Cutters and Donors

Just before Christmas a cheque for £50 arrived in the Stan’s Cafe office.

This week one of our agents sent us this link. It outlines the shadow culture secretary’s proposals for arts funding should the Tories win the general election. In precis it runs something like this…

…don’t worry, although I can’t promise not to cut Arts Funding we are going to encourage a U.S. style culture of patronage…

which can be translated as…

…we’re certainly going to cut Arts Funding but don’t worry we’re also going to give tax breaks encouraging people to donate to the arts. So you can sort it out between you.

Stan’s Cafe have been beneficiaries of U.S. patronage. An anonymous donor paid a five figure sum in order to bring Of All The People In All The World back to Los Angeles and the Skirball Cultural Centre. The Skirball is an amazing place. It has been built and run entirely on donations and earned income and so is exactly the model the Tories are dreaming of but I don’t believe the model is transferable.

The Skirball is a Jewish Cultural Center built on Hollywood’s door step there could be no situation primed better for philanthropic giving. Every element of the building is named after a donor and watching the Center’s charismatic Director Uri D. Herscher at work, showing an immaculately turned out late thirty something couple around, it all makes sense, but it all makes sense there, in that context.

Elsewhere in the US in smaller towns, with more marginal work, the arts funding situation is absolutely dire.

There is a story of an Arts Centre in London, built with donated money, where the major donor has returned demanding rights over the venue as a payback for the donation.

We took good advice, put in a decent effort and comprehensively failed to raise any sponsorship money for a bigger version Of All The People In All The World show in our home city. This was a commercial opportunity not us seeking charity and we got no where.

Big UK arts institutions are already doing all they can to raise sponsorship and court donors, it’s not as if a funding cut is ‘required’ to prod them into action.

A few years back the current government relaxed licensing laws saying it would encourage a more relaxed Continental approach to alcohol. With no apparent affect. Cultures are difficult to change.

In short, the US model is deeply flawed and we are a million miles away from being able to deliver that model as well as they do.

In long, the arguments are rehearsed better, longer, in more detail and breadth here.

And the £50 cheque? Our first ever UK donation. Someone sent it, unsolicited, for the furtherance of our cause. I would be overcooking it a tad to say opening that enveloped moved me as much as meeting our anonymous American patron, but it was very touching, and a little humbling nevertheless.

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