Can we take arts venues from subsidy to a sustainable business? There are lessons for all from North London’s artsdepot which has recovered from a 35% drop in subsidy revenue to enjoy some of its most creative and prosperous times yet.
artsdepot is a multi-art form arts centre in North London welcoming 100,000 visits a year including 9,000 children and young people participating in workshops and community events.
Incorporating a 400-seat main theatre, a second theatre and various education spaces, its mission is to become a nationally-recognised model of artistic excellence and accessibility.
Latest addition to The LEVEL Summit 2013 speaker line-up, artsdepot Chief Executive, Tracy Cooper explains the venue’s recent funding challenge: “Our organisation has been through several years of change with the key challenge being the retraction of statutory support and the withdrawal of Barnet College as its principal tenant – these two impacts combined to remove 35% of our turnover!”
Staff losses, New ways of working
Having shrunk its staff team by 30% in 2011 and found more efficient ways of working, the venue moved to break even within 5 months of the financial cuts. Now, the North London venue is bouncing back.
Whilst Tracy admits that the process was “challenging”, the outcome has resulted in “a highly efficient and dedicated organisation alert for synergies & efficiencies, yet never compromising on quality.”
Having faced several near death experiences the venue’s management team is delighted to have found a sustainable new business model through a major creative partnership via a long term agreement with an undergraduate dance college (the London Studio Centre) to be based within artsdepot.
Not just surviving but thriving
“We have achieved some of our greatest creative successes within our new business model,” enthuses Tracy. “With 18 productions presented at artsdepot developed through a co-commissioning model last year and a programme that included Beautiful Burnout by Frantic Assembly, The Talent 2013 by Balletboyz (Associates, Sadler’s Wells) and Ballet Black (Associates, Royal Opera House).
The Chief Executive goes on to point out that over the last two years the venue team has:
- Halved its marketing budget yet increased box office by 7%;
- Had its best trading year to date in terms of corporate and community hires and box office ticket sales;
- Increased private fundraising to its highest level ever;
- Turned its catering business around from losing £-24k in 2010/11 to a forecast profit of £10k this year;
- Transformed their formerly subsidised Youth Theatre Company, into a financially self sustaining service;
- Worked alongside the London Borough of Barnet to leverage £1.047m from the Mayor of London towards the creation of a cultural quarter outside our venue and regeneration of North Finchley;
- Worked in a partnership of six outer London venues to secure £0.5m from Arts Council England’s Strategic Touring programme developing outdoor arts activity across the capital;
- Secured sponsorship from Middlesex University London towards its Take Part participatory programme.
…and all this is done with a part-time CEO only working 3 days per week!
LEARN MORE about this venue’s rejuvenation and new business model at The LEVEL Summit 2013. Click to register