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Drama Strategy


									Arts Council of Northern Ireland




September 2007

Table of Contents

1.0   Introduction                                                       3

2.0   Drama Provision in NI in comparison with the wider UK and RoI      3

3.0   Reflections on the Current Position                                5

4.0   External Context                                                   6
4.1   Introduction                                                       6
4.2   The Economy                                                        7
4.3   Technology                                                         7
4.4   Culture as an Instrument of Positive Change                        8
4.5   Environmental Concerns                                             8
4.6   Conclusion of the Contextual Survey                                8

5.0   Setting the Immediate Financial Context – the CSR                  9

6.0   Towards a Strategic Vision
      Towards                                                            11
6.1   Introduction                                                       11
6.2   ACNI Theme 1: Art at the Heart – Promoting the Value of the Arts   11
6.3   ACNI Theme 2: Strengthening the Arts                               11
6.4   ACNI Theme 3: Growing Audiences and Increasing Participation       13
6.5   ACNI Theme 4: Improving ACNI Performance                           13

7.0   New Drama Strategy – Specific Recommendations                      14
7.1   Introduction                                                       14
7.2   Recommendations                                                    14

Part One: The Process

1.0   Introduction

1.1   This paper sets out recommendations for a new drama strategy for the
      Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ACNI). It is the product of an
      extensive programme of research, consultation and deliberation
      undertaken by Scottish Cultural Enterprise (SCE), commencing in
      December 2006.The brief for the study was to establish a clear vision
      for the development of drama within Northern Ireland, with priorities
      and key actions for ACNI to implement over the next five years. During
      the course of this study, SCE held one-to-one meetings with 37 drama
      organisations and individuals, as well as key stakeholder bodies from
      Northern Ireland, the rest of the UK and the Republic of Ireland. In
      addition, SCE conducted an individual online survey to investigate the
      views of a further 202 people with an interest in the sector, either as
      individual artists, theatre practitioners or as members of drama
      audience in Northern Ireland. This process provided a wealth of detail
      about the successes, aspirations and concerns of all those involved
      and has proved highly valuable in the process of developing a suite of
      actions and approaches to implementing the new strategy.

1.2   The new strategy has been developed within the framework of two key
      documents: ACNI’s overall strategy (Creative Connections: A 5 Year
      Plan for Developing the Arts 2007 – 2012) and ACNI’s Comprehensive
      Spending Review Submission – The Time for The Arts. The former has
      focussed the strategy on those actions that will deliver ACNI’s
      corporate objectives, and the latter defines the financial parameters
      within which the strategy may operate.

2.0   Drama Provision in NI in comparison with the wider UK and RoI

2.1   In terms of the range of provision and scope of activities undertaken,
      the drama sector in Northern Ireland features virtually all of the
      constituent elements that are present in the drama sectors in England,
      Scotland, Wales and the Republic of Ireland. There are 21 professional
      production companies, a network of 19 theatre venues across the
      region, a sector umbrella body – the Northern Ireland Theatre
      Association (NITA) – with 44 members spanning all areas of the sector
      and a range of academic and training bodies at tertiary education level.
      In addition there are socially and culturally important amateur and
      community drama activities and bodies throughout Northern Ireland,
      playing a multi-faceted role in the provision of public performances, a

      range of training and wider socially beneficial activities. Most of the
      elements, therefore, that are fundamental to building a thriving drama
      community are in place in Northern Ireland. There are some key
      elements, however, that are missing and which are addressed in the
      drama strategy.

2.2   Despite this, the major challenge facing the sector is perhaps best
      demonstrated by a survey of the scale of resources invested elsewhere
      in the UK to sustain vibrant, artistically inspiring and socially useful
      drama communities. The year 2005/2006 was adopted as the
      benchmark year for comparators, this being the last year for which data
      exists to enable a UK wide comparison to be undertaken. Awards to
      drama organisations totalled £1.8 million (24% of total grants from non-
      Lottery sources that year) and were supplemented by a further £1.4
      million from Lottery sources (approximately 17% of Lottery funds),
      producing a total of £3.2 million. In addition just over £100,000 was
      awarded to drama projects under the Awards for All scheme,
      representing some 10% of the total funds awarded in that year,
      bringing the total funding for drama using the broadest range of
      definitions and eligibility to £3.3 million.

2.3   To put the information above into perspective, the table below shows
      how much is spent on drama, expressed as a per capita amount1, in
      Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland, using
      the core non-lottery expenditures as the key point of reference.

      Comparison between Drama Budgets 2005/6
                       Northern Wales      Scotland                      Ireland
      Drama Budget (£)       1,803,278     6,358,304     11,164,000      12,616,423
      Population             1,724,400     2,958,600     5,094,800       3,797,000
      Drama Allocation       1.05          2.15          2.19            3.32
      Per Capita (£)

      Per capita expenditure on drama in Northern Ireland is 50% less than
      in both Scotland and Wales. However, it should be noted that
      comparable venues to the Grand Opera House and the Millennium
      Forum would either not be funded in other regions, or would not be
      funded from the drama budget (although such venues do present
      drama). As a result, even less is being spent on drama in Northern
      Ireland, on a per capita basis, than suggested above.

