March 16, 2007


John Smythe      posted 11 Mar 2007, 02:33 PM / edited 11 Mar 2007, 04:01 PM

The recent Staging The Future II symposium (see News item) was shocked to discover that the performing arts are not included in the government definition of Creative Industries!

The New Zealand Trade & Enterprise website describes the sector thus:

“Creative industries is a diverse sector, which includes screen production, television, music, design, fashion, textiles and digital content. New Zealand has already established competitive advantage in some niches within the sector, notably, screen production and post production, and has a growing reputation across a number of other areas including fashion and design.”

Hence the following resolution was put, and passed without dissent:

“That this Symposium ask the Council of Creative New Zealand to bring together a group of theatre practitioners and advocates to develop a business case for professional theatre across New Zealand regions and broadcasting, building on our professional base, education and local networks including local government.”

Any thoughts?

Bill Sheat             posted 11 Mar 2007, 05:49 PM / edited 11 Mar 2007, 08:05 PM

Why is it necessary get sucked into the trap of management school jargon?  A “business case”? How about just a “case”. It is the mindset of the bureaucrats that sees the theatre left out in the first place. Don’t play into their hands by using their cliches!

Acting and story telling found their way into film and television via the theatre. 

If the bureaucrats and politicians don’t know that it may be a waste of time even communicating with them.

Bill Sheat

Ryan Hartigan    posted 11 Mar 2007, 08:42 PM / edited 11 Mar 2007, 09:20 PM

John – I can think of an interesting, and related anecdote that may be relevant here.

When I was holding an artistic residency in Palmerston North, Judith Tizard and Steve Maharey came to address the local arts community. Some of the elements they were addressing included the desirability of building sustainable artistic careers, seeking further opportunities overseas and bringing that knowledge base back to New Zealand, and generally seeing the quality of local practitioners.

I pointed out that the vast majority of funding schemes and scholarships for a sustained course of study actively discriminated against the scholar/artist. This was particularly true in the common practice of cross disciplinary competition for funding awards, as a specialist in any kind of artistic field will never be capable of attaining the equivalent grade point average of a discipline where “full” or near “full” marks are possible. Mr Maharey’s response was that this exact situation had been thought through, and that the new Government/MoRST initiative had created a specific category for the Creative Industries in the Fulbright Graduate Awards.

Lo and behold, when this new category was unveiled….the category of “Creative Industries” *specifically excluded* the performing arts. I think that the discourse that drives their definition of Creative Industries, seems to place much more emphasis upon the latter word in the label, and that you’ll find a similar mindset is at play in this situation.

Michael Smythe                posted 12 Mar 2007, 02:41 PM

I’m not sure why the performing arts should feel affronted at being excluded – there are advantages in being in ‘the arts’ rather than ‘the creative industries’. I don’t think I am the best person to explain this but here is my understanding of how we got to today’s position.

The divvying up of what fits where would date back to The Heart of the Nation report of June 2000 which put it this way:

Cultural Enterprises [The Arts]

– the arts sector, in its broadest definition, where creativity embraces expressive and communicative purposes and where profit or commercial gain is not a primary motivator.

Creative Industries

– a range of commercially-driven businesses whose primary resources are creativity and intellectual property and which are sustained through generating profits. The major “overhaul not a tune-up” proposals of the HOT Nation report were not implemented by Government.

The Arts stayed with CNZ while responsibility for the Creative Industries was handed to the new Ministry of Economic Development who set up Industry New Zealand which later merged with Tradenz to become New Zealand Trade and Enterprise. The basic distinctions remain.

The Arts are seen as intrinsic to a civilized society and a ‘public good’ that deserves public funding – big ticket performing arts like the NZSO and NZ Ballet are directly funded by Government (as well as sponsors, etc). Theatre is funded in a variety of ways through Creative New Zealand. The Labour leadership recognises that a healthy, productive arts sector also enhances economic (as well as social and cultural) growth by building the confidence and courage to ‘speak with our own voice’, by creating a cultural environment that enhances the possibility of global industries operating from New Zealand, and by helping to build the New Zealand ‘brand’. These returns on investment cannot be measured through a direct cost-benefit analysis so ongoing funding support is justified.

The Creative Industries are seen as potentially viable business propositions which are grounded in creative work – government funding, through NZTE, is used to help get them off the ground.

So, where do the performing arts want to sit? Do they want to be required to become a viable business without ongoing funding support?

Obviously the spectrum ranges from the edgy and experimental to the popular sell-out seasons (which may still struggle to make a profit without subsidy).

I guess the process of developing a ‘business case’ will tease out the issues.

Steph Walker     posted 13 Mar 2007, 09:18 PM

I agree with Bill – why do we want Theatre to be regarded as a business? I think it would be far beneficial to put the case to Trade and Enterprise that the Arts are a valuable business tool for them. The arts are, in fact, one of the most potent marketing tools Tourism New Zealand and Trade and Enterprise has after those “pornographic” landscapes. Much like a sponsor uses the arts it sponsors to create an emotive, one-of-a-kind experience for their clients, so too could TNZ and T&E.

If CNZ has international touring as a priority, I would assume it would be in their best interests to advocate this?

As for putting a business case full stop, perhaps the industry should rather look to all those things the arts provide other than an economic benefit – unique opportunities for education, a reflection of our nation’s identity, health benefits (of all sorts), an empowerment tool for unemployed, refugees… make a case as to why New Zealand needs us full stop. This isn’t just a business, and I think you need to get the intrinsic value of theatre and the arts across before you narrow it down to a ‘business case’, if at all.

Raewyn Whyte posted 15 Mar 2007, 04:12 PM

Could we please all remember that dance is also part of the performing arts/part of the “theatre industry.”  and invite dance professionals into conferences and other such initiatives — we are thinking people too.

John Smythe      posted 15 Mar 2007, 05:35 PM / edited 15 Mar 2007, 07:23 PM

Quite right Raewyn. You will note I and others use the term ‘Performing Arts’ and given dance is, as you say, part of the ‘theatre industry’ there is little in the offerings above that excludes dance. Plus the dance reviews that appear on this site prove absolutely that dance professionals “are thinking people too”.  Consider yourselves thoroughly invited, to this Forum at least!

Raewyn Whyte posted 16 Mar 2007, 11:21 AM

Apologies for that being too broad a plea — it’s great to have dance covered here and that coverage is much appreciated.

My plaint was actually referring to the  lack of dance voices in the STAGING THE FUTURE II symposium/conference mounted by the Theatre Artists Charitable Trust (TACT)  and the responses in the thread of this Forum dealing directly with responses to that forum — perhaps I have jumped threads somehow?


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