In researching for the Money Matters! campaign we have discovered a number of resources, toolkits and other articles which may help organisations consider the three pilars of the Dynamism Investment Principle.
Business Model Innovation: This pillar includes the use of IP –
Community Shares Handbook – This Handbook sets out guidance for societies and practitioners who provide advice on community shares, a term used to describe the withdrawable share capital of co-operative and community benefit societies.
People and Skills
ACAS employer useful templates – Example letters, forms, policies and HR documents for employers and HR managers to download and adapt for their own workplace.
For their work in comprehensively, rapidly and successfully digitising their programme of courses, sustaining a stable income stream through the Covid-19 pandemic, Arvon were recently shortlisted by the Digital Culture Network for a Digital Culture Award for Income Generation through 2021.
Since the 1960s, Arvon has been famous for their week-long residential writing courses at across three rural locations around the UK: Totleigh Barton, a 16th-century manor house in Devon; The Hurst, a manor house in Shropshire, which formerly belonged to the playwright John Osborne; and the former home of Ted Hughes, Lumb Bank, a 17th-century mill-owner’s house hear Hebden Bridge, Yorkshire.
George Palmer, Director of Digital and Communications, has been with Arvon for 10 years to date.
“I started off in marketing and that was the most digital job at the time, so I was the go-to person, but back then we just had the website, social media, a rudimentary course booking system and a database underpinning it all.”
In that decade, George’s role has expanded to oversee the digitisation and automation of operations and communications across the organisation.
Pre-pandemic, Arvon had begun to develop a digital programme, initially doing 1:1 Skypes online with participants. Through the pandemic they quickly introduced much more activity in their digital programming, and George continues to oversee digital strategy.
“Prior to the pandemic, we only had an online 1:1 programme in place. We’d been having conversations about online weekend courses, but these were slow moving. Then the pandemic struck, lockdown came into place, and our three properties were closed. Very quickly we had to shift to a robust online offer, which we launched within about 6 weeks of the first lockdown”
The online offer included the classic 5-day residency, delivered online over Zoom, as well as smaller 2-hour online masterclasses, and evening readings. George attributes Arvon’s success in developing a paid online offer to 3 things:
Investment in their online booking and emailing systems, allowing rapid scale up
Working with high-profile writers as tutors – names that would attract people and make them want to invest in that online course offer
A reputation for delivering a high standard of tuition worth the investment
“A lot of organisations have positioned their digital offer as something you do on the side for free, either as artist development or to build an audience to engage in the main programme. So it can be very difficult if you suddenly want to expand of shift your digital offer and ask people to pay for it.”
Arvon saw a massive uptake in participation among disabled people and people with caring responsibilities thanks to a flexible and more accommodating online offer. Many people attending the online residencies expressed that they wouldn’t have been able to attend the classic residencies for any number of reasons, but particularly physical access needs and fatigue.
“We had someone participating in a residency from a hospital bed, we’ve had people participate from other countries in other time zones who’ve been doing the course through the night! We’ve had people with hearing loss or are deaf so we’ve had some courses signed and we’ve also used captioning.”
The Arvon at Home programme is now a permanent offering and there are plans to increase the range of options of online courses – they’ve just introduced a course that takes places over 5 evenings spread across a 5-week period, as well as a 1-day workshop, to ensure they cater to different access needs and commitment capabilities.
George says Arvon are also working in a more digitally savvy and connected way, for example using more online file sharing systems to work and communicate.
“Having the 3 houses and the national office, we used to work in a very siloed way – prior to the pandemic, all staff across the country used to meet twice a year, during the pandemic it was once a fortnight, and now we continue to meet once a month on Microsoft Teams.”
Why this matters
This case study shows how the pandemic sped up the pivot to digital that Arvon had already planned to carry out. The move to online courses demonstrates not only the Dynamism Investment Principle, and its pillars of business model innovation and appropriate use of technology, but also the Inclusivity & Relevance Principle and the Creative Case for Diversity. More diverse participants were able to access Arvon’s courses and they continue to adapt their offer to meet the demand for more flexibility.
The business sense is clear: meeting the needs of disabled customers – the so-called “Purple pound” – remains largely untapped in the general economy as well as the arts. The spending power of disabled households was estimated recently to be worth around £274bn a year to UK businesses, according to the advocacy group Purple.
Hilary heads up Clore Leadership – the first initiative in the UK aimed at developing and strengthening leadership potential across the cultural and creative sectors.
We were delighted to spend time with Hilary asking her about the needs of cultural leaders right now and the main barriers to change and growth for organisations at the moment.
Could you outline for me, in your own words, how you got to where you are in your career now, and what your current role as Director of Clore Leadership involves?
As Director of Clore Leadership, I work with a team to try to assess and respond to the needs of leaders in the cultural sector.
