July 26, 2010


John Smythe      posted 21 Jul 2010, 02:23 PM / edited 21 Jul 2010, 02:39 PM

Extracts from pp 22 to 26 of the CNZ document Arts Leadership Investment Programme – Calls for Expressions of Interest – relating only to the performing arts elements.



Key roles in arts infrastructure for the Arts Leadership Investment programme

• Creating, presenting and distributing consistently high-quality New Zealand theatre, including Mâori and Pasifika theatre

• Creating and distributing high-quality New Zealand theatre for New Zealand children

• Creating, presenting and distributing high-quality New Zealand theatre by Mâori, for Mâori and the world

• Creating and presenting experimental and excellent work by young and emerging New Zealand theatre practitioners

Limits on support available under the programme

Support is available for at least three theatre companies to create and present high-quality New Zealand theatre: one in each of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington. Support is available for children’s theatre, Mâori theatre and the creation and presentation of work by young and emerging theatre practitioners.


Key roles in arts infrastructure for the Arts Leadership Investment programme

• Creating, presenting and distributing high-quality contemporary New Zealand dance, including Mâori and Pasifika dance

• Providing professional-development services and information services to the wider dance sector 

Limits on support available under the programme

Support is available for a limited number of dance organisations providing high-quality New Zealand dance and dance services.


Key roles in arts infrastructure for the Arts Leadership Investment programme

• Maintaining a consistently high standard of production, to provide access for New Zealand audiences

• Developing and presenting operas composed by New Zealanders • Developing and presenting New Zealand singers

Limits on support available under the programme

Support is available for at least one opera company.

Editor    posted 21 Jul 2010, 02:38 PM

The Otago Daily Times has a reaction from Fortune Theatre Trust chairman Peter Brown, including:

“It’s bad news for the Fortune and any other arts organisation that isn’t based in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch,” he said.

“It would appear that the Fortune will be forced back into annual funding applications and living hand-to-mouth and from year-to-year.

Three years ago, CNZ identified the Fortune as one of its key players in the professional theatre network and they have supported us well through some difficult times ..

“Now, just when we start to get our heads above water and are in a reasonable financial position, we have the rug pulled.

“This could have significant negative implications for the Fortune and professional theatre in the South. “CNZ is saying to the whole of New Zealand: `You only need two orchestras and you only need three theatres. If you want to enjoy either art form, you will need to travel great distance …”

Mr Brown said the change would affect all Otago. “Somehow, I can’t see national touring theatre productions ever getting to Te Anau or Ranfurly or Lumsden, like the Fortune does.

“The worst thing, though, is that the theatre industry and employment opportunities in Dunedin could wither. If practitioners can’t find regular employment here, then they will have to go north or offshore.”

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

A reader called Hype.O.Thermia comments:

Creative New Zealand could be Destructive New Zealand for Dunedin.

“Mr Carruthers said the new programmes would give greater clarity and flexibility to CNZ’s investment priorities and take into account support provided by local government and the private sector.”

My bet is that where local government has spent every spare cent and mortgaged itself to the hilt on other projects, CNZ will not look favourably on that area’s applications for funding.

Where local rates and charges have increased to an extent that the residents’ pockets do not allow them to support their favourite activities any more than they did and some may have to cut back on their memberships and donations, I do not think CNZ will conclude that they deserve funding assistance.

Dunedin theatre and music enthusiasts had better start developing single-minded mania for rugby instead.


Phil Grieve          posted 21 Jul 2010, 02:48 PM / edited 22 Jul 2010, 12:04 AM

“Support is available for at least three theatre companies to create and present high quality New Zealand theatre : one in each of  Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington “

 I guess we’ll all have to wait to find out what CNZ’s definition of “at least” will become.

At least they didn’t put “at most” instead. I think we need to ensure that CNZ clarifies these criteria or they may be able to use these “loopholes” to justify scaling back professional theatre in NZ. So far as I can tell, they only guarantee to fund three theatre companies – one in each of AKL, WGTN and CHCH. Beyond that it’s a fight for the rest of the pot. That’s not to say there isn’t enough to fund other theatres in those centres or theatres in other centres but we need that to be clarified.