2.4   Comparative work was also undertaken on the percentage of the art
      form budget spent on drama in Northern Ireland, Wales, Scotland and
      the Republic of Ireland.

       Information extracted from Annual Accounts, except Republic of Ireland where figures were
      supplied in Euros by Theatre Forum and recalculated in Pounds Stirling.
      Art Form Budget Comparison
      Location            Art Form Budget Spent on
                          Drama (%)
      Republic of Ireland 34.3
      Wales               33.6
      Northern Ireland    23.7
      Scotland            23.3

      ACNI spends a similar proportion of its budget on drama to the Scottish
      Arts Council, but less than both the arts councils in Wales and the
      Republic of Ireland.

3.0   Reflections on the Current Position

3.1   The tables above suggest that, whilst attempting to maintain a similar
      suite of key elements of vital importance in sustaining a healthy drama
      scene, compared to both the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the UK,
      drama in Northern Ireland is significantly under funded at a core level.
      Based on the evidence of the extensive programme of consultation with
      the sector, it is SCE’s view that the current range of provision is
      disproportionately kept afloat by the passion, commitment and sense of
      vocation of its practitioners. There are real costs arising from this
      situation, in terms of failure to harness the full potential of the sector
      and satisfy and stimulate audience demand. In the longer term, it is
      possible that the human capital so essential to the long-term health of
      the drama sector will be “run down”, as individuals become frustrated
      or compete for scarce resources. This disparity of funding also makes it
      very difficult for drama in Northern Ireland to develop truly meaningful
      relationships, at both strategic and practical levels, with the rest of the
      UK, the Republic of Ireland or the rest of the world. The cessation of
      violence and the resumption of devolved government provide Northern
      Ireland with a new story to tell and a new platform to engage with the
      world. Given the power of art to create dialogue and to reach out to
      others, a key voice for Northern Ireland is, as a result of this
      comparative under-investment, essentially mute.

4.0    External Context

4.1    Introduction

4.1.1 Given that devolved government has only just resumed in Northern
      Ireland, it is probably premature to speculate upon what may or not
      unfold over the coming year in relation to the strategic priorities of the
      new administration and the direct and indirect practical impacts of its
      deliberations. There are however a number of deeper trends at play in
      Northern Ireland that look likely to remain constant over the coming
      years as a result of wider cultural, technological, environmental and
      social trends. For example, in terms of demographic change the key
      trends are that, following a short peak in the percentage of young
      people during the initial years of the new strategy, Northern Ireland’s
      population will age significantly over the next forty years. There is a
      once in a lifetime opportunity for ACNI to reach out and engage with an
      entire generation of young people and to help set positive attitudes to
      and engagement with the arts that will help define the outlook and
      quality of life of the population for the next half century and beyond.

4.1.2 In addition to ageing, the cultural and ethnic basis of Northern Ireland’s
      population is broadening too, with ethnic minority and recent migrant
      groups providing a higher pro-rata rate of births in the region. This
      means that, over time, a greater percentage of the population of
      Northern Ireland will be drawn from or have connections outwith the
      two prime community profiles and that a higher proportion of young
      people in Northern Ireland will have this profile. Drama in Northern
      Ireland has already proven a valuable tool in allowing communities to
      come to grips with change, become more confident in articulating their
      concerns and in accepting and embracing others. As such drama
      clearly can play a valuable role in assisting Northern Ireland as a whole
      respond to this new demographic dynamic.

4.1.3 There are also major shifts afoot in terms of cultural consumption and
      indeed the very definition of culture itself that create a number of
      opportunities and challenges for current cultural organisations and the
      bodies that fund and support them. For example:
      • Old hierarchies of “high” and “low” arts are increasingly irrelevant
         and so artforms previously enjoying limited competition to funding
         are now facing more competition for funds;
      • There is an increasing divide between the haves and the have nots,
         which makes assumptions about universal provision increasingly
         difficult and may be stoking up future tensions;
      • Increasing affluence and a more consumer orientated society
         means that the arts are facing increasing competition from other

           leisure activities;
       •   There is a shift from group to solo activities;
       •   There is competition from home-based high quality digital
       •   Time is increasingly valuable to the asset rich/time poor segment of
       •   Individual organisations and funding bodies are often still locked
           into the old cultural model rather than having the flexibility to meet
           the challenges and take the opportunities emerging from these new
           societal trends.

4.2    The Economy

4.2.1 The last decade has seen an increasingly influential body of thought
      built around the creative, post-industrial economy. This recognition of
      the importance of creativity to the wider post-industrial economy was
      pioneered by the American economist Richard Florida, in The Rise of
      the Creative Class. In this and subsequent works, Florida charts how,
      in the post-industrial economy, it is creativity – across all forms of
      economic endeavour – that drives growth and competitiveness.