That is both existing leaders who are dealing with a range of issues across managing organisations, managing teams, managing people, managing programmes, but also aspiring leaders who are keen to develop and hone their leadership skills, and are learning how to do all of those things.
We deliver programmes that work across the spectrum; performing arts, visual arts and into the creative sectors. We work with leaders, and we support organisations by making sure that leadership development is happening at a governance level.
In terms of my career, I started out in dance. Dance was my passion. That’s what brought me here in the first place, it essentially expanded from that. I wanted to learn how to have an impact on dance provision, and that was through dance policy. I shifted into that. From dance policy I thought, actually dance policy is part of a wider context of arts and cultural policy. I’d better get into that field.
I expanded out and worked at the Arts Council, in the East Midlands office. Then I was Director of Dance for Arts Council England, and then Director of Arts in London, including two years at the Olympic bid, and we won – which was amazing; a really fantastic, stimulating time.
From there, I went back to the arts and intercultural leadership, which had always been something that I’d been interested in. In 2006, I was really fortunate to be able to bring those two interests together and run the cultural leadership programme, which was a 22 million pound investment in leadership for the cultural sector. Then I worked independently, running my own business, in cultural leadership and organisational development change.
And then came here to Clore Leadership in 2017. So that’s me, in a nutshell!
What does a day in your life look like (if such a thing exists)?
There’s no one typical day.
But in general I’m always looking for different ways of listening to what’s going on in the sector, and trying to be part of that – to get the intelligence, to see what the shifts are in cultural practice, and what leaders are having to do to respond to that. And then I look at whether we have the right components within our training programmes to equip leaders to be effective. I need to assess whether we need to make any shifts in all of that.
But alongside that there’s management and admin, we’ve got to get the programmes designed, developed and out the door. That involves running the team and supporting them to develop creative ideas and approaches. So it’s a mixture, but it’s a nice mixture.
You mentioned that a lot of your work is about working out what the needs of cultural leaders are, how has that changed over the last two years?
I think what we’re really picking up on is the different forms of resilience that are necessary now, and the essential requirement to have a bank of resources built around resilience. That means personal resilience; managing your time well, having networks of people that you can breathe out with, or explore ideas with. But you’ve also got enough resources in the bank to be able to identify when and where you have a problem.
I think the thing that the last two years have brought into sharpest focus is the need for self care in leadership, because leaders are very much having to absorb what’s going on, reflect, collaborate, and lead… and then it changes again. And then you have to do the whole exercise again. Leaders today have to think through plans A, B and C… (and have D in the ether!) and be flexible enough to move through those plans with as little resistance as possible, and as much openness as they can muster. That means that their teams, and the people that they’re working with, understand that they are working through a series of consequences, rather than striding blindly forward with plan A.
Times change so quickly. Flexibility, adaptability, resilience – those are the key qualities that the last two years have brought into sharp relief.
Have the last two years changed how you’ve developed programmes as well?
I think it’s more a shift in emphasis than real change, because we’ve had to have those elements in there, they are core elements of leadership. It’s a change in emphasis and a case of finding examples that demonstrate what these leadership qualities look like today. It’s about finding examples of people who have used this current situation to be perhaps more creative, more entrepreneurial, more decisive, or more open. That’s what leaders are really looking for. They’re really looking for examples that match today’s environment.
From your perspective, as a cultural leader, what do you see as the main barriers to change and growth for organisations at the moment?
I think one of the biggest barriers is accepting the uncertainty and volatility that’s in the environment – accepting the fact that we don’t know. It can make you feel unstable, as the things that you can actively control are much reduced. That’s a barrier to productivity. It’s easy to end up thinking there’s no point doing anything, because it’ll change in a minute. That can stunt creativity, it can stunt innovation, it can stunt ambition. You need to – somehow or the other – be able to grip the agenda.
But it worries me when people talk about returning to the way things were. I’d rather go forward – I’d rather take the elements that have been constructive from the experience of the last few years, and build forward, rather than build back.
What do you think are the positive things that the disruption of COVID and Brexit have brought to the way we work in the cultural sector?
I’m not being foolhardy about the difficult experiences of the last two years. But there has been innovation, there has been creativity, there has been a stopping of some of the old ways that weren’t serving us.
We can now think, do we need to go back? Can we work from here; harness the good things that we used to have, and channel those forward? If you think back to two years ago, we didn’t know what a breakout room on Zoom was. But actually – if you’re doing transactional type of meetings or sessions, it works perfectly well, and it’s quite efficient. It’s not the only way, because you do need more discursive sessions as well, where the face to face interaction is more helpful. But that hybridity of forms is something that we should build into our practice now going forward, rather than seek for the opportunity when we can close our screens.
For me, there’s a sense of trying to work out what’s the opportunity in this shift? What can we do more efficiently using technology than we were doing before? I can bring in speakers from all over the world into a session. And I’ve saved on airfare, I’ve saved on them leaving home, which means that we can be more connected with a wider range of people.
