The Federation of Scottish Theatre (FST) hosted their touring forum at the Edinburgh Festival theatre in April, to a mix of producers, artists and organisations involved in theatre and dance touring within Scotland and further afield. The topic of the forum was: Who should pay for touring?
Lorna Duguid, Portfolio Manager for Festivals & Touring at Creative Scotland, gave an update of spend allocated to touring over the last 3 years, which showed overall a similar spend year on year, although money allocated to dance touring had increased significantly over the period.
Currently within Creative Scotland funding there is no allocated or ring-fenced fund for touring and this was the topic of debate for the forum. It was suggested that there could be a case for doing exactly this in the future although Creative Scotland have no plans to do so at the moment. They are however listening to the sector, and exploring funding models used in Europe.
Who should pay for touring?
This question grew arms and legs as we explored it– the general feeling amongst programmers and venues was that the financial risk associated with programming more challenging work was often difficult to reconcile with board directors, against a guaranteed sell out of, for example, a tribute band. How do we approach these kind of decisions when we have the hungry mouth of a venue to feed? How do we plug the financial ‘gap’ experienced by so many artists and venues? We inevitably moved into wider territories of audience development, marketing, and even larger issues around social change, cultural shifts, the value of art and its role in education.
We know that Creative Scotland cannot magically conjure additional funds to support all of the brilliant work we are turning out, and that they themselves have challenges to ensure that they represent all sectors, individuals and organisations. As a sector we have lots of creative energy and we should be using this creative force to help find additional ways to fill these gaps. I don’t know what the answer is but rather than argue the toss over who should be funding us, we have to start thinking of different models to supplement these public funds. But I think this is a long haul which includes a long-term strategy to embed the value of arts and culture into our society. And maybe a radical shift in what we understand our audiences or new potential audiences want. Clearly our young people are a different culture to older generations. They live in a different world to the one we (speaking for the 45 years + category!) grew up in, and have different expectations.
Unfortunately there are no simple answers to these questions and we must continue to listen, and respond, but also to lead the way with new ideas.
Jo McLean, CEO, The Touring Network