4.2.2 The task of creating such a creative environment is likely to present
      challenges for formerly “closed” communities like Northern Ireland. In
      addition, old tensions between Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland
      are likely to prove less relevant in a world where city regions – some
      larger than the whole population of Northern Ireland – compete for

4.3    Technology

4.3.1 Technological change is increasingly responsible for important shifts in
      patterns of cultural consumption. For instance technological change is
      increasingly “cutting out the middle man” in cultural consumption,
      whether this involves accessing or creating the product. Furthermore,
      technology is also increasing the level of expectation of the quality of
      experience on offer, and the ease of accessing it. Despite these
      potential threats, there are also powerful technological opportunities for
      the drama sector. For instance, the growth of the Internet has in some
      senses provided a more level playing field between organisations of
      different types – public sector or commercial – and sizes. In addition,
      technology can be used to help make theatre more interactive, and
      create opportunities for potential attenders to become part of a virtual

4.4    Culture as an Instrument of Positive Change

4.4.1 One of the powerful arguments for investment in culture over and
      beyond its intrinsic merits is that Northern Ireland is already seeing the
      benefits which can flow from the arts when used purposefully as an
      instrument to achieve wider social and economic goals. There is much
      to celebrate in the multifaceted contribution that drama makes to public
      life within Northern Ireland, and its potential as a tool for its promotion
      abroad. However, the process of demonstrating the additional impacts
      of the arts carries with it a number of challenges and it is crucial that,
      the drama sector feels valued in its own right, as much as for the
      benefits that it brings.

4.5    Environmental Concerns

4.5.1 The state of the physical environment is now rapidly accelerating up
      domestic political agendas in the UK, the Republic of Ireland, the EU
      and the US. This has been largely spurred by a growing recognition
      that aspirations to a truly sustainable culture will require large-scale
      political action. In the future, it may be the case that public funding
      adopts firmer green criteria in funding decisions, requiring a range of
      organisations to examine their environmental impact. This could mean
      changes in how they spend their money, what they do, where and how
      frequently they do it, challenging perhaps notions of conventional
      buildings-based, permanent operations. As well as government action,
      there are likely to be shifts in consumer activity. This means that
      companies or service providers who do not have an “offer” in the
      environmental arena may be punished or simply neglected.

4.6    Conclusion of the Contextual Survey

4.6.1 In conclusion, there are external factors driving change within Northern
      Ireland. Regardless of cross-border (UK and Ireland) relations, these
      changes are acting within the context of a single European market
      place, with an enforceable legal economic and human rights
      framework. It is with these issues, therefore, that the cultural sector
      must engage if it is to have continued relevance to the people of
      Northern Ireland. With specific reference to the new drama strategy,
      ACNI sets as a key objective placing the arts at the heart of Northern

4.6.2 To extend the analogy, the extensive programme of primary and
      secondary research analysis undertaken as a prelude to the
      formulation of the following strategy has shown that the heart of the

       drama sector in Northern Ireland, despite the many constrictions, is
       beating and is capable of circulating all sorts of benefits to the body
       politic of the region. However, it is in a fragile condition and not strong
       enough to meet the sustained strain of labouring under its current
       circumstances. But the potential is clearly there and with the right care
       and attention could soon be beating stronger than ever, helping to
       create a Northern Ireland that lives its cultural life to the full.

5.0                                                  CSR
       Setting the Immediate Financial Context – the CSR

5.1    In rather less florid terms, ACNI’s CSR submission, The Time for The
       Arts, sets out the scale of the disparity between funding in NI and
       elsewhere in the British Isles. Its key message to Government is that
       now is the time for the arts in Northern Ireland to receive a more
       appropriate level of funding and greater equity with other regions in
       these islands, on account of:
       • Per capita spending on the arts in Northern Ireland is the lowest
           across the UK and Ireland, approximately 50% that of funding
           granted in Scotland and the Republic of Ireland;
       • There is a substantial gap between what arts organisations require
           and what funding has been available. In the last three years alone,
           arts organisations have faced a shortfall of £5.6m;
       • Individual artists are suffering as over 60% of applications have
           been turned down primarily due to lack of funds.

5.2    The CSR makes a powerful case for the ways in which the arts can be
       at the forefront of delivering a wide range of governmental and other
       public objectives. The submission seeks a total additional funding for
       the arts of £21.5m2 for the CSR period 2008-2011. ACNI aims to
       contribute to the government’s priorities in all the programmes that it
       undertakes and, with increased funding, highlights that it will be able to
       deliver even more effectively through the arts sector. The policy areas
       that ACNI aims to contribute directly towards are:
       • Children & Young People;
       • Building confident and outward looking communities;
       • Cultural Tourism;
       • Growing the Arts Economy;
       • Support for the Creative Industries.