Within the sector, I’d look to some of the organisations who’ve shifted their business models – who’ve stopped relying so heavily on subsidy and have shifted into more commercial, more entrepreneurial activities.
What do you see is the biggest opportunity for the cultural sector in terms of making the most of the moment we’re in now?
I think the big opportunity is to go forward. There’s no point going through the absolute horror of the last two years if we’re not going to learn from it. We need to think, what can we do differently? How can we make things more equal for those for whom it wasn’t equal? How can we make inclusivity part of the way we are as opposed to some aspiration on a policy paper somewhere? How can we really be as embedded in our communities and what they want, as we were during the pandemic? I think there’s a great opportunity going forward, as long as we don’t try to brush off the last two years and pretend they didn’t happen.
Bernard wears a lot of hats. He’s CEO of ALVA (the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions) – which represents its members to Government, media and business in order to lobby for support for the sector.
We borrowed some time from his busy schedule to ask him about financing in the cultural sector, particularly in a navigating the long term challenges of COVID and Brexit, as well as any sources of hope and inspiration he sees in an uncertain and evolving sector…
Could you outline for me how you got to where you are in your career now, and what you learnt about cultural financial models along the way?
My day job is Chief Executive of ALVA – the Association of Leading Visitor Attractions. I’m the lobbyist and advocate for the importance of the cultural / tourism sector in the UK. All of our members are the biggest Visitor Attractions; so places like the National Trust, English Heritage or the big museums and galleries. I’ve been doing that for 10 years.
So quite a broad set of responsibilities, but all largely within the same cultural sector. One of the things that I found when I first joined the board of Lift, which was my first trusteeship in the cultural sector, is that this sector can create extraordinarily creative, jaw-droppingly imaginative, brave and fantastic work on the slimmest of margins – on tiny, tiny budgets. And whilst that is to be applauded, it’s exhausting.
One of the things I’ve taken away from that, is not to accept that poverty, and adversity, and slim budgets are a great context in which to produce wonderful work, because it’s exhausting and time sapping, and we deserve better than that. Instead, to be more creative in the use of reserves, to think outside of the box – as to who could fund you, and how you could monetize what you’ve already got… to be much braver in that, than most people might think is possible.
Do any examples come to mind of cultural organisations that have done being particularly entrepreneurial or effective in the ways that you’ve mentioned?
The last two years have been fascinating, because we’ve seen organisations really change their business models, and their appetites and approach to risk, because they’ve been in commercial dire straits. Nearly all of my members in ALVA – the biggest heritage and museum and gallery organisations – are now taking much more considered risks (but still risks) than they would have done two years ago. They’re becoming much more commercial than they were two years ago. They’re prepared to take a fresh look at how they use their reserves, in a way that they wouldn’t have done two years ago.
The classic model is we need to have six months’ worth of reserves to wind up the organisation in case in case of insolvency, and the rest can sit in a bank. Well, that doesn’t work anymore, with interest rates as they are. There’s no financial benefit to doing that. But using your reserves and assets to invest in new commercial opportunities, visitor experiences, or new commercial partnerships, is just a really good way to do things.
The last two years, though they have been extraordinarily difficult, have also liberated and freed organisations to take risks – including financial risks – in a way that I don’t think they would have done naturally, had they not found themselves in the crisis that they are.
From your perspective as a cultural leader, what do you see as the main barriers to change and growth for organisations at the moment; operating with the long term effects of both COVID and Brexit?
Well, firstly, the consequences of Brexit are not as explicit as they would be, because COVID has hidden quite a lot of them. That said, we know that it has proved to be much more difficult for British artists to tour overseas – and equally for international artists to tour here in the UK, because of the visa regulations. I am the Mayor of London’s Cultural Tourism Ambassador and Chair of the London Tourism Recovery Board, and we’ve seen, in the course of the last two years, at least 850,000 people leave London – a good percentage of those work in tourism; the culture and hospitality sector. Some of those have gone as a result of Brexit. Some of them have gone as a result of COVID. So the actual effects of Brexit have so far been largely disguised.
The consequences of COVID, however, have been absolutely profound – visitor numbers, and visitor income, has just fallen off a cliff. In particular, those cultural organisations who – in a normal year – would get the vast majority of their visitors from overseas, they’ve now had almost two years of very, very little income, because overseas visitors didn’t come back in 2020. And they didn’t come back in 2021. So those organisations who are highly dependent on inbound visitors, I think will be amongst the last to recover as a result of COVID.
It’s a similar story in the performance and live theatre sector. I know from my work at Bristol Old Vic, our winter production; Robin Hood, had to be cancelled at the last minute because of COVID amongst the cast and the crew. Normally, we would make a really good profit on our winter show. This year, we’ve made a significant loss. That’s just one example showing the precarious state of the theatre sector because of the consequences of the Omicron variant and its great transmissibility.
