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Arts Council publishes its 2017 Annual Funding Survey

Wednesday 22nd November 2017 at 9am 0 Comments

Harpists at Seamus Heaney HomePlace Image: Harpists at Seamus Heaney HomePlace

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has released data from its 2016/17 Annual Funding Survey.

Top line results reveal another difficult year for the arts sector which has been faced with a decline in income and a shift in employment patterns with more short-term/temporary contracts. Despite difficult financial conditions, arts organisations reported a rise in the number of people engaging in participatory arts activities, as well as a rise in the number of relaxed performances offered to audiences.

Nick Livingston, Director of Strategic Development of Arts Council, commented:

“The data presented today has been gathered from the 107 organisations funded through the Arts Council’s Annual Funding Programme.  It is a reflection of their financial position, employment figures, the work they undertake, the services they offer, and their geographic reach. This is the third year that we have gathered and presented the data in this way and can now see clear trends emerging within the sector as pressure on public funding continues to increase.”

Statistical bulletin
Part of the Arts Council’s research programme aims to provide data on activity funded through the Annual Funding Programme.  This helps to demonstrate the results of our significant investment in a core group of arts organisations and contributes to increasing the knowledge and understanding of the value of this investment. 

These statistics detail findings from the 2016/17 Annual Funding Survey which was completed by 107 arts organisations.  These organisations received £13.92m under its Annual Funding Programme.

As with last year, the data is presented in the form of an interactive dashboard to make it easier to analyse. Each of the four excel spreadsheets can be interrogated by selecting the desired criteria in the drop-down box at the top of the page. 

Some key findings

  • The proportion of artists employed on a contract or freelance basis rose by 5% between 2016/17 and 2017/18 reflecting a shift in employment patterns to more short-term / temporary arrangements.  Whilst this can offer greater flexibility, it often doesn’t provide the security a permanent, full-time position would and reflects the need for arts organisations to keep labour costs to a minimum as funding income falls.
  • Small arts organisations (those with a total income of less than £200k) drew a far lower proportion of their total income from earned sources and were more dependent on regular funding from ACNI than the overall portfolio. 
  • Over half of all activities delivered that year were conducted in the 20% most deprived Super Output Areas, with 1 in 10 activities taking place in rural locations.  Small organisations delivered the largest proportion of work in rural areas (21%), an increase of 8 percentage points compared to the previous year.
  • The number of relaxed performances staged by funded clients has increased significantly compared to previous years.  This has enabled more disabled people to access the arts, in particular theatre based work, via modified shows performed in less formal environments.
  • Participation remains the single largest form of engagement delivered by annually funded organisations, comprising 85% of activity in 2016/17.  This form of activity enables people of all ages to explore personal creativity and work collaboratively with other individuals contributing positively towards broader societal objectives relating to reconciliation, regeneration and social cohesion.

Background on data
In a number of instances it has been necessary to exclude extreme responses to ensure trends displayed are an accurate reflection of the portfolio. Referred to as outliers, these figures have been removed as they tend to obscure trends.

A variety of methods are used by clients to record audiences and participant levels, some of which are more reliable than others.  To reduce associated error, organisations are asked to report data as either ‘actual’ or ‘estimated’; depending on the confidence they have in the data.  Both fields are shown in this release.

It is particularly difficult to estimate attendances at non-ticketed events such as carnivals given the nature of the work delivered.  This release includes data provided by a number of carnival organisations which together make a substantial contribution to total estimated attendances. Subsidy per attendance is calculated using actual and estimated attendances combined.

This is the third year this survey has been run, allowing data received to be cross-checked with responses received over the last two previous years.  In a change to the survey, organisations were asked to comment on any unexplained or large year-on-year changes in engagement levels.  This helped to validate the data received.  Any unexplained, large scale variances were checked directly with the organisations concerned.

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