       The CSR submission makes clear that ACNI’s capacity to deliver these
       wider objectives is seriously undermined by the extent of under funding
       within the organisations currently funded by ACNI (i.e. a 17% gap
       between ASOP funding genuinely needed and that able to be granted).
       It also makes it clear that unless this core structural funding is
  This figure was subsequently increased in March 2007 to £26m, following the Government’s announced
 diversion of Lottery proceeds to the Olympic Games 2012.
     addressed, any attempt to strike out for new horizons will be holed
     below the waterline before the ship even sets sail. The recommended
     new strategy in the following section demonstrates a number of actions
     that can be adopted to deliver both the general objectives of the five
     year plan and add further detail to the CSR submission to demonstrate
     how a step change in provision for the sector and the capacity of what
     it can deliver for the wider community could achieve with additional

Part Two: The Strategy

6.0    Towards a Strategic Vision

6.1    Introduction

6.1.1 SCE undertook a process of interrogating the evidence generated from
      consultation of the sector within the context of ACNI’s 5-year plan and
      the CSR submission. SCE’s conclusions below follow the format of the
      four strategic aims developed by ACNI in Creative Connections – A 5
      Year Plan for Developing the Arts 2007-2012. The following sections
      summarise the needs of the various segments identified within the
      themes, on the basis of the evidence gathered during the study.

6.2    ACNI Theme 1: Art at the Heart – Promoting the Value of the Arts

6.2.1 The evidence suggests that drama in Northern Ireland can do the
      • Make people feel good about themselves;
      • Unleash creativity;
      • Help build cohesion;
      • Help people know who they are;
      • Foster engagement with social issues;
      • Counter exclusion;
      • Challenge negative perceptions of Northern Ireland internationally;
      • Help with regeneration to make Northern Ireland an attractive place
          to live and work;
      • Help strengthen the economy;
      • Help add value to tourism products;
      • Boost the creative economy by developing skills.

6.3    ACNI Theme 2: Strengthening the Arts

6.3.1 The evidence suggests that individuals working in drama in Northern
      Ireland need the following:
      • Sufficient volume and variety of work to sustain their creative lives;
      • Opportunities to develop their practice through working on the UK
          mainland and beyond;
      • Opportunities to widen their practise through working on a cross art
          form basis;
      • Opportunities to refresh their technical skills;
      • The stability to plan professional life routes;

       •   The flexibility to respond creatively to new opportunities which arise
           without undue restrictions;
       •   A supportive relationship with funding organisations who appreciate
           and understand their world and how it functions;
       •   Support mechanisms which foster a spirit of collaboration and peer
           group respect;
       •   The physical infrastructure to enable them to focus on their work;
       •   Human infrastructure (e.g. agents, managers, bookers etc);
       •   To be able to make a living;
       •   To enjoy the same parental & caring rights and support as available
           in the mainstream world of work.

6.3.2 The evidence suggests that organisations producing drama in
      Northern Ireland need the following:
      • Sufficient volume of work to keep them engaged;
      • Adequate levels of preparation time;
      • Relationships which underpin their creative process i.e. writers;
      • Access to sufficient levels of funding, so that their creative process
         is not forced to always be on a small scale;
      • Opportunities to tour and showcase their work outside Northern
         Ireland on an equal basis with other European companies;
      • Access to adequate sums of money so that they can be creative;
      • The freedom to explore the full range of repertoire;
      • The opportunities to work with the biggest and brightest names;
      • Access to good venues;
      • Being part of the theatre community;
      • The ability to ensure that staff skills are kept fresh;
      • The ability to attract good staff;
      • The ability to identify scope for sharing resources;
      • Power to revive part successes whilst developing new work;
      • The capacity to offer employee benefits and support that are
         available in the mainstream employment sector.

6.3.3 The evidence suggests that drama in Northern Ireland needs the
      following infrastructure

        Physical                 Human                   Intellectual
        Good quality rehearsal   Audience Development    Information about plays
        space                    Expertise               from Northern Ireland
        Access to IT/Offices     Marketing Expertise     Data Warehousing
        Office Equipment         Education Expertise     Dramaturgy
        Good access              Community Outreach      Sponsorship/
                                 Expertise               Development
        Production Areas         Mechanisms to Achieve
                                 Best Value
        Web Presence             Board Members

        Workshop Space         Linkages with
        Vehicles               Networking
        Stage Equipment        Traineeships
        Costumes/Props/        Agency Functions
        Showcasing             Effective Lobbying

6.4    ACNI Theme 3: Growing Audiences and Increasing Participation

6.4.1 The evidence suggests that the general public in Northern Ireland
      seeks the following:
      • A range of work that they are interested in;
      • Things they can go to with their family;
      • Not to feel uncomfortable;
      • Something spectacular;
      • Things they are familiar with;
      • Challenging work (on occasions);
      • A complete experience which is good in all aspects;
      • Gain insights and learn something;
      • Become actively involved themselves;
      • Help with problems/dealing with issues;
      • Help them develop skills;
      • Good marketing which they can have confidence in;
      • The best the world has to offer;
      • Plays on at convenient times;
      • Value for money;
      • A celebration of their traditions;
      • Not having to travel too far for entertainment;
      • Stars.