Kate Louise Elliott            posted 21 Jul 2010, 03:08 PM

 It very clearly says, “..at least three theatre companies…” and “..one in each of Christchurch, Auckland and Wellington” but not limited to.  It does not say… ONLY three theatre companies nationwide and ONLY in Christchurch Auckland and Wellington. 

John Smythe      posted 21 Jul 2010, 06:29 PM / edited 22 Jul 2010, 09:49 AM

What interests me is what CNZ now considers to be “Arts Leadership” and “consistently high-quality New Zealand theatre”.

Can this include taking risks on untried homegrown theatre through various stages of development? How will CNZ rate such objectives against (re)producing proven plays from other cultures because they are already considered “high quality” (and relatively easy to produce and market)?

Could it be possible that by “New Zealand theatre” they actually mean home-grown works?  If so, fantastic! If not, where in this new regime is the incentive for our leading theatres to truly lead the way by producing new plays; to be truly creative rather than imitative?

All primary industry leaders can only hope to maintain their leads by investing significantly in research and development; by taking risks and by recognising that some degree of ‘failure’ is inevitable in the pursuit of innovation and creative excellence.

Welly Watch       posted 22 Jul 2010, 10:18 AM

Aha, there’s the question, on the button – are ‘leading’ professional theatres in New Zealand primary or secondary industries? Do they create, develop, market, distribute and export homegrown productions or are they merely assembly plants for imported products?

Key words: leading, creative, New Zealand …

Aaron Alexander              posted 22 Jul 2010, 11:51 AM / edited 22 Jul 2010, 11:59 AM

 One thing that strikes me, at least in the extract you’ve presented John, is the lack of reference to the audience. The citizen. The taxpayer footing the bill.

There’s a great deal of reference to ‘quality’ – a term so vague and subjective as to be practically useless, but (with the exception of ‘for NZ children’) nothing about the needs, desires or preference of the audience. I think this is a sad oversight.

It would be dangerous and disappointing for us to work in a bubble where we all seek to meet our individual definitions of ‘quality theatre’ which we then plonk in front of the audience hoping they’ll recognise the inherent brilliance. Or hand them to under-resourced marketing/publicity staff to try and generate buzz long after the work was conceived.

Quality should be PRESUMED, not identified as an aspirational goal!

What about some goals, some framework for assessing and rewarding a theatre’s engagement with their community?

John Smythe      posted 22 Jul 2010, 01:01 PM / edited 23 Jul 2010, 08:31 AM

Good points, Aaron. 

This from page 16 of the CNZ document:

Creative New Zealand has developed a set of indicators describing our view of what best practice looks like in relation to these particular assessment criteria:

• Involvement with partnerships

• Other sources of funding or support

• A well-run organisation

• A financially sound organisation.

These best practice indicators are included in Appendix 4, on page 31.

– – – – – – – –

Of course the wording has to apply to all art forms and the nature of the artist/‘audience’ relationship differs widely between disciplines. Let’s hope CNZ sees performing arts organisations as forming “partnerships” with their audiences, who are seen as another “source of funding or support”.

That said, as well as leading the way in “best practice”, leaders must also be valued for leading us into places we’ve never been before, as in brand new work / forms / styles … Consider the Waiting For Godot syndrome: judged a failure at it birth; now regarded as one of the best plays ever created. Box office receipts would not have been a good ‘key performance indicator’ when it was first produced.

It would be good if someone from Creative NZ could respond to the questions and points being raised on this forum.

Aaron Alexander              posted 23 Jul 2010, 11:08 AM / edited 23 Jul 2010, 11:16 AM

The ‘Waiting For Godot’ syndrome could be a dangerous rationalisation.

