Surviving the funding squeeze

 1 February 2011

Bev Adams is Artistic Director and CEO of Faceless, a professional arts organisation working to create access to the arts. She spoke to us about setting up Faceless, and her thoughts on the reduction of public spending.

"We formed 20 years ago. I was a drama student, but also discovered during that time that not everybody was the type of person who would cross the threshold into the theatre.

"I wanted to explore work with people in public spaces that may not necessarily be theatre-goers. We formed originally working in Commedia half-mask to create a visual impact on the street. From that, we also started to do a lot of community work where we worked with communities to create outdoor site-specific pieces or carnival-style pieces.

Getting business skills before university

"If the squeeze is on the funding, we have to become leaner and meaner and hungrier for more exciting and developmental work."

"I didn't get to university when I wanted to get to university, for all sorts of circumstances. I was quite disappointed because that was what I'd really worked for all through my school life.

"Somebody said to me, 'Go and do something else, that's fine. You can always come back to it.' So I did. I was employed in secretarial work, whatever work I could get. I did that for three or four years before I went and did my degree.

"I think that was fantastic because that gave me some business skills. So when it came to putting a company together, it wasn't daunting for me to get marketing out and do all that business stuff. That's why I'm still doing it now, because now I have the combination of business skills as well as the artistic skills."

Setting up a performing company

"We found an opportunity to come out of college having our own company running and set up. We didn't need to be jobbing actors, we provided our own employment.

"That was great, and that is a word of advice that I would give to anybody: if you're in an academic institution, use that institution and the facilities that it provides. What other company would have access to that sort of rehearsal space?

"The people that we formed our company with, we were all there in that space for those three years, so we had time to create our work. We actually never left college. When it came to the Easter holidays, we were always rehearsing our work, and in the summer holidays we were always touring. So it was a fantastic opportunity for us.

Running a creative business during public funding cuts

"Whilst we earn quite a lot of our own money and our core funding is 25 percent of what we actually bring in, that money is recycled public money that we earn.

"We might go and get some earned income for a project that somebody else has raised the money for, from public streams, so that is really concerning.

"I would be quite happy to operate without any funding if we could get the price for the work. If we could sell the work for the price that it takes to make it. The value that people place, in pounds, on creative work, doesn't reward the time that it takes to make that work.

"Quite often what would happen is, if the squeeze is on the funding, we have to become leaner and meaner and hungrier for more exciting and developmental work."

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