6.5    ACNI Theme 4: Improving ACNI Performance

6.5.1 The evidence suggests that the sector wants ACNI to:
      • Advocate for levels of funding which brings Northern Ireland
         proportionately into line with drama in other parts of the UK;
      • Build on current strengths in the drama community whilst
         addressing the weaknesses
      • Assist the sector to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clearly
         defined in relation to ACNI aims and objectives;
      • Be based on a funding framework, which relates the level of funding
         for various drama initiatives with the contribution they are expected
         to make to take forward the ACNI themes;

       •   Communicate with the drama community in relation to long term
       •   Ensure that funding mechanisms operate in such a way as to
           enable companies to plan their work in relation to venues;
       •   Continue to make representations in relation to VAT on artists’ fees
           and how they are treated in ROI compared to the UK.
       •   When the future of local government is clarified, advocate the new
           drama strategy widely within the new structures.

7.0    New Drama Strategy – Specific Recommendations

7.1    Introduction

7.1.1 The following specific actions are recommended as the means
      whereby the objectives of ACNI, as set out in its 5 year plan and
      articulated in its CSR submission, can be achieved. If adopted, it will be
      essential to develop a technical process whereby ACNI is able to
      convert these to SMART Objectives and hence establish the specific
      outcomes that will be achieved in relation to the furtherance of the CSR
      format. One of the recommendations also offers a way ahead for ACNI
      and the sector to take forward the fruits of this strategy development
      process to ensure that there is a framework of common understanding
      to inform the respective parties’ responses to and implementation of
      this new strategy.

7.2    Recommendations

Recommendation 1       Article 1. Summary
                       ACNI to develop a Service Level Agreement for the Lyric
                       Theatre based on an operating model as follows:
                        • Own productions/co-productions of a balanced
                            repertoire (approx 8 per annum on main stage and 2/3
                            studio theatre)
                        • Comprehensive Community outreach/education
                        • Training opportunities for recent graduates/entrants
                        • A training company/young company initiative
                        • Programmes of talks/discussions
                        • Offering small scale productions to regional venues in
                        • Acting as ambassadors for NI at international
                        • Undertaking international co-productions

                    •   Programming visiting companies within a strategic
                        audience development programme.

                    The combined Scottish benchmark for annual grant funding
                    from Arts Council and local authorities for an equivalent rep
                    company is in region of £1.4 - £1.5m.

Current Situation   A final decision on the funding package for the capital
                    development of the Lyric Theatre is expected in October
                    2007 and if agreement to go ahead is secured then the
                    current building is scheduled to close in January 2008. An
                    interim programme for the next 2 years has been prepared
                    and a paper containing a new approach to artistic
                    programming matters is to be presented to the Board by
                    October 2007.

Weaknesses          •   The Lyric does not have a consistent track record of
                        high artistic standards in recent years
                    •   The funding package for the capital development is not
                        yet secured in full and the high level of inflation in the
                        building industry in NI is a threat
                    •   Governance arrangements in the past have not been
                        appropriate; the organisation has not been financial
                    •   Education and outreach work was cut when the Lyric
                        needed to find cost savings, with a corresponding
                        diminution of the role and value of education work in
                        the heart of the company’s vision
                    •   Some aspects of the 2 year programme during closure
                        are not yet fully in place
                    •   The Lyric does not have a sufficiently high profile artistic
                        programme to be invited to international showcases at
                        present and it is a number of years since the Lyric has
                        had the capacity to engage with international co-

Strengths           •   The Board has recently made changes to governance
                        which will allow it to move forward
                    •   A new approach to artistic programming is currently
                        being discussed
                    •   The artistic programme proposals for the next 2 years
                        are balanced across genres and the proposed outlined
                        model in the recommendation is compatible with the
                    •   The Lyric has in the past undertaken education/outreach

                           work and the programme for the next 2 years has the
                           capacity to embrace education work based on current
                           best practice in the sector, and-re-engage and expand
                       •   The Lyric has a track record of using graduates and new
                           entrants but has lacked a studio space in which they
                           can develop their skills before appearing in main stage
                       •   The Lyric has in the past programmed international
                           visiting companies but the development of a strategic
                           audience development is linked to the future of working
                           relationships with Audiences NI
                       •   At present the combined funding package of the Lyric
                           Theatre from ACNI and local authorities is £645,472
                           representing 50% of the Scottish benchmark.

Proposed Interim       If the funding package for the building redevelopment is
Actions                confirmed, ACNI representatives should meet with the Board
                       of the Lyric and consult them about recommendation 1 and
                       give them the opportunity of preparing a response. The aim
                       should be to negotiate a new funding agreement with the
                       Lyric, which defines its development plan in relation to the
                       new drama strategy.

                       As a first step any additional funds, which can be secured to
                       take forward this recommendation, should be used to
                       enhance the 2-year programme so that it has
                       education/outreach work complementing the planned
                       performances. There must however be an intensive period
                       of research, development and review before commencing
                       new educational activities.

                       Work should commence on an audience development plan
                       for the Lyric Theatre, which would complement work being
                       undertaken by Audiences NI.

                       Discussion should be held between Belfast City Council and
                       the ACNI to review levels of long-term support.