Undoubtedly at the same time there were any number of artistically ambitious failures on the stage. To prioritise high-concept work (‘creative leadership’ is your term I think, John) on the grounds that one of them might turn out to be the next Godot is playing fast and loose with public money.

This art forms point of difference is it’s relationship with the audience – both immediate in performance, and ongoing as a conversation between industry and community. In an age where the competition for the public’s attention has never been higher I think it would be a dark and dangerous road to focus inward in a search for elusive artistic goals of ‘highest quality’ etc. We risk further ghettoising ourselves as an insular, self-obsessed, elitist art form that only insiders can understand and find value in. This, to my understanding, would be against the First Principles of the theatre.

This is not to say I’m against experimentation or creative leadership, striving for the new or unexpected or even the flat out weird. I like weird. Many people do. The appetite is out there and that forms part of the conversation with the audience. It’s been said that of any business your work should be Innovation and Marketing – everything else is an expense. Innovation should certainly be a core principle. But I’m against the idea of an inward focus, of a government incentive scheme that makes the prime target ‘Quality’ – a term that all too easily lends itself to an artist-centric definition.

To my way of thinking the Audience should dominate all statements of intent and direction from govt and practitioners alike. This is not to be confused with naked commercialism. An intent could certainly be ‘to lead the audience towards new forms and ideas in their theatrical experience’ or ‘to share with the audience our unique perspective on shit’ or whatever. But the presumption and support of a constant ongoing relationship should be there, at the heart of everything.

By the way, I don’t think I’m bringing any great insight here – even if I might read a little preachy! The theatres themselves are conscious of this. All seem to be making big efforts to engage with the audience through social media in all it’s forms – this is fantastic. I hope that engagement is increasingly involved in driving the direction of the theatre – mining the audience connection we can now develop for insight and feedback that can lead to relevancy in programming and creation. Rather than the older model of ‘here’s what we want to do, we think it’s great, now please market it to the audience’. We have a massive opportunity to use technology to breakdown the distance that has grown between theatre and audience. I believe we should be pouring attention and effort in this direction, and I hope that this effort will be strongly, strongly supported b y government entities like CNZ.

Downstage Theatre         posted 23 Jul 2010, 11:58 AM

 I was going to say come along to our forum, Aaron!  Perfect opportunity to discuss the topic of ‘quality’.  Then I realise you will be in Mauritius at the time.

BUT we are going to post the audio from the forum on our website next week for those that are unable to attend the “Like it or Loathe it?” forum.  6pm Downstage bar, Saturday 24th, free.


John Smythe      posted 23 Jul 2010, 12:07 PM / edited 23 Jul 2010, 12:14 PM

Agreed, Aaron. I did say “also” not “only”: “leaders must also be valued for leading us into places we’ve never been before.”

To use a restaurant metaphor, there is excellence to be found in providing a steady diet of tasty fare from the simply cheap and cheerful to the complex and deeply sophisticated. You can be a leading purveyor of standard fare across a wide range and satisfy a steady clientele with that.

But distinction can also be achieved by being original, taking risks, achieving a point of difference that becomes a marketing tool in attracting audiences who will come back for more – of the same, the different, the unexpected … And ‘creative leadership’ has a particular value here. 

Consider the evolution of Shortland Street (in no way an “insular, self-obsessed, elitist art form”). The target audience – already devotees of Australia’s Neighbours and Home and Away – were surveyed to see if they would like a TV serial that told their stories. The answer was a resounding yes, but the majority also said they didn’t want it to be in New Zealand accents.

There are times when leadership includes knowing more and knowing better than those who follow – or thinking you do; taking the risk to see if you’re right, and if you’re not learning whatever lessons the experience may teach. Making mistakes are crucial to the creative process.

The question here, we must remember, is not what the performing (and other) arts should be in any given society but what they taxpayer should subsidise by way of ‘venture capital’. I think original work should top the list.

