Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Till the money runs out

The days pass, and I find myself on the brink of the new season, preparing to take up my cello and start rehearsing once more. After a good long summer break, it's good to feel some enthusiasm building for the coming year.

That's tempered with some trepidation, though. The credit crunch is biting everyone, and the orchestra's no exception. Rising costs, venue hire, the difficulty in persuading people to part with some cash in return for an evening's entertainment are all things that impinge on the activities of an amateur orchestra, and one that receives no subsidies at that. We rely on the subs that players pay, ticket sales and any sponsorship we can attract to keep going, and while it'd be exaggerating to say that we're on the brink of collapse, that fact is that an orchestra's an expensive thing to run; we made a big loss last year and we expect to this year. A lot of imaginative thinking will be needed to find new ways to raise money to keep the band going. (Any other amateur bands having the same worries round here?) >eanwhile hard decisions must be made, programmes changed and belts tightened.

Performing arts organisations must all be looking over their shoulders at the moment, as they're usually prime targets to have their grants cut when the economy starts to nosedive, no matter how well they seem to be doing. There have already been scare stories in the recent past when the Arts Council cut off all support to a number of prominent bodies. It's hard to avoid the conclusion that the time's coming when the best place to be is in an amateur band, working on a small scale and, for all the financial worries, perhaps better placed to ride out the storm than a large pro organisation that depends on public subsidy. One of the points trumpeted about the new Kings Place development is that it's funded entirely by private money, which I suspect is another sign that no-one sensible would want to be relying on public money at a time when there seems to be something in the air against the very idea of it.

On a tangent, there's some interesting (and quite long, don't try printing this out if you want to save trees) reading in this government report on amateur music-making. There's a bit of techno-waffle and stating the bleeding obvious, of course - this is a government document, after all - but I shouldn't be churlish, as it's good to see something vaguely official that propagates the notion that the Arts are something that people do, rather than a product to be passively absorbed. Whether this leads to the conclusion that amateur organisations should be cherished and supported in a way that officialdom doesn't really do at the moment, or that by some twisted logic their presence and popularity should serve as a reason to slash public arts funding remains to be seen.

1 comment:

Erin said...

Our orchestra is doing okay, but we have a fairly big surplus fund that covers us in slower times. ELLSO is entirely user-funded. Our financials are a bit different than the KSO I expect, we don't have nice venues for our concerts, but we do have weekly rehearsals in a big place and we keep five or six instrument tutor/conductors on staff.

At work, we're feeling the pinch. Though I doubt we're going to lose our funding, other things we rely on to supplement our income like the on-site retail, bars and restaurants and slightly wacky collaboration events and things like that are suffering. Talking to other arts venues across the city, ticket sales are down across the board.

It seems as if the people who were on the fence about attending an event are choosing not to go.

It's stressful, but hopefully we'll weather the storm.