Is there anything you think that unites organisations that are able to grow audiences and visitor numbers, particularly anything that has continued to be true since the pandemic hit?
Many organisations were doing really, really good things before COVID. The last few years has propelled them to do more, and probably to do it more speedily.
Every year at ALVA we compile all the visitor numbers from our members for the previous calendar year. I’m in the process of getting the visitor numbers of all of our members for calendar year 2021 (we’ll publish that around 18th March). As with last year, it will be a sobering analysis of how badly our sector has been affected by COVID.
One of the things that I’ve been doing for the last 10 years is not just publishing the annual figures, but also looking at whether there are common behaviours, or common DNA, behind those organisations who sustainably grow their visitor numbers and also diversify their audiences as well.
There are. They are things like; these organisations have a greater appetite for risk at senior management and trustee level. Going back the last six years or so – these organisations have a greater appetite to foster partnerships with people that they wouldn’t have already have done. They foster creative partnerships with unusual suspects, to tell their stories of people and place and collections to new and different audiences. They embrace digital, and understand that the visitor experience can be on site, and online. Over the last few years, those organisations who have understood that if they reopen their doors to exactly the same people that they close them to in March 2020, they’ve learned nothing.
Are there any key players that come to mind for you that were successful in bringing in a new audience online or offsite to the one that they shut their doors to?
Absolutely. In no particular order…
Black Country Living Museum and their TikTok; just fascinating, brilliant and clever, and something that engaged staff and volunteers at the Museum across the board, not just in visitor experience or curatorial.
Who else do I love? I love – I’m a bit biased – but the People’s History Museum has really upped its game in becoming an activist museum. And I don’t use that word lightly. It’s now taking a stance on things like the nationality bill, and the ban on peaceful protests. It’s really living its brand, and engaging people who would never engage with the Museum ordinarily, through Twitter in particular.
The thing I think that links all of those organisations is that they are not on broadcast mode. They’re on conversation mode. And that’s really important in terms of their brand; their tone of voice and who they are – their ethos coming through their vocabulary, humour, and whimsy.
To what extent do you think the situation we’ve got at the moment – and the level of uncertainty we’ve got as a result of COVID – is here to stay?
It is a really difficult question to answer.
One thing that I do know is that there is no such thing as a post-COVID world. The idea that at some point COVID will go away, is epidemiologically not true. The idea that we will return back to a kind of normal we had in 2019 isn’t true either, because we will evolve rather than go back to default. And there are some things about what we used to do in the past, that we don’t want to go back to.
I think what the course of the last two years has taught us is that it is possible to work in different ways. No one would have thought an organisation could possibly survive on Zoom with everyone working from home. But here we are.
Being creative and flexible, and adaptive, and responsive, I think, are no longer nice to have for sparky organisations, they now have to be the way that organisations exist and how their culture is manifest.
The second thing to note about the last two years was the confluence of lockdown and Black Lives Matter. In the response to the murder of George Floyd, we were suddenly forced to confront the horror and violence of racism, and oppression. Cultural organisations, in particular, had a fresh mandate to think about who they serve, and the stories that they tell in authentic, honest, occasionally disruptive, provocative, uncomfortable ways, because that’s what they are paid to do. If cultural organisations don’t reflect the true diversity of the communities in which they’re housed, they have to ask themselves the question of whether they are fit for purpose in the modern age.
I think there are so many things that that have taken place over the course of the last two years, which have given organisations, as well as individuals, pause to stop, think, and wonder how they work, whether they’re working in the best way, whether they’re taking the right risks, and whether they’re meeting the objectives and obligations to the communities they serve.
What do you see as the biggest opportunities for the cultural sector in terms of seizing more advantageous financial opportunities?
Three quick ones.
One; being critically honest about what you’ve already got, and monetizing it.
Two; fostering creative partnerships with unusual suspects. Don’t just have a commercial partnership or an artistic partnership with people that you know well and are comfortable with. Actually push the boundaries and, and work with people who bring new audiences to you. Beamish, the outdoor living museum up in Durham, sells sweets. They make sweets and confectionery on sites, but now they’re selling them in department stores in Newcastle.
Third; be braver and more assertive, and – bluntly – less British, about asking people for money and donations. One of the really heartening things that we found in our visitor sentiment research over the last two years, is that when people were unable to to go to their favourite cultural places, they miss them deeply. And when they were allowed to go back, we saw amazing things happen – like a significant increase in the amount of money spent in retail, and on food and beverage amongst. Amongst ALVA members, the average membership retention rate (i.e. people keeping up their membership of National Trust, or Royal Academy etc) was 85% in 2020. So even in a year when people couldn’t use their memberships for most of the year, it was still 85%. I find that extraordinary.
