Maria Miller came to Leeds this week. She didn’t pop into the Slung Low space, which is a real shame because we make a very good coffee and it would have been nice to meet her.
She came to talk about philanthropy. She thinks that arts organisations should not be so proud, or dull or lazy as to miss out on the opportunities of philanthropy.
She expands this point by repeating it often in this here Yorkshire Post article http://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/news/no-minister-philanthropy-is-not-the-answer-for-the-arts-1-5365017
I was asked for a comment about this by Leeds’ journalist Nick Ahad. I hadn’t had my post lunch sugary snack so responded with the quote:
?I don?t know a single organisation that isn?t taking the challenge of raising philanthropic funds seriously. We were attempting to raise funds this way before we were prompted, but my base is in South Leeds, and our toilet is in a shed outside. If anyone can help me find a corporate sponsor for an outdoor toilet, I will happily listen to them. Philanthropy is much more realistic and achievable a source of income to those who are based in London. That Maria Miller took the trip to Leeds bringing only the idea of philanthropy with her as advice for the arts organisations based in this city throws doubt not only on her understanding of the culture sector for which she is Minister, but her understanding of the country.?
I run Slung Low. We make adventures for audiences. We take that very seriously.
But the funding we get from the Arts Council (?100,000 a year) is to run the Holbeck Underground Ballroom- five railway arches in South Leeds. They are a makeshift performance space and rehearsal space for artists in the region. Nearly all the people who use the space have no money, so we don’t charge them cash- they chip into the place by doing painting, chopping wood and such. There’s no heating here but old wood burners in which we burn our old sets. We don’t have a rat problem because we’ve made our peace with the fact that we have rats.
My point is that it is a space that is entirely focused on its purpose- to support artists who would not find support elsewhere. It does it in the cheapest place we could find, the distance between the artist and the space is as small as it possible can be. In order not to waste one single penny of public funding on anything that isn’t vital.
In this we are of the same mindset as many of our colleagues in the arts sector- to waste not one single penny of public funding on anything that will not support the artist or delight the audience.
We’re told by the experts the Arts Council got in, interesting chaps like Michael Kaiser that we should offer those willing to privately fund us experiences that normal people wouldn’t get. Like a ballerina’s shoe after a performance.
We’ve been racking our brains but there are limited opportunities for activities that rich people with a fetish for sweaty dance shoes might find interesting in Holbeck.
And so my smart arsed comments in the Yorkshire Post have come full circle to haunt me. We realised that the very best opportunity for philanthropy that we have at the HUB is the naming rights to our special wing, the wing formerly known as The Hickling Wing.
If you have an offer (and in keeping with our general spirit it doesn’t have to be cash dollar, it might be a trade of some sort) to make us in order to secure the naming rights to this modest but vital facility please either email us or leave it in the comments box along with the name you’d like the wing to have. We shall decide the winner, have an appropriate sign made, put it up in pride of place and philanthropy will have come to Holbeck.