Crowdfunded vs Publicly Funded Entertainment

My favourite example of a Kickstarter project is from Zack Danger Brown, who simply asked for some funds to make a ‘potato salad.’ The page went viral, and he ended up raising nearly $56,000.

Kickstarter has revolutionized the way creative people can finance their work. The premise is simple; anyone can promote an idea they’ve had, and others can donate money to help see it become a reality. Over  $3,643,039,213 has been donated by people to help fund a range of different ideas.

I think some genuinely great creative work has emerged from Kickstarter. I helped fund a full series of YouTube show Don’t Hug Me I’m Scared, which went viral after having the aesthetics of a kids TV show, but was really a dark satire on how children are influenced by the media.

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But I would argue ‘crowd funding’ for the creative industries was around long before Kickstarter, in the form of tax payer funded entertainment. It’s a similar premise, with people paying towards the funding and development of creative work, the only difference being it’s not optional.

In the UK, publicly funded art is chosen by Arts Council UK. They’ve detailed a four year plan of investment, with nearly £600 million given to creative projects around the UK. This will go to arts, museums, theatre shows, and films.

This model has been hugely successful. It’s created high quality creative works, which have been enjoyed by millions. It has supported 830 different creative organisations and help promote diversity and business skills in the creative and cultural industries.

So which type of funding is better?

There is heated debate across UK media about the publicly funded culture. This features predominately in the right-wing press, which often features commentators enraged about the irony of filmmakers using publicly funded films as a platform to criticize the government. Take this Daily Mail piece as an example, which frames Ken Loach as someone happy to take Tory money to make a film criticizing them.

Personally, I tend to side with left wing publications, who are much more likely to say that governments need to invest more in culture, as it’s an area of huge talent for the UK. I have to admit though, I do find part of the argument against publicly funded culture compelling. Why should a theatre show that wouldn’t make a profit on its own merits be publicly funded for the benefit of a niche audience? Especially when that money is drastically needed in areas like the NHS.

But of course, there are numerous arguments for why the arts need to be funded. It boosts the economy and inspires people. As someone who wants to go into the creative industries, of course I don’t want to see the government let it become a privatised sector with profits more important than quality.

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Crowdfunding may seem like a good compromise for those against tax payer funded culture, as people can decide to contribute to arts if they want to, and creators still have a way to finance their work. However, it’s incredibly difficult to secure funding on Kickstarter.

I also don’t think Kickstarter produces the same type of creativity. Where the Arts Council only funds creative words that are culturally relevant, I would argue that the types of work Kickstarter generates are often more pop-culture than arts culture. Although of course, who’s to say which is more important?

I feel they both are, but perhaps in the future there could be a way for publicly funded bodies to use the ideas behind Kickstarter as a model, to ensure that art the public wants gets funded. I think this could encourage more people to take an interest in the arts, and democratize the funding process, as well as preserving funding for culturally relevant creative arts.

 

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Dublin There, Done That: UNESCO’s City of Literature

A tiny capital with an enormous reputation…

Dublin as a city prides itself on its creative flair; enriched with prestigious literature and a thriving contemporary live music scene. With a lively pub on every street corner and a historic gem at every turn, in Dublin, you’re never too far from culture in some shape or form.

Literature of all kinds is cherished and celebrated here in Ireland’s capital, having produced a multitude of influential writers, poets and artists ranging from Oscar Wilde and James Joyce, to U2 and The Dubliners. So whatever your personal taste, I’m sure Dublin has it covered!

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Dublin’s vibrant live music scene

Being half Irish myself but never having visited it’s capital, my parents were keen to give me lots of top tips. On the first night, we decided to hit up Whelan’s (a pub/music venue hybrid) on quirky Camden Street, where the likes of Arctic Monkeys and Ed Sheeran have performed. Our plans quickly changed after we heard that the entry cost was €16… as a student, that’s the amount I budget for my weekly food shop!

