Rising from the Ashes – responding positively to funding cuts

Rising from the Ashes – responding positively to funding cuts

Rachel
Losing something that means so much to you can be heartbreaking. Losing the arts is no exception. Funding cuts can put immense pressure on organisations and those unable to keep their heads above water are forced to either close or restrict their charitable goals (which may in turn jeopardise their current and future funding).

IdeasTap, for example, is a casualty of such pressure. Founded in 2008 in response to the financial crisis, the charity has unfortunately fallen victim to its legacy. Peter De Haan, Chairman of IdeasTap and principal funder, released a statement detailing the reasons why it was due to close in June.

“Despite our success, to date, IdeasTap has been primarily funded by my charitable trust. Our efforts to secure government or corporate support have failed – and my charitable trust, which was set up in 1999 to improve the quality of life for people and communities in the UK, will soon run out of money.”

Funding cuts, however, are not the only unforeseen circumstance that organisations have to be wary of. On Friday 13th February 2015, a fire tore through the grade II listed Grand Hall and offices of the Battersea Arts Centre (BAC). In late 2014, BAC had started the final phase of its major capital project, having raised just over £13m to ‘open up more spaces in the building and welcome more people from the local community alongside artists and audiences in line with its original municipal function as Battersea Town Hall’. It was a positive move for an institution loved and used by so many. I personally remember watching Punchdrunk’s immersive and experimental The Masque of the Red Death in my first year at drama school and it was a turning point in my studies and my passion for the arts.

The piece used the centre in a way that it had never been used before:

“Prior to The Masque of the Red Death, Battersea Arts Centre used three black box studios. Punchdrunk enabled us to look at the Old Town Hall Building with fresh eyes, seeing the potential in every room, corridor, stairwell and cupboard, opening up areas that had been shut away for years.

It opened their minds to what is possible and they embarked on a project, which would challenge the use of the building and produce creative opportunities for artists and public alike. Fast forward to March 2015 and the building and future of BAC looks a lot different. Much was lost in the fire; and the damage is considerable.

The show, however, must go on.

Battersea Arts Centre was able to open areas of the building unaffected by the fire to the public the following day. It has been remarkable to watch the resilience of the BAC team, and the support received from the public and the arts community. When writing this £715,155 had been donated to ‘Team Phoenix’, a fund set up by the National Funding Scheme in response to the fire. Gecko Theatre Company, whose performance Missing was showing in the Grand Hall - and which consequently lost all of their props and set in the blaze - has since managed to raise £11,064 from their Kickstarter campaign.

A week after the fire David Jubb, BAC’s Artistic Director, released a statement outlining how we can help the re-build of the venue entitled ‘six ways to get involved and help’.

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    1. Come to Battersea Arts Centre
    2. Donate to the Phoenix Fund
    3. Offer stuff
    4. Offer time
    5. Help us remember the Grand Hall
    6. If you’re a funder… – how you can help

Turning a negative situation into a positive one so quickly should be commended. We could all learn from the BAC team who, in the face of something tragic, have continued to encourage the public to feel a part of the organisation. They’ve tapped into the reasons why we loved the Centre to begin with and got creative, aiming to collect memories via tweets for when they rebuild, and for their digital archive. Those who have donated their time, money, memories and/or resources will collectively feel that they were a part of Battersea Arts Centre’s rise from the ashes – having pulled together to restore the building to its former glory.

We must also learn that we can’t wait until it’s too late to act when the threat of further funding cuts is imminent.

The future of the arts looks to be a difficult one: money is scarce and competition high. We must – as the supporters of BAC have done – combine forces; put our best foot forward; keep calm and carry on. We must educate each other and the public about what is needed to ensure we don’t lose any more treasured organisations and arts establishments.

Much hard work is needed but it is possible – we’ve just got to work together and get creative.