Sounding Out at Don’t Panic! Arts in Austerity

6 December 2013
Southbank Centre
Produced by: 
Third Ear / Sound and Music / Southbank Centre

An international line-up of music promoters, programmers, producers, curators, funders, artists and composers join together for a day of talks and discussions to consider the culture of the arts in a time of austerity.

Artists and arts organisations are adapting to a present (and possible future) economy in which income and other resources are ever scarcer. But how are these changes to the financial economy affecting the social ecology of the arts, and what good examples can we learn from?

This symposium will look at emerging trends – and responses to these trends – in the changing relationships: between arts organisations, artists and volunteers; presenting organisations and their audiences; and between established and countercultural movements in the arts.

Find out more about the symposium at

Tickets available from Southbank Centre here


Session 1  -  How do artists eat? 

With reference to Virgil Thomson’s 1939 essay How Composers Eat, or Who Does What to Whom and Who Gets Paid, we want to explore how organisations and artists are working together in these austere times to ensure everyone benefits from their work.

As budgets get tighter, the pressure to reduce costs increases. Variable expenditure – such as artist fees – may seem easier to cut than rents, services, salaries and other fixed costs. Capacity can be increased with more use of volunteers and interns. In these circumstances, what is a fair deal, and what’s not? What are the examples of good practice for paying and rewarding artists, volunteers and interns?

  • Chaired by Martin Bright, The Creative Society
  • Pauline Tambling,  Creative & Cultural Skills
  • Susan Jones, a-n, The Artist Information Company
  • Abigail Pogson, Spitalfields Music
  • Joseph Smith, Stage One

Session 2  -  We’re All In This Together – Speaking for the Arts

Those involved in the arts, especially those representing the major institutions, are under increasing pressure to justify public support. The issues are often reduced to economic concerns – how much the arts add to the UK economy – which overlook the reasons that artists create work, as though the core values are written out of the script. How can these values be articulated to the public and to stakeholders in ways that embrace the work of large companies and small, countercultural and mainstream practices? And how do the arts retain a political edge when arts funding is under stress from politicians and media?

  • Chaired by Judith Knight, Artsadmin
  • Johannes Kreidler, composer
  • Professor Geoffrey Crossick, Cultural Value Project
  • Pablo Berástegui, Centro Cultural Conde Duque, Madrid
  • Andrew Brighton, artist, writer, Contributing Editor, Critical Quarterly

Session 3    Perspectives from the grass roots

Performances and events organised at grassroots level enjoy an artistic freedom larger organisations don’t have. But while composer curators or collectives need not worry about fulfilling long-term funding criteria, events are often put together on a shoestring budget. If grassroots organisations are able to take artistic risks but large institutions have audience reach, can they work together to encourage more audiences to experience new work and to avoid artistic programming becoming stale?

  • Chaired by Richard Whitelaw, Sound and Music
  • Lucy Railton, Kammerklang, London Contemporary Music Festival
  • Annie Mahtani, SOUNDKitchen
  • Ed Carter, Modular
  • Lois Keidan, Live Arts Development Agency

In collaboration with Sound and Music’s Sounding Out

Session 4  -  Calculating Risk, Playing Safe  

One way of balancing the books is to increase earned income. Conventional wisdom suggests that the way to maximize box office is to give people what they want. When the pressure on arts organisations is to play safe and reassure audiences with the familiar, what alternative strategies are being adopted to promote the innovative, the risk-taking, and work not previously tried and tested at the box office? Indeed, is the conventional wisdom right, that people look for the comfort of the familiar, and work that makes them ‘feel good’, when all around appears to be chaotic? Or is this only the case for some audiences, and not others?

  • Chaired by Gillian Moore, Southbank Centre
  • Jochem Valkenburg, Holland Festival
  • Graham Vick, Birmingham Opera
  • Gaby Jenks, AND Festival
  • Laura Ducceschi, Brighton Festival

Buy Tickets

Friday 6 December, 10.30am - 5 pm
Southbank Centre
£50 tickets available here 

Supported by:


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