The Playgoer: "Like a Cold Hand on a Throat"

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Thursday, March 10, 2011

"Like a Cold Hand on a Throat"

Names don't get more English sounding than Colin Tweedy (and the fact that his office is in "Nutmeg House" is just overkill), but listen to what this London arts fundraiser has to say:

I no longer believe the arts in Britain should be charities. I believe they will be stronger, will take better risks and have a better capacity to become the micro-businesses they will have to be - and some of them major businesses - if they are co-operatives or social enterprises. The model of corporate governance is broken....

When times are fine, it’s good. When times are bad, a risk-averseness comes into a trustee board and grips like a cold hand on a throat. We are seeing managements terrorised, marginalised and treated with contempt by trustees.

If we are to grow our cultural sector, we have to radically rethink the charity structures within which we work. 
I'm interested in this idea of the "micro-business." Think boutique publishing house, indie film company,  small record label. (Sh-K-Boom, anyone?)

No, live theatre can't sell its product via the internet or Amazon and can't sell mass quantities at once. But run a micro business as a cooperative, profit-sharing entity, and maybe there's a chance?

No one said the arts had to not be for profit. (The Broadway market served the American theatre pretty well for 50 years or so.) And indeed as Mr Tweedy says, nonprofits cannot be counted on anymore when times get bad. Especially under the rule of politicians without any civic bones in their bodies.

If even the usually "big government" Brits are now massively cutting back too, how can we count on our government for an "arts bailout"? (Ah, just think of that concept...)

(BTW, yes, the particulars he discusses about the British philanthropy system are probably totally different from ours. Still.)

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