Costs of Interim       Costs for education/outreach programme during closure
Actions                period (subject to receipt of suitable application) to be

Timescale of Interim   By Early 2008 - Meetings to discuss links between Lyric
Actions                Theatre strategic plan and new ACNI drama strategy.

                    By March 2008 Funding for the education/outreach
                    development programme to begin.

Delivery Partners   ACNI, Belfast City Council and Lyric Theatre.

Recommendation 2    Article 2. Summary
                    An integrated and comprehensive programme of support
                     should be made available to encourage writing for the
                     theatre in NI. This should comprise:
                     • Advice and support to writers
                     • Dramaturgy Services to a number of theatre companies
                     • Collaboration between theatre companies and festivals
                         to showcase new writing
                     • Encouraging the revival of important NI plays
                     • Undertaking promotional work on behalf of new writers
                         in NI
                     • Undertake educational activities and outreach
                     • Further redevelop and support for archiving and
                         documenting NI plays.

                    •   Create appropriate links with the film and television
                        sector to foster:
                    •   Collaboration in the development of writing and
                        directing talent and opportunities
                    •   More strategic relationships between live and
                        recorded/broadcast media sectors.

Current Situation   Tinderbox is already providing a range of support to writers,
                    which is underpinned by project funding. This includes
                    advice and support, dramaturgy and organising showcase

                    The Linen Hall Library already provides archiving and
                    promotional services in relation to writers and provides a
                    gathering point.

                    The Shifting Brilliances Conference was held in 2007 and
                    identified a number of issues in relation to film,
                    broadcasting and the arts in NI.

Weaknesses          A number of the initiatives to support writers provided by
                    Tinderbox and the Linen Hall Library are heavily dependent
                    on project funding and therefore tend to be financially
                    unsustainable. Supporting writers is a long-term process

                   and requires secure financial underpinning.

                   The Shifting Brilliances Conference identified structural
                   problems with broadcasting in NI related to UK
                   broadcasting policy which it will be challenging for the
                   drama strategy to overcome.

Strengths          Tinderbox and Linen Hall Library have already undertaken
                   many of the sector wide support services identified in the
                   recommendation on a limited scale. It is possible they could
                   between them develop their activities to take on the
                   additional activities, working with partners such as the British

                   ACNI already has a good relationship with Northern Ireland
                   Screen and through them links with independent production

                   The British Council is already promoting NI writers overseas.

                   BBC Northern Ireland, in recognition of its previous
                   relationship with writers in NI has prioritised a new post
                   within BBC NI to create firmer links with writers and directors
                   and to foster a new spirit of collaboration and partnership.

Proposed Interim   ACNI representatives should meet with the Boards of
Actions            Tinderbox and the Linen Hall Library to consult them in
                   relation to recommendation 2 and give them the
                   opportunity of preparing a response.

                   The ACNI Board has requested a review of the dramaturgy
                   programme by March 2008 and that, if continued, the
                   initiative should be procured through an open tendering

                   ACNI representatives should meet with Northern Ireland
                   Screen to identify a possible joint initiative to encourage
                   production companies to support new writing for the screen
                   through working with theatre companies.

                   ACNI should meet with the British Council to seek a joint
                   approach to finding resources for productions of new writing
                   to be showcased abroad.

                   Contact BBC NI (Patrick Spence) and explore ways in which

                       BBC can become an active partner in taking forward this
Costs of Interim       In the short term the actions do not require substantial
Actions                resources although Tinderbox and/or Linen Hall Library may
                       require support for their organisational development

Timescale of Interim   The initial meetings identified above should be undertaken
Actions                before the December 2007 with a view to completing the
                       organisational development planning process by December

Delivery Partners      ACNI, Tinderbox, Linen Hall Library, Northern Ireland
                       Screen, British Council, BBC NI.

Recommendation 3       Article 3. Summary
                       To make the most effective use of funding from public
                       sources by encouraging theatre companies to share physical
                       and human resources.

                       Such an initiative may bring together some of the following:

                       •   Share rehearsal spaces
                       •   Shared office accommodation
                       •   Shared IT resources
                       •   Shared website hosting and development
                       •   Vehicle Pool/leasing
                       •   Joint purchasing scheme
                       •   Agency/personnel management services
                       •   Shared production resources
                       •   Costumes, propos
                       •   Making
                       •   Storage
                       •   Lighting and sound equipment
                       •   Access to a core team offering marketing, audience
                           development, education and outreach
                       •   Business advice for small businesses
                       •   Networking and CPD
                       •   A business development programme for theatre
                           companies setting up a new company
                       •   ‘Incubator’ services to fledgling companies
                       •   A presentation space for touring companies.

Current Situation      Little evidence of resource sharing between NI theatre
                       companies emerged during the research phase of the

                   consultation except between companies providing work for
                   audiences of children and families. However, there was
                   evidence of the Old Museum Arts Centre providing facilities
                   and services to a number of theatre companies and this has
                   the potential to be built on in future.

Weaknesses         The theatre community is very fragmented in NI with fierce
                   competition for money and audiences therefore resulting in
                   a less than conducive environment for fostering sharing.

