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Arts Council publishes its 2018 Annual Funding Survey

Friday 15th February 2019 at 9am 0 Comments

Culture Night Belfast 2018 Image: Culture Night Belfast 2018

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland has released data from its 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey.

Investment levels in the arts over the last 7 years contributed to another difficult year for the arts sector. Key headline figures show fewer performances delivered in 2017-18, an increase in the number of staff working on a part-time or contract basis, a decline in the number of volunteers working for core arts organisations, and a reduction in the number of outreach activities taking place.

Despite declining income levels however, arts organisations reported an overall increase in the number of arts activities carried out, reporting a rise in the number of festivals and participation based events. The report also revealed the positive efforts organisations were making to deliver a range of social outcomes, with 51 per cent of activities delivered in the most deprived 10 areas in Northern Ireland, as well as the targeted work taking place with children/young people and deprived communities.

Roisin McDonough, Chief Executive of the Arts Council, commented:

“The data presented today has been gathered from the 106 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.

“While there are some positives to be found in today’s report, overall the survey reflects a troubling financial climate. Our major arts organisations are facing reduced funding and rising core cost, which is impacting on their programming, their ability to deliver outreach activities and to reach new audiences through publicity and marketing.”

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 2017/18 Annual Funding Survey which was completed by 106 arts organisations.  These organisations received £13m 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

  • Small and medium scale arts organisations remain most vulnerable to cuts in public funding due to their reliance on Arts Council funding and limited ability to generate earned income, for example through box-office sales.
  • Arts organisations continue to operate in a challenging operational environment with increasing core costs having to be covered by funding originally allocated for programming.  This is impacting on organisations ability to deliver outreach and invest in reaching new audiences through publicity and marketing.
  • The number of volunteers working for core funded organisations fell by 12 per cent compared to 2016-17.  The time contributed by these volunteers increased by 2 per cent to over 100,000 hours.
  • Fewer people are being taken on as apprentices by core funded clients.
  • The vast majority of activity still takes place in urban areas, reflecting the geographical location of arts organisations.  A larger proportion of activity was delivered in rural areas compared to the previous year.
  • Fewer performances were delivered in 2017-18.  Despite an increase in the proportion of discounted and discretionary sales, the average ticket yield increased.  This suggests organisations are increasing the price of tickets to offset reductions in income.

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 fourth year this survey has been run, allowing data received to be cross-checked with responses received over the last three 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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