An open letter to all non-NPOs: sometimes it pays not to be funded

David Byrne of the New Diorama Theatre, wrote an open letter in response to the latest NPO funding round. It’s one of the most positive, refreshing and exciting letters I have ever seen about arts funding, and I think it’s worth preserving for posterity. The letter was published in The Guardian, but here is the text in full:


Watching the Arts Council’s funding announcements, celebrations and commiserations fizz on my Twitter timeline last week, I was reminded of a panel I sat on just a year ago. I was next to an artistic director of a very well-subsidised London theatre who said the line that I’d heard many times before: “If our NPO grant, our Arts Council subsidy, gets cut, salami sliced any further, we will no longer be able to afford to take risks.”

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Review: Rúa Aire by El Retrete de Dorian Gray

El Retrete de Dorian Gray (The Toilet of Dorian Gray) are a Spanish puppet company, brought to the UK as part of the Suspense Puppetry Festival, produced biennially by Little Angel Theatre. The company is two performers and puppeteers: Ezra Moreno and Marcos PTT Carballido, and their Artistic Policy (according to their website) is ‘We Do Things’ which, like their performance style, is refreshingly uncluttered with today’s artistic cliché.

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Review: The Heads by Blind Summit

THe HeadsThe Heads is a new piece of work by acclaimed puppet company, Blind Summit, and this was its first outing.  Although developed directly from a section of their previous work, The Table, The Heads is a departure from the narrative style and Blind Summit have to be applauded for taking risks and not sticking with a formula, especially one so successful.

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Review: Fiesco by The Faction

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The Faction produce a heady mix of classic, text-based, physical theatre which is a joy to witness.  They are dedicated to producing the complete works of Schiller, but also include other classics in their repertoire, such as Chekov, Lorca, Shakespeare and Strindberg, to name but a few.  But it was Schiller who drew me to the New Diorama Theatre on a cold January evening.  Last year I was privileged to see The Faction’s Mary Stuart, and I had high expectations of this latest production.  I was not disappointed.

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Mass media forum for emerging artists

It was great to see a new partnership announced this week between Arts Council England and Channel4, to support emerging artists. Young artists are the future of the arts, and without support there will be no art in years to come. Bringing it to a mass market is a welcome initiative in a time when opportunities are scarce.

Well done to Channel 4 for continuing to develop our cultural heritage, and to Arts Council England for supporting them!

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Living and Dying

Having worked with a range of arts organisations, and despite being committed to ensuring the resilience and survival of the cultural sector, I can never forget the provocation papers published by John Knell for Mission Models Money, entitled The Art of Dying (2005)  and The Art of Living (2007).  The Art of Dying, in particular, shocked me at the time – I found it so difficult to accept the concept of euthanasia of an arts organisation.  Years later, and with a lot more experience in the field, I have learned that the survival of an organisation is dependent on a number of factors, both internal and external, and that sometimes it is better that the artists move on to create great art elsewhere than get dragged down with a company that cannot survive.  By far the best option, though, is that they are given the tools to create a ‘better contract with the future’, refresh and renew their vision and take themselves and their organisations forward, grow and thrive.

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