Instead, we headed back to the all-too-touristy Temple Bar district, where there are more pubs than people, all of which host a merry Irishman sat on a little stool strumming on a humble guitar and singing old Irish folk ballads – all with free entry! Which explains the popularity of Temple Bar (although I must add that they make up for the free entry with their extortionate drink prices)!

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The magical Book of Kells exhibition in the Old Library

Next morning we headed over to one of Ireland’s most impressive must-sees: The Book of Kells exhibition and the Old Library. Located in the heart of the city, this ancient treasure of Christianity is housed in the beautiful Trinity College (which in itself is worth a visit!). But at an €11 entry fee, I couldn’t help but be too inwardly annoyed about the cost to fully appreciate the spectacle around me.

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And finally… the infamous Guinness Storehouse

How have I got this far without mentioning Dublin’s beloved Guinness? I’m sure you’re all aware of the stereotype that the Irish have a soft spot for drinking, from Jameson Whiskey to Magners Cider.

But Guinness… Guinness is more than just a drink for Dubliners, Guinness is a way of life.

“My favourite food from my homeland is Guinness. My second choice is Guinness. My third choice – would have to be Guinness.”

– Peter O’Toole, Irish actor

So without question, visiting the original Guinness Brewery in St. James’s Gate was above all else top of my to-do list. And by the looks of things, top of most people’s list as the Guinness Storehouse is Ireland’s most popular tourist attraction… and Guinness gracious me it did not disappoint!

What happened to the value of art?

It makes you think doesn’t it, that if I – a self-proclaimed music lover –  wouldn’t be willing to pay much more than a couple of quid to listen to some live music, who else feels the same?

As for the Book of Kells, I’d have been just as content with a quiet amble around St Stephens Green park for my dose of literary culture as it’s renowned for having many legendary writers ponder in its fields… without having to spend a penny!

It’s no wonder less people are engaging with the arts these days – it simply costs too much. It’s been estimated that just 3% of adults in England regularly participate in cultural events and this group are typically well-educated and from a higher economic background… basically if you’re clever and rich you can afford these luxuries.

Creative city… worth a visit?

So, whether you’ve come to soak up the rich heritage Dublin has to offer, fill yourself to the brim with the Ireland’s famous stout, or jig along to the sound of an acoustic Irish guitar…

…Dublin’s got your back, whether you’ve got money in your pocket or not!

(Featured Image: Flickr)

Nothing in this life is free: should you have to pay for culture?

In 2017, the average British family spent £73.50 a week on recreation and culture. While this may seem like a large amount on first glance, the Office for National Statistics included a host of activities under this bracket, from sports participation to downloading music. Despite this generous categorisation, these figures can allow us to consider what we are really spending our money on. Whilst some consider it our human right to engage in culture, the truth is that the creative industries have been witness to a mass decrease in available funding. With the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport dedicated to promoting this sector, the question remains: is culture a public or private good? Once the curtain falls, who should foot the bill?

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The changing face of theatre. Credit: Lennart Tange (via Flickr)

Where is the money?

The 2008 global financial crisis hit the cultural sector hard. According to Arts Council, the aftermath of the economic downturn meant that there was a 20 per cent reduction in local authorities’ spending between 2009/10 and 2014/15. This has resulted in an often volatile and competitive cultural landscape where venues must compete for a slice of the ever-shrinking money pie. Everything must be funded in one way or another if they are to survive. However, it can sometimes require a combination of determination, innovation and luck to secure the required finances. For the consumer, this can mean that cultural venues either don’t have the money required to operate, or have inflated prices at the door.

Personal experience

This year I have attended a host of cultural events. In March, I saw a highly-acclaimed West End musical, and in February I attended an intimate local comedy performance. Both of these required me to pay money, and while the latter was less expensive, I nonetheless had to reach into my pocket to experience both. However, this wasn’t brought to my attention until I attended Women Representing Womenin April, a performance-based workshop and conference which looked into representation and exclusivity. The event, which was entirely free, had been made possible by research funding. It brought together women from all walks of life to discuss issues they felt strongly about, included talks and interactive workshops, and culminated in a final live performance. There was even food and drink provided throughout the weekend – all for free.

