A comment on the Arts Portfolio Waleswebsite that “It’s tough out there, particularly for arts organisations” reflects the reality not only in Wales, but also in England. Indeed, cultural organisations in the public sphere as a whole are facing considerable challenges in the context of diminishing public funds at both central and local levels, especially in England, and generally less available sponsorship and support from business.
At the same time, the obligations of cultural organisations to their paymasters for the monies they receive has increased noticeably. In recent years cultural organisations have been required to diversify funding streams, deliver high quality and innovative work and demonstrate its relevance, widen engagement with (and broaden the diversity of) their audiences, engage young people, ensure good governance and effective business planning, provide fair remuneration for creative professionals, ensure their staff and boards are more representative of the population as a whole, build bridges with their local communities, develop international connections if relevant, provide value for money, and more.
These are all absolutely justifiable goals, but it would seem that some organisations are finding the increased number of demands made on them is becoming difficult to deal with. A credible defence of the funding agencies is that in dispensing relatively large sums of government money they have a duty to ensure the organisations they support understand and endeavour to comply with their targets. For cultural organisations even the status of being a National Portfolio organisation, with the promise of multi-year funding that accompanies it, is no guarantee of financial security. A number of NPOs are considered to be at risk of not meeting their financial goals or failing to meet their obligations in other ways. Furthermore, multi-annual funding agreements between Arts Councils and their NPOs are dependent on sufficient funding being provided by governments.