Just read this on the Guardian theatre blog, and am angry… here are my thoughts:
ANLO was a poorly-thought-through scheme which never had the budget to do anything useful. The DCMS had this money which ACE could not turn down, and ACE was therefore forced into launching a project far too quickly. It was never enough money to make a real difference, it was rushed into being, the marketing budget was spent with nine months of the scheme left to run, the targets were quietly revised when take-up was lower than hoped… It has been mostly disappointing.
If you don’t live in London, and especially if you have a job, then available performances are few and far between – many theatres used the scheme to get rid of tickets they wouldn’t have sold otherwise, often at matinees, which are obviously no use if you work a 9-5 job. Add in a train fare to London, or taking a day’s holiday, and suddenly the “free” ticket becomes a bit pointless.
“A socially inclusive model for accessing theatre did not exist for young people until now.” This is just a ridiculous thing to say: theatres across the country offer cheap tickets (the RSC’s tickets start at £3.50 for students, the Royal Court has a ‘pay what you can night’, for example) and have excellent schemes designed to widen engagement, develop audiences and get young people into theatres. The ANLO money could have been far more productively used to promote existing campaigns on a national level.
The scheme claimed to be in place to encourage non-attenders, such as the author, to go to the theatre, as the ACE press office told me forcefully when I said that as a committed theatre-goer I’d never found a way of participating. My response then and now is this: if it’s designed for non-theatre-goers, then why advertise in theatres? That’s simply encouraging those people (such as me) who would have bought a ticket, to get a freebie instead.
I don’t in any way support cuts to the arts budget, and dread the damage that will be done if the Spending Review hits as hard as the arts sector currently fears. I urge you all to join www.ivaluethearts.org.uk, to sign the petition. But, I can’t mourn the end of ANLO, even if it only clawed back £100K. Stopping funding for projects that patently don’t work is a sensible way to start saving money, whatever your politics.
The author sounds as thought she is doing the PR for this “ambitious two-year pilot”. It wasn’t ambitious, the targets were lowered. Further, these targets were not met in the first year of the project. We await the full evaluation with interest. In the meantime, I strongly believe that the article devalues the important work that theatres are constantly engaged in trying to widen access off their own backs, and without a pittance from ANLO.