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The conference was held over a 2 day period. Credit: Carolyn Westwater

Culture for all

It felt somewhat out of the ordinary to wander into a venue, listen to speakers and engage in culture without giving anything in return. But why is this? In reality, there are a host of free events up and down the country for those who wish to seek them out. Eventbrite is a great tool for finding these. The Culture White Paper contends that “everyone should enjoy the opportunities that culture offers, no matter where they start in life”. While it would be futile to suggest that all cultural output should be free of charge, local authorities should have provisions in place to support those who are in a disadvantaged position. This could be done by creating a hardship fund for financial aid or by ensuring that there are a minimum number of free events that everyone can attend.

Attending Women Representing Women opened my eyes to the ways in which events can be produced for a low-cost whilst also being equally as rewarding for the attendees. The truth is that there will always be some aspects of culture that are extortionately priced, as commercial companies utilise their success and find opportunity to make money. However, culture is ultimately a public service and a basic human right, and every corner of society should have the opportunity to engage in it in one way or another.

Featured image credit: Cosmix (via Pixabay)

 

Yello Brick Presents the Magic of the Game

How often do you see adults who are so immersed into a game that on their faces appears a lively childish look which makes them glow as bright as when they have first experienced the magic of the play? Well, this is what the team of yello brick can give to your audience – an adventure specifically tailored for your brand which will place your targeted market at the centre of an unforgettable story.

Alison John, producer at yello brick, gave us some inspiring insight on their work in a lecture for our amazing #JOMECcci, and this blog post is a response to it…

yello brick is a fast-developing marketing agency which creates not only physical events but also digital experiences. The idea for the company originated from its founders’ interest in social interaction and their desire to mix theatre, street and game elements to see how people would respond. Of course, the success of this innovative venture came soon enough – in 2014, yello brick won a BAFTA Cymru Games Commendation for the compelling project Reverie.

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Photo credit: yello brick

What made Reverie exceptional was the efficient mixture of old and new, as the game did not only encourage participation in physical events across Cardiff Bay, but also built a large online community of followers thanks to a huge marketing campaign on social media. Thus, Reverie once more demonstrated that technology and digital expertise are key to the success of the creative industries and the promotion of new projects in the field.

However, the success of yello brick was not pure luck but rather a result of tough work and constant efforts. As Alison John notes, games are not necessarily seen as an art form by the Art Council, and funding can sometimes prove to be slow and challenging. So, her advice to all future creatives is to fight hard for their dreams instead of waiting for somebody to provide them with the necessary resources to chase them.

Undoubtedly, this piece of wisdom can be useful to all startups, which are about to make a name on the market. With the significant cuts in public funding for culture and arts in the last few years, more and more companies struggle to create or preserve their brand identities.

On the bright side, the UK government gradually realizes the importance of the creative sector to the economy. In result, the Arts Council England (ACE) has announced an increase in culture funding with extra £37 million per year in the period between 2018 and 2022. The strategic allocation of those funds will aim to enhance creative and regional diversity by funding more small startups outside London.

However, it is obvious that ACE’s budget is still highly restricted, which continues to limit artists’ access to public funding, and could potentially discourage participation in shaping the cultural landscape of the country.

In response, new innovative methods for financing creative ventures continue to gain popularity, including crowdfunding and other forms of private investments. In the case of yello brick, working with different clients is essential – as Alison mentions, they have benefited from ACE’s financial support, but a significant part of their business also involves designing projects for corporate partners.

So, in times when it gets harder and harder for the creatives to receive public funding, yello brick proves to be a true inspiration and an example of an innovative company that refuses to wait for success to come, and instead, chases it confidently and fearlessly. Undoubtedly, in that courage lies a lesson every graduate who wants to enter the industry needs to pay attention to!

Photo credit for the featured image: yello brick