Form follows funding: How the creative content and audiences of UK combined arts festivals are shaped by funding sources
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Finkel, R. (2005) Form follows funding: How the creative content and audiences of UK combined arts festivals are shaped by funding sources, , , , ,
The last 10-15 years has seen the rapid growth of festivals in the UK, and overseas as well. One of the reasons for this proliferation is both the UK government and arts organisations increased spending on cultural events at the end of the twentieth century. With the assistance of Millennium grants and Lottery funding, many new festivals were created and many established festivals were able to expand. Since Millennium grant giving ended in 2002, the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and regional arts councils are focusing more on financially supporting sustainable arts festivals; i.e., festivals they believe will continue seamlessly from year to year. This shift in arts funding policy has led many festivals who previously relied on government grants to seek alternative modes of support, such as business sponsorship, ticket sales and private donations, in order to survive in an increasingly competitive environment. This paper relates to the Creativity and Spectacle theme of the conference. It discusses the impacts different funding sources have had on the flow of creativity and development of 'combined arts festivals', or festivals that feature more than one genre of artistic performance. It is argued that the predominant way in which a combined arts festival is funded shapes the programming content of its final product, and thus has an influence on attendance and cultural tourism. Funding sources can be seen to have demonstrable effects on the form a festival takes, including who performs, who attends, the size of the festival, marketing outlets, tourism strategies, employment organisation and especially creative output. Four case studies are used to illustrate this point. They are the Henley-upon-Thames Festival, Cardiff Festival, Lichfield Festival and Lafrowda Festival of St Just. These festivals are primarily funded by business sponsorship, by city council, by box office sales and by personal donations, respectively. These examples show that the differing financial situations and resources of these festivals can have direct and indirect effects on affiliations and partnerships, audience development and priorities - such as attracting tourists, engaging young people, regenerating areas, fostering a sense of community or trying to be socially inclusive. Methodology includes a survey sent to 117 UK combined arts festivals in 2003 to discern audience demographics, programming history, funding and future plans. The empirical data analysed in this paper is based on a 56% response rate. In-depth interviews were conducted with Arts Councils, city officials, tourist office managers, festival sponsors, attendees and organisers. Participant and direct observation was undertaken at the 2004 case study festivals and focused on attendance at scores of events and activities to better appreciate a sense of the atmosphere and the audiences of these festivals.