Great news for the house (or art and money #1)

Congratulations
to the well deserving team at The Royal Opera House. The £10 million endowment
from The Paul Hamlyn Foundation is however, more than good news. It indicates a
potential sea-change in arts funding.

State
sponsorship of the arts has generated vulnerability in those whose livelihood depends
on Arts Council grants. What’s the alternative? Be dependent entirely on
box-office?  For ROH this would inevitably
result in endless seasons of La Traviata, Sleeping Beauty… All gorgeous.  Unfortunately leaves little margin for
artistic freedom, genuine creativity or experimentation.

Money buys artistic
freedom. Lack of money constrains ambitions.

As I understand,
the endowment is a capital sum that, through interest and capital growth,
provides a long-term income. Effectively a water-tight insurance policy.

Will this
unleash a tsunami of demands from arts organisations demanding endowments
rather than one off grants? Who knows but it has to be an improvement on the
current you’re either in or out scenario.

All of the public
organisations I know are gearing up for that slightly clichéd expression “a
change of administration”. With the prospect of no real increase in arts
funding, plus the buoyant public demand for art in all forms, we have to look
to new models of sustainability. We need to accept that we are all responsible
for the development of our society. Dependency on government subsudy can abidcate responsibility in the wider business community. It is just not something that they "do".

A cultured and creative population is the
measure of any civilised society. The ancient Greeks knew a thing or two about
that. The Americans appear to have this sussed with a history and value placed
on creative philanthropy.

It’s made
me think, again, about the relationship between creativity and money. A separate
post, I feel.

Whatever
debate this raises, it really couldn’t happen to nicer people. Paul Reeve, now
Head Of Education, gave me my first break directing (wait for it) a Bollywood
version of Turandot. A new commission, we had classical Asian and Western composers,
film makers, players form the orchestra, Bollywood choreographers, librettists
and me trying to pretend I really knew what I was doing. Plus over 100 young people
from
Villiers High School in Southall. Wonderful stuff.

This was
a very long time before Andrew Lloyd Webber hit the Bollywood trail. Yes, Paul
knows the meaning of the word zeitgeist alright. Tony Hall, Chief Executive of ROH,
still describes this as a formative experience. In post a few weeks, I will
never forget his face, support and enthusiasm as he sat near this very nervous
young (ish) director.

 

Well done
to all of them. I know their work is about so much more than anyone could ever anticipate.

22nd May, 2007