The Interdependence of Public and Private Finance in British Theatre
Arts Council England
Joint copyright of Stephen Hetherington and Arts Council England.
Theatre in Britain operates in a market economy with finance from both private and public sectors. Since 1945, and the founding of the Arts Council of Great Britain, increasing amounts of state support have been provided for activities judged to provide universal public benefits. Yet these were, for many centuries, considered beyond the remit and purpose of government, and thus reliant almost entirely on private finance. As Britain’s economic foundations remain firmly liberal, that public finance has been integrated into long-standing market mechanisms such that public and private finance have become symbiotically interconnected across the activities that define the industry. This research examines these interconnections while defining the passage of finance between the sectors and noting some of the intentions, motivations and implicit values that lie behind the decisions of those operating in each. This is not a question of comparative artistic value or any judgement of quality, although many will be tempted to read both into the research outcomes; rather it is a description of how public and private finance are now employed in the creation and presentation of theatre in Britain.