We have now sat round several tables at our fellow arts organisation’s bases, discussing our collective futures and the impact of our development on the wider community of Stoke-on-Trent. This alone is a rare act, and we are both excited and humbled to be in the company of some great creative minds to be addressing the contentious issues of funding, as part of this consortium.
Restoke have been lucky to have been funded over several projects by Arts Council England, matched by support from local authorities and other public funding streams, and now through this Catalyst programme been given this opportunity to ‘Make it Work’ in terms of building our fundraising capacity. This programme coincides of course with huge cuts to subsidised art and a push for us to “hammer home the value of culture to our economy” (Maria Miller, Culture Secretary) But what does this mean for organisations, like Restoke, who work outside of commercially attractive settings?
Restoke are nomads, we are three separate artists, we have our own individual work and agendas, we disperse, we come together, we feel this makes us stronger. We don’t have a base, we don’t have overheads or staff, any time that we invest in Restoke outside of our projects is usually unpaid. But we know why we are here and we look towards a better future for Stoke-on-Trent…. However, we want to be a part of this bright vision and for that we need to be stronger and more resilient to further cuts in government funding.
We usually work site-specifically, in old/redundant/cold/outdoor spaces, we beg borrow and steal (shhh) spaces to rehearse in and often end up hugely indebted to the people and places that help us with this task.
We must admit, looking to diversify funding streams with an emphasis on private giving feels like a giant leap, and we are not without reservations. We struggle to see how our work, which is often socially driven, can become attractive to private investors. We wonder how much time we can give up to the pursuit of this alternative funding. How much time should we be taking away from our artistic practice and development. When do artists get to just BE artists?
Luckily we have been granted this opportunity and time through the Catalyst programme to investigate this. The ‘Go and See’ phase that we are about to embark on will hopefully unearth some current practices and success (or unsuccessful) stories that we can learn from and adapt to our organisation(s).
We do not know what the outcomes of even this first phase will look like, but what we do know if that we’ll be more knowledgeable, and we look forward to sharing that knowledge both within the consortium and beyond, seeking out what could work in our city… This is exciting, but it’s also serious, it’s about survival after all.