by Hannah Gagen, Advocacy Manager, UK Theatre and SOLT.
As many UK Theatre members continue to face the significant challenge of reduced or withdrawn Local Authority (LA) funding, this blog introduces UK Theatre’s new Working With Local Authority resource kit.
Last week we responded to the Government’s Industrial Strategy. In it we talked a lot about sector growth, regional growth and the links between arts, culture and prosperity. We reminded government that theatre and the performing arts contribute to a vibrant and thriving national identity and local environment, making areas richer culturally and financially, and that they make places more attractive to live and work in.
So we also reminded government local authorities remain a major investor in theatre and the performing arts, and that the removal of this funding is by far the greatest threat to growth in our sector. And that while Local Authorities (LAs) are finding it increasingly hard to maintain support for arts and culture – we’re also seeing many of you explore new ways of working with them to secure this provision for local people.
Many of you are finding entrepreneurial, proactive and innovative approaches to working alongside councils to keep local theatres going. A few years back I read a piece in the Economist on how virtual and digital technology was showing a similarities to a modern Cambrian explosion, where ‘digital start-ups are bubbling up in an astonishing variety of services and products… reshaping entire industries.’[i] The new world of working with local authorities feels a little like this to me. I’ve spoken to a variety of members since my arrival at UK Theatre about how their relationships and ways of working with their local authorities have changed, for some quite rapidly.
From negotiating ways to put theatres at the heart of local strategies to creating consortiums, and organisations running services on behalf of councils, there are plenty of new models out there. Many of them were celebrated by the new Hearts for The Arts Awards – designed to celebrate those local authorities who are protecting arts and culture at a difficult time.
That’s why we’re launching a range of ways for you to keep up with these new approaches, and to share your experiences with each other. This resources kit includes:
- UK Theatre Members' Network: You’re invited to join a virtual network of members who are willing to support each other to find answers. We would love you to be members, so just email us and we can add you to the group.
- Case Studies: A collection of case studies from members working in new and successful ways with LAs. If you would like to contribute one, I’d love you to, please email me.
- Blogs: The new UK Theatre blog will reflect the most common questions and ways of working.
- Signposting: We have created a resources page to collate useful information on LAs
- Showcasing expertise: We’ll invite key LA people and experts to speak at UK Theatre conferences and events.
UK Theatre wants this project to be created by and used by members, to help others who embarking on similar paths, to encourage, build confidence, or to solve problems. This is a new type of project for us, so please let us know if you think it could work better, or we could do things differently. We want this to be a valuable network of advice and support.