Yesterday, we revealed how the Bluecoat is proposing to cut four posts from its live performance and literature programming – and mothball completely its curated year round programme of live events, festivals and workshops.
Today, as promised, we give CEO Alastair Upton the chance to respond. SevenStreets posed specific questions to Upton regarding the decisions outlined in our feature, the specifics of the Bluecoat’s funding expectations (either met or lost – we’ve heard so many conflicting figures bandied around it would have been instructive to have some clarity on what the real deal is), and their commitments for any ongoing performance and literature programme next year.
We didn’t get specific answers to these questions so, instead, we print in full Upton’s statement:
“As you note the number of visits to the Bluecoat has risen year on year since our re-opening with people visiting the Bluecoat for a range of different cultural and creative activities. As you say ‘the Bluecoat is the North Star around which the city’s culture revolves’.
Amongst the huge range of activities here has been our programme of live performance and literature which sits within a long history of work put on in the building going back almost a century. The Bluecoat has no intention of turning its back on this tradition and becoming a purely visual arts venue.
These though are difficult and changing times particularly financially and the Bluecoat needs to respond to these so that it can continue as a vibrant Liverpool institution in the future. The 2011/12 financial year started in April and for a variety of reasons the total income the Bluecoat expected to receive in the year was to drop by £577,000 or over 30% (SS asked for clarity on this – we’ve not received any further information at time of posting).
We managed to make a whole collection of alterations, that included job losses from other teams across the organisation, in March prior to the new financial year and these allowed us to maintain our whole arts programme.
As you say a further £100,000 drop in income then became apparent after the start of the year and this has meant further changes. Equally importantly has been the information about our future funding from the Arts Council for 2012-2015.
After discussions with our major funders what we decided to do was:
Honour all our arts commitments already made. No event has been cancelled including the literature festival Chapter and Verse.
Ensure we have the capacity to put on events all through this year with partners who wish to use the Bluecoat. We have a great many of these partners and will continue to work with them. A new role has been created to support this.
To take some time to consider how we will maintain our mixed arts programme in the future.
This research time will take place later this year and, if funded, will involve us putting on either ourselves or in partnership a range of live events. This will then set the agenda for our full arts programme in 2012 and beyond.
During this period there is of course uncertainty about the arts programme of the Bluecoat. What isn’t uncertain is our commitment to producing live work in the future. Taking some time to consider how to make our work sustainable for the future seems a sensible course of action in times like this when so many things are changing so fast.
Unfortunately these changes do involve some staff roles being made redundant. The staff affected have done exceptionally good work for the Bluecoat and will be greatly missed. However the Bluecoat, a charity which also receives public money, has to make sure that it uses the funds it receives appropriately.
In summary, the change to the arts programme and team was the last not the first or only change the Bluecoat made and we intend to make sure it is temporary.”
We’d like to thank Alastair for his response.
Pic: Mark McNulty