Hello all... I gave evidence about philanthropy and the arts in Parliament on Wednesday 1 December, at the Select Committee investigating funding for the arts and heritage. Ed Vaizey had a session first (on the general topic rather than just philanthropy) then it was down to little unknown me and somewhat better known and very well-connected Dame Vivien Duffield of the Clore Duffield Foundation. The fact that Dame Vivien and I disagreed several times proves my point that philanthropists can't speak for each other - our experiences are from different ends of the philanthropy spectrum, hers being the most visible and effective. The Culture Secretary is about to announce the new policy on philanthropy next week (Wed 8th) and I hope he (or Mr Vaizey, who had to leave before our evidence) have a read of the transcripts or watch the video at http://www.parliamentlive.tv/Main/Player.aspx?meetingId=7146
, as both the formidable Dame and I think that philanthropy is not the answer, although there are things that could be done to encourage it. I'm writing about it for January's Arts Professional magazine, also from my perspective as a small-to-mid-scale theatre practitioner.
The MPs on the committee seemed pleased to be spoken to in a very direct and unpoliticianly way by me and Dame V, and said that they were hearing some things for the first time. This, and the fact that during Mr Vaizey's session the discussion focussed almost exclusively on large RFOs in England (mostly in London and nothing about the whole of the UK), disappointed me but was not really surprising. I await next week's announcement with unbated breath.
A few major points for me, among others:
- the big foundations are already working at full stretch and can't do more (pace
- most existing philanthropists (I don't include the big foundations) are not knowledgeable about the arts ecology in spite of their love for the arts themselves;
- philanthropists are free agents and cannot be co-opted into supporting government projects if they don't agree with them;
- the Arts really form an industry - Mr Vaizey said as much in his own evidence by referring to ACE grants as "venture capital for the Arts", and many philanthropists do not see the arts as a charitable aim in themselves, tending to prefer the educational part of the sector;
- applying for philanthropy is inefficient and unreliable for arts organisations whereas ACE is a one-stop shop.
Well, I could go on but I have work to do. I would just like to say, for a philanthropist to speak in public is very exposing and I feel as vulnerable as all hell. I felt the urge to participate in democracy but I worry that my charitable Trust is now going to be inundated and I have opened myself up to personal criticism in a way which I never would have contemplated if I hadn't thought the cause so important. Can't turn back now!