Josephine Burns, chair, Without Walls
Here’s a recent headline from a Lyn Gardner article in the Stage: UK talent isn’t less inventive than European – just worse off. There’s a whole box of frogs in this (I’ll come back to the one about money another day) but the big-daddy frog contention is that the UK invests significantly less money in crucial bits of art-making – debate, reflection, incubating concepts, testing risky ideas.
While often true, it may not just be about money. The UK model has a more programme-based approach, focused on ‘putting on the show,’ getting it in front of the audience, often driven by grant-making structures.
When Without Walls became an Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation last year, we established an R&D programme, Blueprint, to respond to demand. In the last two years, we’ve invested £300,000 in 33 projects, triple the budget we’d eked out between 2012-2015, the last time we’d been able to invest at all! And still, this nowhere near meets demand.
Some Blueprint projects will be commissioned, by us and/or by others, but the intention is to let artists explore ideas without producing a fully-realised show. That’s how invention happens – when the pressure is off comes moments of inspiration.