MEETING WITH THE ARTS COUNCIL OF ENGLAND
13.5.15 regarding the funding of jazz 2015-2018
Helen Sprott – Director Of Music
Denys Baptiste – Music Liason Officer
Tim Whitehead – Jazz Musician
I’ll summarise the upshot(s) of the meeting ,and provide a more detailed report following that.
From my point of view, the most important result of our one and a half hour meeting , was:
1) a clearer view of ACE’s position re funding, and
2) a strategy for increasing the amount coming our way.
1) Helen, in response to my first question re the inequality of scale of funding between opera and jazz, first presented the (not unfamiliar) argument re the cost of staging opera, which I challenged with figures of the scale of funding of administration at The Royal Opera House, aside from the cost of staging, £10 million of which represents the portion of ACE’s £28 million annual subsidy of this institution notionally dedicated to administration, i.e. not to staging.
She also explained the difference in audience sizes by saying that because of the cost of staging (grand opera), it limited the number of possible performances, but that The Royal Opera House in ACE’s estimation represented an excellent return on its investment. I questioned this, as over a quarter of its total income was ACE money (and a further quarter is raised in sponsorship, etc, so that only half its income is actually earned), representing an ACE subsidy per seat of £35.34, compared to £1.20 per jazz seat. I also challenged that the increase in funding for jazz referred to by Helen (17%) reflected an intent to address the inequality when compared to the 22.5% increase for opera in the same funding period 2015-2018.
My conclusion from these discussions is that ACE does not think it unjust that 57.9 % of the music budget is invested in opera, and mostly “grand opera” as Helen referred to it, compared to 2% for jazz, and does not see this as a yardstick for measuring their homepage website statement: “Our mission is great art and culture for everyone”.
I think it would be fair to conclude also from this, that ACE don’t appear to accept any responsibility for taking action themselves on behalf of the jazz sector to even up the camber on the playing field between the capacity of opera to pursue funding and that of the jazz sector.
However, I have to draw these conclusions from their above statements, as Helen was unwilling to respond to the direct question I put to her, whether she agreed or disagreed with the statement contained in my email.
Her and Denys’s response to 2) may go some way to answering the question why.
2) Helen and Denys both explained that funds were not allotted by the Arts Council to art forms per se, but rather that ACE funds on the basis of individual applications, whether organisations are applying to be a National Portfolio Organisation for 3 years, or under the heading of “Grants For The Arts” on a one-off basis. So, for instance, my application to tour my quartet might be pitted against a theatre applying for a project, etc.
Helen confirmed that there was no limit, as such, to the amount of money that might be granted to jazz as opposed to another discipline, but it depended completely on the quantity and quality of the applications. They both expressed some long term frustration that neither enough applications for funding were being received from the jazz sector, and the quality of such applications was not reaching towards the development of a coherent infrastructure, which I had alluded to as being a prime necessity for the development of realistic funding support.
I drew their attention to the realities of both how hard it is to pursue a career in jazz and how that impinged on any ability or resource to complete long and complicated applications, and noted again the difference between a well versed, well funded professional administration at, for instance, the Royal Opera House, embarking on this, and poorly funded professional jazz players and amateur promoters in the smaller and middle band areas of work competing in the same arena.
Helen said in response that there is at present work in progress at ACE , the “Grantium” scheme, which aims to make smaller applications easier to complete, and that their continuing dialogue between ACE area reps and promoters, organisations and musicians at a regional level is ongoing on these and other issues.
More importantly , they both stressed that the way forward was for consortia of musicians, promoters and others in jazz to put forward applications for seed funding to research and develop “infrastructure as well as activity”, ie plans and schemes, organisations as well as events, gigs , tours, etc, including using professional help to then put in larger scale applications to develop and expand infrastructure alongside music promotions, etc, so that networks can be built which can attract larger scale funding on a long term basis.
I asked if ACE had studied other European funding of jazz. Helen said very little had been done in that area, and I put to her that there are some good examples of excellent practice abroad that might further inform the Arts Council. Helen in response said there was nothing to stop anyone applying for funding to do that research to inform ACE better in that area.
On my fourth point, re establishing a policy for distribution of funding for music, Helen said there is an overarching strategic plan and in a couple of months there will be a corporate plan for 2015-2018 published, which includes art form appendices in which jazz will be included. This doesn’t amount to a separate policy for funding music, but we will have to see what it amounts to.
I suggested that the funding of infrastructure should include dedicated jazz venues (Denys referred to proposals Chris Hodgkins had made on these lines in the past) who employed at least a full time manager and a marketing manager/publicist, and that infrastructure generally worked best when it was run by a combination of musicians and administrators (who could be professional and volunteer), and Helen and Denys agreed that this should be part of the picture of this infrastructure.
I asked Helen and Denys:
(TW) “Are there in your minds objectives that you hope will be achieved in this sector?”
(HS) “There is a lack of capacity in the admin side. I’d like to see a better join-up throughout a jazz musician’s career from the earliest stages – you know we are administrators for education funding and the national plan for music education. It’s very clear the expectation is a broad , balanced musical education for all – that every child should have the opportunity to learn an instrument of their choice, to be able to progress in it and have the opportunity to play in ensembles,and that includes jazz. We are very keen that children should have the opportunity to play it. Once they get to conservatoires what are the opportunities, how are outstanding young jazz artists prepared for a life outside that and beyond it… do they know how they will make a living, do they know about how funding works, and what are the opportunities?… do they understand what the objectives of the Arts Council are… do they understand what their career opportunities might be?”
Both Denys Helen and I agreed there was a lack of “joinedupness” in the jazz world, and that working on building a network, particularly at the grass roots and middle level, including dedicated secure venues networking with each other, musician support and audience development are all key to achieving this, building on what is currently existing, and presenting and building applications for funding by stages embracing this, is the way forward.
(TW) “then once that’s up and running (ie the above), we can put the bigger picture together, then put it to you, then there is no reason in the world why that shouldn’t roll, that shouldn’t work…”
(HS) “It’s audiences, developing the sector, it’s supporting musicians, all these sorts of things. There’s no reason why it wouldn’t be considered”.
(TW) “Then there’s no cap on the amount of money that might be awarded, given the quality of the applications?”
(HS) “Well there is a cap given that we have a limited amount of money from the treasury, and as our money is going down, so we are all under pressure.
But yes, I think what we have been waiting for, and hoping for, and encouraging, is strong applications. The number of applications for music is actually quite small. You’re competing with other art forms. It’s an open access……”
So I hope you can see from this, that the way forward is for all of us in this music to start /carry on collaborating ,talking about and organising what we want to see happen, and then expressing it in ambitious funding applications to enable every aspect of our vision for the future of our music, starting with seed funding applications to enable the ground work and advice, and then the larger ones to get this infrastructure in place. We have to start thinking on a different scale, with the expectation that we will achieve it. I have Helen Sprott’s and Denys’s word on record that they will help us to achieve this (via Denys’s role as a liaison officer at ACE), that they have been looking for this scale of response, and are ready to respond to it. I’ve no reason to doubt it.
Lets start the blizzard of applications now.