Hell’s bells……….

Jo Verrent has very bravely looked hard and resurrected one good thing that we might acknowledge arose from Thatcher – it was the Enterprise Allowance Scheme: (http://www.joverrent.com/2013/04/what-have-i-got-to-thank-thatcher-for-anyone-else-remember-the-enterprise-allowance-scheme/). I applauded Jo’s memory (not to mention her good nature!) and felt honour-bound to add my own thought on this:

As ghastly as the current financial situation is for arts organisations, the fact remains that the UK’s cultural organisations are better equipped than any other country to be inventive about how they generate income because of what we went through with Thatcher – years before our international colleagues had to deal with this!

In the early 1990s, I attended an ISPAA (International Society of Performing Arts Administrators) conference in Glasgow.  At a keynote event, the auditorium spontaneously divided into three sections:  on the left were the Americans; on the right were the Europeans (particularly the French, Germans and Dutch); in the middle sat the UK.  As the discussion ensued, it became startlingly clear how  divided we were, not only by oceans but, more meaningfully, by philosophy (ie. approaches to funding!)

The American theatre  administrators clearly spent all their time taking little old blue-rinsed widows out to dinner with the express aim of getting into their wills.  Their interest in what went on on stage was of minor, certainly, at the most, secondary interest.

The Europeans, on the other hand, had been drowning in money.  They had so much funding poured by Govt into their coffers that they had completely forgotten that theatre only exists when there is both artist and audience – anything else is merely a rehearsal.  So their theatres were full of work that delighted the artists – and kept the audience away in their millions.  The administrators were just starting to panic as their govts were beginning to indicate that the bottomless pit had actually found its bottom and future funding would be reduced:  “you mean we have to sell…?”

The English sat in the middle with a deeply unaccustomed look of embarrassed pride: we had a foot in both camps, had been through the pain and now knew how it worked. Some years later, a European arts consortium rang my company to ask if we would join an EU project to show them how to earn money from non-grant funding……….

I hated her with a passion – but I am forced to concede that, in this if nowhere else, she gave us an advantage.

Doesn’t change my mind about her though……….