General Election 2017 - Concerns for the Independent Theatre Sector

Independent Theatre Council (ITC) – Guidance for policy makers

General Election 2017

Theatre and the performing arts make a huge contribution to well-being, education, economic prosperity, community cohesion, regeneration and cultural export for the UK.

ITC is the Management Association and representative body for over 450 independent professional performing arts companies and practitioners. Our members work in drama, dance, puppetry mime, physical theatre, opera, music theatre, digital, multi-media, street arts, circus – anything live with an audience. 80% of them tour locally, nationally and internationally – bringing high quality live performance to people where they live and work. 40% of ITC members work regularly with young people. Many reach audiences who have never had access to theatre before and take work to people in prisons, hospitals, care-homes, schools, youth centres, pupil referral units and rural communities.

Addressing the following issues would help to sustain and support this vital part of the Creative Industries:

Arts Funding
• Though the independent theatre sector is resourceful, resilient and entrepreneurial the work has been adversely affected by cuts to public arts funding. Many ITC companies continue to exist in name but are radically reduced in size and capacity. Continued commitment to grant in aid and lottery funding is essential to the success of this sector and a creative approach to developing new models and mechanisms for funding the arts would be strongly welcomed.
• Local Authorities are the unsung heroes of arts funding but have suffered heavily from cuts. Increasingly arts organisations are helping to deliver crucial services particularly in the area of adult social care. This needs greater recognition and support.
• Theatre Tax Relief has had a positive impact on supporting theatre production at all scales throughout the UK. This simple, direct support works well and needs to continue.

International Working
• The performing arts sector is extremely concerned about the impact of Brexit. International collaboration is essential to the health of our theatre sector. Continued freedom of movement for artists within the EU will be essential.
• Maintaining the simplicity and low cost of touring throughout the EU is vital to our performing arts. Increased bureaucracy, tariffs and regulatory restrictions would be disastrous.
• Our creative industries have benefitted hugely from EU funding streams and access to cultural partnerships across the EU. Losing those collaborative relationships would have a detrimental impact on most of our creative organisations.

• The shift from STEM to STEAM (adding Arts to the important Science, Technology, Engineering & Maths focus) would be a positive development for schools. Every child should have the right to a strong cultural education and have the opportunity to develop their creativity.
• The squeeze on schools funding has had a massive impact on theatre visits and companies working with schools. For some children a visit by a theatre company will be their first and only access to live performance. This vital part of the educational experience must be preserved and strengthened and schools funding needs to be strongly maintained.
• The introduction of the EBacc has brought about a decline in the take up of arts GCSEs. This will impact on the diversity and quality of young people accessing careers in the arts and on opportunities to develop the creativity essential to a range of career opportunities.
• Tuition fees and rising student debt are discouraging less privileged young people from studying arts subjects at university or applying to drama schools. Diversity and access are already significant issues for the theatre sector.
• Apprenticeships are scarce and underfunded in the arts sector. Access to the profession must be improved at all levels.

Regeneration & Housing
• Artists make a significant contribution to regeneration but are often priced out of areas once developers have completed their plans. Culture at the heart of communities needs specific and continued support.
• Cost and supply of housing is a massive issue for performing arts practitioners. Incomes are modest in theatre and many artists have precarious freelance patterns of work. Genuinely affordable housing is non-existent (especially in major cultural centres where the majority of work takes place).
• Studio, office and rehearsal space are in short supply and unaffordable for small arts organisations but where they exist they have a dynamic impact on communities.

For further information contact:
Charlotte Jones CEO ITC
0207 4031727