Deryck Newland: How do we spend less money when everything is more expensive?

Deryck Newland, CEO of Play to the Crowd talks about the raging storm of funding issues within the sector, one which keeps on getting worse.

“Pour on; I will endure.”

This is King Lear’s response to the raging storm he finds himself engulfed by in Act 3 of Shakespeare’s play.

It feels like this as a CEO of a charity at the moment, and in particular an arts charity where big decisions have just been made about future investment.

One has to find a deep well of resilience as the storm buffets you and refuses to abate.
First the existential threat of Covid, which we just managed to survive thanks to the extraordinary generosity and commitment of our community.

Then came the crazy tornado of spiralling energy bills which still swirls around us.
Now we face into the all-consuming hurricane of rising inflation which batters you on both sides of the balance sheet. Fixed costs are rising, and staff retention and recruitment challenges demand action on salary levels. Meanwhile, there’s less and less money in people’s pockets to spend with us.

Then – as if all that wasn’t enough, Arts Council England makes a series of challenging decisions, their hand forced by the Government’s blunt tool of levelling up, which effectively robs Peter to pay Paul in a cruel postcode lottery. Frustratingly we were a victim of our geography and, despite a first-class assessment of our application for regular investment over the next three years, we were rejected due to the need for ‘geographic balancing’.

As I write we are deep in budget setting for 2023-24. It feels like an almost impossible task given the weather out there at the moment, which looks like it is here to stay for the foreseeable.

There is a significant risk in the country at large, that a lack of investment in services across the board results in a dismantling of infrastructure and a whole series of ‘butterfly effects’.

These will result in terribly damaging outcomes for people’s physical and mental health and well-being, as well as hollowing out town centres, making places across the country less attractive for people to live, work and play in.

We are only a tiny example of this risk and by no means the most important. However, if Winchester were no longer to have a theatre or its special and distinctive Festival, not to mention the work we do to encourage participation, the people and the place would be the poorer for it. Once these sort of community assets disappear they are almost impossible to recover.

There are many ways to become poorer in our society and it is a sad over simplification if it is only measured by the money in your pocket.

It is the definition of madness to allow things that you know give richness to communities and help deal with costly societal challenges upstream, to wither through a lack of investment or a lack of strategic foresight and long-term place making.

But this is exactly what is happening across multiple sectors.

As the Fool in King Lear remarks of the storm they find themselves in:
“This cold night will turn us all to fools and madmen.”

I feel this as I try to square the circle of next year’s budget. Not only do we have to find a way of raising more revenue but also, we must remain accessible to and for the communities we serve. That feels like doing the splits, but we continue to try.

How to find more money? People out there have less to spend on theatre tickets when they are trying to heat their homes and feed their children. Trusts and Foundations are overwhelmed with demand. Even corporate partners are needing to tighten belts and count the pennies.

How to spend less money then, when everything is more and more expensive?

The risk is you end up doing less and less of the most important charitable work that is all the more vital in these stormy times.

But it does not seem right to hide away in the face of the tempest. We need to face it head on, believe in our purpose and draw on the strength and commitment of our communities who care about us.

We ‘Play to the Crowd’ and we have to believe that the power of the Crowd will see us through these dark times. After all, together everything remains possible.

Nevertheless, the Fool in King Lear is absolutely right about the storm we face.
It is indeed “A naughty night to swim in!”

    Share Story:

Recent Stories

BANNER

Charity Times Awards 2023

How is the food and agricultural crisis affecting charity investment portfolios?
Charity Times editor, Lauren Weymouth, is joined by Jeneiv Shah, portfolio manager at Sarasin & Partners to discuss how the current pressures placed on agriculture and the wider food system is affecting charity investment portfolios.