What I take from that is our sector was loved, and is loved, by the British public. They prove that by their donations and purchasing things online, and then turning up. So we need to be better about making that ask for people to give personal donations.
Tim Maycock’s career spans both cultural sector finance, but also big business. He’s currently Head of Finance at Birmingham Hippodrome, with an annual turnover of £25m. Prior to working at the Hippodrome, Tim was the personal wealth manager for one of the richest men in the UK.
We caught up with him to see what insights he could share about cultural financial planning and what transferrable lessons he learnt from his time in big business.
How did you get to where you are in your career now, what have you learnt about finance along the way?
Before moving to the Hippodrome, I was the wealth manager for one of the richest men in the UK. It was an interesting role, but my boss wanted me to move full time to London. I was less keen – my wife and family are settled in Birmingham, and it’s an amazing city with so much going for it.
Parallel to that I saw the role at the Hippodrome.
The Hippodrome is a very special place for me. When I was growing up in Birmingham, my dad was a journalist. He’d get free press tickets to shows at the Hippodrome. Those visits were so special. And now as an adult I can appreciate that the Hippodrome is really unique in the region. Our primary method of making money is through selling tickets to great shows, and we recycle that cash into a wide range of activities that deliver real value to the region. For example, we have a dedicated team that works with 36 schools on a weekly basis. It’s a really positive way of making money – through shows we know our audience are going to love. I’m proud of what we do and how we do it.
From your background in private finance, what have you observed is different about finance models in performing arts?
There are differing models across the sector from the purely commercial to the fully subsidised. The key for me is identifying the value that the organisation is providing. When the link to the value provided is clear, whether that is value to paying customers or value to funders, the money and sustainability follows.
In normal times, the Birmingham Hippodrome generates almost all of our income from our main stage shows, however the pandemic has meant we have had to access other sources of funding, which we have been very grateful to receive. One thing that has struck me is the amount of time and resource it takes to put together good applications. For smaller organisations requiring grant funding, dedicating so much time to the application process might not be possible, which is why the focus on value, or should I say, aligned values is so important.
What’s your perspective on the cultural sector generally and its approach to trading and entrepreneurship… with an “outsider’s eye”, what tricks are we missing?
I felt pretty useless when I first turned up, and asked a lot of daft questions. But by questioning everything, and asking ‘why’ a lot, we have been able to increase our gross margin and decrease our delivery costs, which means there is more cash to be able to support the public benefit activities.
There has also been a great deal of focus on linking activity with the strategic objectives, and while we are not there yet, saying ‘no’ to those projects that don’t fit or that we can’t do justice to leads to further efficiency.
It’s interesting hearing about how you’ve been able to carve out more operating budgets. Are there any transferable lessons from how you’ve been able to do that for smaller organisations with less resources?
My perspective is very focussed on the Midlands. I don’t have much experience beyond that in the cultural sector. But, within the area, I feel like more collaboration would yield greater efficiency . To some extent that’s the responsibility of bigger organisations, like the Hippodrome, doing more to help our smaller up and coming organisations.
One thing we have rolled out is called the Creatives Card, which means that anybody who self-identifies as an artist can come in and use the building during the day, including during rehearsals, to sit in the cafe, with no obligation to buy things, use the free WiFi. It’s a scheme that won’t cost us much but will hopefully help those looking for a welcoming space to meet and rehearse.
From your perspective as a cultural leader, what do you see as the main barriers to change and growth for the sector at the moment – particularly thinking about the long term effects of COVID and BREXIT?
The lack of certainty.
When every day is just crisis management, which is where we are at the moment, we get absolutely no time to think strategically about the long term. Most of the time the battle is just keeping the doors open and the lights on.
Everyone felt pretty confident in the autumn – we were running alongside the Delta variant – but it felt manageable. With Omicron, I was convinced we’d be shut down straight after Christmas; if not back to a full lockdown, like those imposed Wales and Scotland. I’ve got friends in similar roles in Cardiff and Edinburgh; they’re shut. Incredibly, we’re still open. A huge amount of time went in over Christmas planning for another shut down. It’s that constant uncertainty that’s the challenge. You can’t blame anyone for it, we’re all at the mercy of the virus.
In terms of planning further forward, there’s a reticence from those taking commercial risk to push the boundaries, especially if it could get cancelled last minute. I’m hugely grateful that artistic producers continue to tour productions in the current environment; because they are putting up a lot of the risk upfront: there’s no such thing as cancellation insurance because of COVID.
Yes, early in the pandemic I was part of a working group set up by UK Theatre who were lobbying the government for an insurance mechanism whereby producers could get cancellation insurance, much like what happened in the TV industry.
But in the end, it was just too big a number. A national closure of theatres would lead to a huge insurance claim that would be too big, even for the government. So I’m very, very happy that the industry has found a way to carry on anyway, and put things back out on tour, albeit at a higher level of risk.