                   The potential for making spatial provision for resource
                   sharing at Talbot Street is very limited due to the size of the

Strengths          Sector wide projects in relation to new writing have been
                   successfully undertaken by a number of companies and the
                   consultation process suggested that this could be built on in
                   other areas.

                   The re-development of the OMAC and re-location to a new
                   build in Talbot Street give an opportunity for examining the
                   potential for building up existing provision of services to
                   several companies.

                   There has been a significant programme of capital
                   development within both the venues and amateur sector,
                   which have brought new capital assets, with associated
                   specialist staff into existence.

Proposed Interim   A feasibility study should be undertaken to bring forward
Actions            concrete proposals for future resource sharing. This should
                   embrace all the areas put forward in the recommendation
                   and should look across the whole of the drama community
                   in Belfast in the first instance. Specific reference should be
                   made to potential opportunities arising from the Talbot
                   Street development but the study should not be limited solely
                   to this initiative. This initial report should then be
                   disseminated across the wider drama community to provide
                   an opportunity of other resource holders/consumers
                   contributing to the process, with a view to identifying a
                   number of concrete, practical initiatives that could be under

Costs of Interim   Costs for feasibility study to be determined.

Timescale of Interim   Should be completed by July 2008.
Delivery Partners      ACNI, Belfast City Council, OMAC, other theatre
                       companies (amateur and professional) based in Belfast and
                       immediate environs.

Recommendation 4       Article 4. Summary
                       To encourage the creation of access to
                       professional/vocational training of the same standard as is
                       available elsewhere in the British Isles.

Current Situation      There are a number of FE courses in the performing arts
                       available and the quality and appropriateness of the
                       opportunities currently on offer is recognised at a UK sector
                       skills council level. There are however some gaps in
                       provision, such as the need for improved standards of

Weaknesses             There is an absence of CPD for theatre practitioners
                       available in NI such as summer schools, workshops and
                       master classes.

Strengths              The idea of a stand-alone conservatory for NI has already
                       been thoroughly explored and discarded but in the long
                       term it is possible that a joint initiative with Scotland and
                       ROI could be developed along similar lines to the School of
                       Scots and Irish Studies in Aberdeen.

                       Creative and Cultural Skills is active in Northern Ireland and
                       enthusiastic about ACNI engagement with their work.

Proposed Interim       ACNI should designate funds within its support for individual
Actions                artists and extend the opportunities to an appropriate
                       organisation bringing forward an initiative to facilitate a
                       programme of theatre workshops, master classes and
                       Summer school provision to theatre professionals. This
                       should incorporate an evaluation study, which will assess
                       need and track the benefits for individual beneficiaries over

                       ACNI should explore the potential for joint initiatives with
                       other countries.

Costs of Interim       Funding for short-duration programmes and bursaries to be
Actions                determined.

Timescale of Interim   Appropriate organisations (universities and theatre umbrella
Actions                bodies) should be informed of the opportunity in January
                       2008 and allocation of funds should begin after March

Delivery Partners      ACNI, universities, drama schools, theatre umbrella bodies,
                       individual theatre practitioners.

Recommendation 5       Article 5. Summary
                       To ensure that appropriate touring theatre productions are
                       available to the network of regional theatres throughout NI
                       functioning within the context of a strategic approach to
                       audience development.

Current Situation      New purpose built theatres are coming on stream in NI but
                       the sustainability of programming professional theatre
                       throughout the year is uncertain.

Weaknesses             There is an absence of consensus on the exact nature of the
                       way ahead with the views of the producers, presenters and
                       Audiences NI being divergent.

                       The future direction of Audiences NI is unclear at present
                       and ACNI is about to undertake a review of its work.

Strengths              The Arts Council/An Chomhairle Ealaíon is currently
                       undertaking action research through The Touring
                       Experiment. It is currently in its third phase and is expected
                       to report its findings in early Summer 2008. The action
                       research is addressing many of the issues identified during
                       the consultation in NI and it is possible that useful evidence
                       to move the issue forward across all Ireland will emerge.

Proposed Interim       ACNI should contact The Arts Council/An Chomhairle
Actions                Ealaíon in relation to the dissemination of the results of the
                       Touring Experiment and examine the evidence in the context
                       of the review of Audiences NI. Thereafter further
                       consultation should be undertaken with the theatre
                       community to take forward the issue of audience
                       development and regional touring.

Costs of Interim       £0.
Timescale of Interim   Dissemination of results of the Touring Experiment early
Actions                Summer 2008.

Delivery Partners   ACNI, Audiences NI, The Arts Council/An Chomhairle

Recommendation 6    Article 6. Summary
                    To build on the strength of the amateur drama sector,
                    encourage community groups to use drama as part of their
                    work and strengthen the youth drama sector.

Current Situation   NI has burgeoning amateur and community drama
                    networks, which are supported by the local authorities, and
                    in several areas much of the theatre provision comes from

Weaknesses          The consultation study revealed some unwarranted
                    assumptions in certain quarters of the professional sector as
                    to the nature of the sector and ways in which the
                    professional and amateur sectors might work together,
                    despite the anecdotal evidence of many leading
                    professionals coming up through amateur and community
                    drama activities.

