Do our funding patterns halt diversity?

Is it ever too soon to start thinking about the legacy or exit strategy of a funded project?

We work in a sector where funding can be taken away faster than it’s given and where nothing is permanent. But when projects are in place to support and enrich peoples live – sometimes to provide essential, life changing support – is it ethical for this to one day disappear?

I’m not suggesting it’s possible for these things to last forever but it does make me question how I as a Producer can plan for an inevitable end.

For example, I was speaking to an organisation who received one time funding to deliver a project over a number of years. The project has brought children and young people in to the world of theatre through an affordable youth theatre company. This group was hugely subsidised and as a result accessible for a wide range of people in their community; most of whom had never engaged in such a way. For many children and young people accessing this resource, their lives and ambitions were transformed. When the funding ends, what will happen to these aspirations and this talent? What of the next generation of young people in need of it just as much, if not more? This is something that the organisation is having to ask as they prepare for the final phase of funding.

What is our responsibility as a sector to continue nurturing these sparks of potential for as long as they need?

I’m sure there are examples of ways this continued support has been done well. Certainly some venues have been able to nurture talent from work experience through to professional careers. But not all organisations have those resources and I’d argue that a large proportion of those able to take advantage of these resources are coming from backgrounds of greater privilege (e.g. parents who can subsidise the cost of non-paid experience).

As such, I wonder how big a role the nature of funding plays in the progress of diversity within our sector. The children and young people that I have come across benefiting from the type of non-permanent subsidised or free projects tend to be those not already engaged in the sector. Unable to afford the rates of most regular groups and/or training and unsure where to go for this type of support – and that’s if they’ve even considered it as an option for them in the first place.

These same young people will tend to be from lower income, working-class communities, diverse in class as well as race and religion. These are the young people impacted by our inconsistent relationship with funding. If we fail them, building their aspirations up without being there to help them flourish long term then we aren’t doing enough to progress diversity in our sector – in the workplace, the stage or the screen.

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