And now the government is saying lateral flow tests are no longer going to be free, because COVID’s going to be with us for the foreseeable future, and they can’t keep paying for the testing kits indefinitely. There’s a sense that this level of uncertainty is going to be the way things are for some time – how do you normalise that in financial forecasting, can you?
Unfortunately, I think we just have to sit tight and see how things look in March. I guess the one thing that would certainly help is assurance from the government that national lockdowns would go hand in hand with furlough. We survived 534 days of shutdown because of furlough. And knowing that – either for certain industries or as part of a wider principle – that if there is a national lockdown, there is going to be a further scheme, would be really helpful.
Sadly, we did have to go through a redundancy programme earlier in the pandemic, which was driven by the fact that furlough was originally going to come to an end in October 2020. So we had to insure ourselves for a period when it didn’t exist. We were 129 and we dropped to 75. We’re now back up to 100. Making those longer term commitments to staffing levels, in the face of uncertainty, is really, really hard.
Are there any case studies that come to mind of effective entrepreneurial endeavours in the cultural sector?
The case studies that give me hope are those where organisations are taking traditional artforms and finding inventive ways of reaching diverse new audiences. The CBSO are doing great work: they started playing in Hockley Social Club to crowds that wouldn’t regularly fill the Symphony Hall. And they’re able to access it in a way that suits them, in a way that will mean something to them.
There is also some great work going on with the social impact investors – loans are made to organisations that wouldn’t be able to access traditional sources of finance, which place a value on more than just financial return. But as these are loans there is a focus up front on financial sustainability, which requires the value proposition to be clear from the start.
In 2005 Marcus Hammond saw an advert for sale of the deconsecrated Church of St. John the Divine in his local newspaper. He bought it for £75,000, using funds left after his father died. Hammond’s father was a church architect, and before his passing he surveyed and drew up plans for the CofE to approve the purchase.
Today, the space is known as x-church, run by the not-for-profit Slumgothic. It’s a thriving community center and arts and music space, and rooted in the needs of young people in the immediate area. This is the story of how Hammond developed and financed the project
A year after Marcus bought the church, he founded the not-for-profit Slumgothic, which today runs the former Church as a social enterprise. Many of these activities, such as sports classes held in x-church, and the cafe, raise revenue.
The Church building has a smaller space (the school room) which adjoins the vast main hall. In 2013 it needed refurbishment. Slumgothic saw potential in the space for additional groups from the community, particularly older people, and to provide a warm, busy counterpoint to the majestic austerity of the main building.
Slumgothic is a fantastic example of turning a disused asset into something that benefits the community. The project has engaged and inspired hundreds of young people and has given them the ability to shape the development of x-church. The Community Assets Fund is looking to support community groups to establish and grow innovative projects like this that are focused on providing real, lasting value to their local communities.
Andrew Croft, Chair of the Community Assets Fund Investment Advisory Panel
Commenting on working with the Community Asset Fund (CAF) Marcus Hammond, Director of Slumgothic Ltd said:
The grant/loan mix is not a give-away but it is realistic and exactly what we have needed for some time. This work will make the world of difference to the scope of what we deliver.
Marcus Hammond, Director, x-church
Today the big income maker is fighting events – x-church hosts regular boxing matches and wrestling events, which brings in good money either through renting the space or ticketing.
The other big money-maker is the cafe – originally staffed by volunteers, during the pandemic the cafe was taken over by an external group who began using the space as a drop-in, providing mental health support, food parcels and free hot meals. The group rent the space from slumgothic.
The aspiration currently is to get the income to £15k a year and that will support the building and not-for-profit’s running costs.
Why this matters
Part of what is unusual and distinctive about the Slumgothic project is its commitment to being of the people and for the people. Since it’s conception it has focussed on the needs of young people, and those local young people are also represented on the not-for-profit board meetings, and – in some cases – have keys to the building.
This means that the activities and uses of x-church develop in conversation with the needs of the community groups who use it. This gives the Church a solid basis for funding and development, and demonstrates a grassroots, audience-first approach to project planning and business development.
We’ve provided this working financial glossary as a resource to help elucidate different financial terms, and how they can be understood and applied fruitfully in the Arts and Cultural sector.
Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD): a methodology for how to mobilise self-organising community groups to achieve change and development by identifying often unrealised or under-utilised resources and strengths for the greater civic good. It’s often used in the context of community organisation, but certain financial consultants have applied it as a useful model for Arts and Cultural Organisational planning and development (for example Margaret Bolton’s Capital Mattersp. 28ff).
Bond: a bond is a type of loan. The bond issuer is the recipient of the loan, and when you buy a bond you are providing that loan. Bonds specify what rate of interest will be paid and when the loan will be repaid in full. Bonds are often used by governments and corporations to borrow money to finance large capital projects. Margret Bolton and David Carrington explore how Arts and Cultural Organisations can use certain types of bonds to finance capital schemes that are likely to be revenue generating New and Alternative Financial Instruments p. 15 and 18).