                    There is little systematic evidence on whether both sectors
                    can gain energy from each other creatively and artistically,
                    and use each other to build audiences.

Strengths           Local authorities have a good track record of supporting
                    local theatre initiatives throughout NI and the network of
                    regional theatres have good relationships with amateur
                    companies and their related festival activities.

                    ACNI has in the past received representation from the
                    Forum for Local Government to support an initiative which
                    would assist the amateur and community groups to
                    “professionalise” their standards of work through:
                    • Providing training workshops for local groups (e.g.
                        production values)
                    • Practical assistance with set design, sound engineering
                    • Legal requirements such as Health and Safety
                    • Marketing and Audience Development.

Proposed Interim    ACNI establish an initiative to support the
Actions             amateurs/community groups and seek an appropriate lead
                    body to facilitate it. They in turn would bring in other
                    partners such as sponsorship in kind from leading

                       businesses and others.

Costs of Interim       Costs to establish the initiative, to be determined.
Timescale of Interim   Issue information in relation to Initiative Mach 2008
Actions                Closing date for organisation’s submitting proposals to
                       manage 30 June 2008.
                       Initiative opens for business Sept 2008.

Delivery Partners      ACNI, local authorities, Voluntary Arts Ireland, AUDF,
                       umbrella bodies, NITA.

Recommendation 7       Article 7. Summary
                       In order to strengthen the capacity of the theatre community
                       to undertake advocacy, ACNI should develop its dialogue
                       with Northern Ireland Theatre Association as the
                       representative body for the great majority of drama interests
                       in NI and explores ways in which it might assist NITA in
                       developing its capacity to respond to and help implement
                       the recommendations of the strategy.

Current Situation      NITA has established a position as the recognised
                       representative body for the diverse drama sector in NI,
                       attracting some 80 or so members, with the majority of the
                       professional companies forming its membership. It is
                       supported primarily by individual subscriptions.

Weaknesses             The organisation lacks financial security and is unable to
                       plan effectively on a strategic basis. The lack of core
                       funding also limits its capacity to secure ongoing
                       professional staff to provide a function analogous to other
                       drama sector bodies elsewhere in the UK and RoI, leaving
                       the sector unable to fully contribute to public concerns in
                       relation to drama and crucially, assume a greater degree of
                       self-reliance in respect of driving the sectors concerns

Strengths              The breadth of membership and the diversity of the interests
                       gathered together under its umbrella means that it has
                       already proven its right to put itself forward as the
                       representative body for the sector.

                       The board is committed to the development of the
                       organisation and in capitalizing on the latent potential of the
                       drama sector in NI to deliver across a whole range of artistic

                   & cultural, educational and community development

                   It has an embryonic management and staffing structure in
                   place that could quickly be equipped to take on an
                   enhanced role.

Proposed Interim   It is recommended that ACNI enters into discussion with
Actions            NITA to identify how an injection of funding, initially agreed
                   for a three-year period could assist the organisation become
                   a more effective resource for the drama sector and the
                   promotion of drama from and in Northern Ireland by means
                    • Supporting a professional administrator/organiser on
                         initially a 2-3 days per week basis
                    • Providing funds to support the ongoing management
                         and supporting communication within NITA and
                         fostering the capacity of the sector to engage with the
                         ongoing implementation of the drama strategy 2007-
                    • Providing funds for a NITA led initiative each year which
                         will address a primary concern of the sector in the
                         context of the proposed new drama strategy, perhaps in
                         the area of advocacy, whereby an additional
                         independent voice will be able to engage with
                         politicians at local and NI level and other key decision
                         makers/people of influence in a way freed from the
                         constraints of a being a NDPB but in harmony with
                         ACNI’s policies.

                   The precise allocation of activities and funds will need to be
                   negotiated between ACNI and NITA.

                   The precise nature and objectives of the budget would need
                   to be developed by NITA in response to a framework of
                   guidance from ACNI, which would then be formulated by
                   NITA into a business plan identifying key outputs to be
                   derived from ACNI investment. This would then form the
                   basis for a SLA or funding agreement to be reviewed
                   annually in line with mainstream ACNI funding

Costs of Interim   To be determined between ACNI and NITA.

Timescale of Interim   October-             2007
                       October-December 2007: ACNI and NITA maintaining the
Actions                spirit of dialogue engendered through the Drama strategy
                       development process explore the principles and agree the
                       basis upon which a business plan, will be developed to
                       enable the proposed investment to take place.
                       January-March 2008 NITA formulates business Plan for
                       January-         2008:
                       ACNI approval.
                       April 2008 First of the full three-year cycles begins.

Delivery Partners      ACNI, NITA

Alternative formats of this publication may be available on request.

For further information please contact:

Arts Council of Northern Ireland,
MacNeice House, 77 Malone Road, Belfast BT9 6AQ.
T. 028 9038 5200 F. 028 9066 1715

                                                     Published: January 2008

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