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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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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