Business angel/s: typically an individual providing independent capital to develop a business. Often a wealthy individual aiming to help the receiving business succeed through a combination of funds and through aiding the project with their advice, networks and/or mentorship. The term is often used in relation to start-ups, however there have been a number of case studies of its use to support commercial musicals and theatre productions in the West End. More information: New and Alternative Financial Instrumentsp.19
Cash sponsorship: cash sponsors pay fees in the form of money (as opposed to ‘in-kind sponsors; see below) who provide benefits to the receiving organisation in lieu of cash. Cash sponsors are typically used in events and not-for-profit fundraising. In 2015, it made up 54% of the total types of business investment in Arts and Cultural Organisations (Private Investment in Culture Survey 2016, p. 12)
Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI): a financial institution that provides credit and financial services to disadvantaged communities. There’s an example of how this sort of financing could be used by artists and crafts people setting up their own businesses on p.19 of New and Alternative Financial Instruments.
Community Interest Companies (CICs): These were set up in 2005 by the UK government. They’re designed as social enterprise companies that aim to create social good, rather than profit for shareholders. Bolton and Carrington explain how CICs can be used by not for profits as a way of allowing them to trade. (New and Alternative Financial Models p.25).
Development capital: the money that an organisation needs to invest in its future development (for example in research and development for new products and services). See also ‘Working capital’. Definition is taken from Capital Matters p.38.
Equity investment: money that is invested in a company by buying shares buying shares in a company. Bolton and Carrington make a case for quasi equity investments as a way of financing new projects for Arts and Cultural Organisations, New and Alternative Financial Instruments, pp. 14ff.
Endowment: a donation of money or property to a not for profit, which the receiving organisation will use for a specific purpose – typically in order to provide it with an income. The Sage in Gateshead has established an endowment to help it meet its revenue costs. Bolton and Carrington outline a case study of using endowment financing to support work in a new centre long in the making on p.22 of New and Alternative Financial Instruments.
Full cost plus: (see also Full cost recovery) full cost plus adds a mark up on all costs specified on full cost pricing. The Bolton and Carringtonargue that Arts and Cultural Organisations’ contracts and grants should not only “reflect the full cost of delivery, including a legitimate portion of over head costs – they should also allow a margin for re-investment in the organisation/service. This is important – voluntary organisations tend not to recognise that they can only maintain projects or programmes if they invest periodically in their capital and human resource base.” (New and Alternative Financial Instruments, p.26)
Full cost recovery: securing funding for the full cost of the project, including a portion of overheads.
In-kind sponsorship: (see also Cash sponsorship) in-kind sponsorship provides goods or services in lieu of cash to the organisation it is sponsoring, in exchange for agreed benefits such as publicising the business name, its products and services. In 2014/5 In-kind sponsorship made up 19% of business investment in Arts and Cultural Organisations. (Private Investment in Culture Report 2016, p.12)
Loan: the lending of money by one individual or organisation to another. The borrower incurs a debt, and typically interest on that debt, which must be repaid, along with the original sum. Bolton and Carrington outlinedscenarios where Arts and Cultural Organisations might benefit from using loans (from pp.11ff in New and Alternative Financial Instruments).
Patient capital: also known as long term capital. Refers to an investment where the investor does not expect to make a quick profit – instead the investor is willing to forego short-term gains, in anticipation of long term returns. Bolton outlines some lenders that operate in the Arts and Cultural sector that work in this way (p.25 Capital Matters).
Quasi-equity: the funder takes a financial stake in a venture – for example, in return for providing the capital for the development of a new piece of software, the funder receives a percentage commission on each sale (i.e. the return the funder receives is linked to the financial success of the venture). (Definition from Capital Matters p. 39).
Subsidy: a benefit granted by the state or a public body to help an industry or business. Subsidies are typically given in order to overcome a certain kind of burden or to promote social good / the economy. In New and Alternative Financial Instruments pp.5ff Bolton and Carrington talk about the fact that grant-based subsidies to Arts and Cultural Organisations are declining and being spread ever more thinly (and so make a case for greater adoption of alternative financial instruments in the Arts and cultural sector).
Venture philanthropy: applying, or redirecting, the principles of venture capital (VC) investment to achieve philanthropic goals. One of a number of financial instruments discussed by Bolton and Carrington in New and Alternative Financial Instruments.
Working capital: (see also Development capital) “the sort of financial capital an organisation needs to meet day to day expenses and pay its bills when they come due.” Definition: Capital Mattersp. 38.
The team at Live Theatre could see “the writing on the wall” in terms of the future direction of funding: year by year there is less and less of it.
Live worked with a specialist consultant to work out how best to diversify its income beyond funding streams.
Live was able to implement it’s base for future financial stability from a one-off £6 million loan from Newcastle City Council (as well as a £2.2 million grant from the North East European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) Programme). Taking on so much debt was a risk, but so was doing nothing in an environment of decreasing grant funding.
With this capital in the bank, Live strategically invested in a series of other enterprises: the Broad Chare pub, Live Works (young people’s writing centre and rented office space) and The Schoolhouse (a hub for creative and digital businesses).
Why this matters
What’s smart about this these enterprises draw and bolster Live’s brand and USP’s;
it’s reputation as one of only two new writing centres outside of London
the quality of its work and popular civic brand
prime physical location
Although taking on so much loan debt, that must be repayed, is a risk, Live sought the most reliable income streams for return on investment; property and commercial lets. Part of the reason it was able to gain this loan in the first place was because the Theatre positions itself well within the community.
What’s significant about this mindset is it not only makes the Theatre more financially secure, crucially how Live Theatre uses its income is fully under its control. Rather than living hand-to-mouth for specific project-specific pots of funding, Live now has regular income streams it can invest in, for example, new permanent staff roles, and/ or research and development budgets for new products and services.
As mentioned in the Job Advert post – if you prefer to post your answers on the application form – please send audio or video files (or a link where we can download them) to email@example.com.
Remember to keep your answers short – no more than 2 minutes on any answer. Be brief.
If you don’t want to download the form – Copy the questions set out below and answer them in an email to firstname.lastname@example.org by noon on Monday 1st November.
Don’t forget that we also want to see samples of your work so remember to send those through to the email as well
Here are the questions from the form (to save that pesky downloads!)
Application form questions
Name Telephone E mail address Address
Please confirm that you are registered as self-employed or will be contracted through a limited company
Please list the online platforms that you are active on together with an indication of the numbers of followers you have on those platforms.
Tell us briefly about two different campaigns that you have run, who they were for and what the outcomes were. What did you learn from each campaign? (Please limit this answer to a maximum of 800 words)
How would you split your time in this role – what proportion of time would you spend doing what?(Please limit this answer to a maximum of 300 words)
How have you tracked outcomes on digital campaigns you have run? (Please limit this answer to a maximum of 500 words)
Please provide some links (up to 5) to examples of digital artwork you have created for online platforms or send screenshots of examples to email@example.com.
Tell us about any experience or knowledge you have of working for campaigns related to arts and culture? (Please limit this answer to a maximum of 600 words)
Having read the brief – what would be the first things you would want to find out about or to know if appointed? (Please limit this answer to a maximum of 800 words)
Please provide us with the contact details of two relevant referees. We will only contact them if you are shortlisted and interviewed.
If you have any questions feel free to tweet our Chair Helga Henry @helgahenry and use the hashtag #MoneyMatters! with your queries. Send them through and we’ll also collate the questions and answers here on the website.
Or email us at (you’ve got it) firstname.lastname@example.org.
Good luck! We are really looking forward to hearing from you.
As part of the work for Money Matters! announced earlier this week, we are looking for a creative person with digital expertise to plan, prepare and deliver this online campaign. The target audience is leading arts organisations and venues. The project will be led by a lead consultant from Creative Advantage Fund (Helga Henry), and the Digital Co-ordinator will be supported by a project manager and research assistant who are already on board.
The role involves the following tasks:
Establish a campaign plan using the outcomes of the research phase; mapping best content to best platform and best time
Creating and translating research into appropriate content fit for the platforms (using simple, free tools like Canva or more sophisticated tools such as Adobe if you are comfortable to)
Co-ordinating the content and ensuring a high level of execution
Managing engagement of campaign including interaction and signalling to partner accounts
Working with amplifying partners and Arts Council to ensure messages is reaching desired target audience
Evolve the plan as needed with feedback from stakeholders
Monitor and report on analytics of engagement and campaign performance
Give stakeholders full visibility of the activity and its performance through regular updates and communications
Create online campaign archive and ensure this is distributed as the final phase of content sharing
The right person for the position will have experience of planning and delivering social media campaigns, creating visuals for digital content and a working knowledge of the arts world.
The work involves 24 days for a fee of £6,000 and will commence on 4th November the campaign is currently scheduled to be delivered over 10 days from January 10th.
Deadline for applications Monday 1st November at noon. Applications received after this time will not be considered. We will acknowledge receipt of your application.
Interviews: 2nd or 4th November on Zoom – link to be provided if you are shortlisted. Interviews 2 and 4th November on Zoom please let us know if this platform does not work for you in relation to access and we will find another way to meet with you.
We will let you know the questions 24 hours in advance of your interview. If you prefer to submit your answers by video or audio, please answer the questions in the form and send your media file (or link to download the file) to email@example.com (See the Access blog post above)
We anticipate that this project will mostly be delivered remotely, some face to face meetings may be possible depending on your location and willingness to travel.
Thanks to Arts Council England for funding this project.