Aaron Alexander              posted 23 Jul 2010, 12:31 PM

 @john There’s a difference between asking people what they think they want (old school market research as per your Shortland Street example)  and having an ongoing conversation. If you’re risk-taking, you’d do well to work hard to communicate with your potential audience about what you’re up to and, more importantly why you’re up to it., i.e. what value you think you’ll find for your audience that makes the risk worth taking. If you’re just experimenting because you get off on it artistically, well there’s a word for that and it rhymes with ‘banking’.

I’m not advocating for a ‘mainstreaming’ of all theatre across the board. Just for the centrality of the audience in our thinking and our efforts.

I believe such a focus on the relationship between the theatre and the audience/community would actually empower us to take artistic risks by building an audience that trusts us to take them places.

@downstage Thanks, but yes, I’ll be in the second hour of my extensive warm-up routine by 6pm. All the best for the discussin’.

John Smythe      posted 23 Jul 2010, 02:29 PM / edited 26 Jul 2010, 11:50 AM

Yes indeed, “a focus on the relationship between the theatre and the audience/community” is fundamental.

To return to the Godot example, I think Beckett’s perception of ‘the human condition’ and the artistry he brought to dramatising it, means he was absolutely focused on what theatre could offer humanity at large, but he may not have been fully focussed on pleasing the theatre-going audience of the time. 

I’m sure you’ll agree we need to be just as focused on those who are not going to the theatre and what it might take to bring them in.  I applaud anyone whose work is predicated on the notion that the only qualification you need to engage with it, as an audience member, is to be human and sentient.

Aaron Alexander              posted 26 Jul 2010, 01:44 PM / edited 26 Jul 2010, 02:41 PM

 FWIW On my blog I’ve gone a little deeper into my thoughts on this issue. Comments most welcome.

Is content the issue?

Editor    posted 26 Jul 2010, 03:50 PM / edited 26 Jul 2010, 03:55 PM

This response is from John McDavitt at Creative New Zealand (Policy Development):

To understand the new framework for Creative New Zealand’s multi-year funding, the best place to start is the RFO Review Findings and Call for Expressions of Interest papers that are available at www.creativenz.govt.nz/rforeview.

These two documents are a result of the RFO [Recurrently Funded Organisations] Review and set out the new framework that will apply to Creative New Zealand’s multi-year funding investments from January 2012.

The new Arts Leadership Investment (Toi Tôtara Haemata) and Arts Development Investment (Toi Uru Kahikitea) programmes are to be introduced in a staged process between now and the end of 2011. No decisions have yet been made about which companies would be part of which programme, but both programmes will offer multi-year funding support.

Actual decisions will be made based on assessment of the Arts Leadership Investment expressions of interest we receive in September, the indicative programmes and budgets we ask for in December this year from potential Arts Leadership companies and the Arts Development Investment applications we receive in mid-2011.

Until the expression of interest and applications process is completed, it is not possible to answer some of the questions raised in the forum. However most other questions can be answered by reading of the RFO Review Findings and Call for Expressions of Interest papers. For instance:

“Where in this new regime is the incentive for . . . producing new plays”

On page 13 (section 7 – Incentive Funding) of the Findings paper the Review recommended that Creative New Zealand consider reserving funds to provide incentives for arts organisations to actively develop the commissioning and presentation of new work. The Council endorsed this recommendation and incentives funds will be able to support the commissioning and presentation of new New Zealand work through both the Arts Leadership Investment and the Arts Development Investment programmes.

In addition, assessment criteria to be used for the Arts Leadership Investment programme are outlined on pages 12-15 of the Call for Expressions of Interest. These include:

     the extent to which an organisation provides positive leadership within its area of arts practice and collaborates with other arts organisations – for example, through supporting the creative development of New Zealand work and the professional development of New Zealand artists and practitioners (page 12), and

    how strongly an organisation supports the creation, presentation or distribution of, or participation in, high-quality New Zealand arts experiences and the commissioning, development, presentation or re-presentation of distinctive New Zealand work (page 13).

 “One thing that stuck me is. . . a lack of reference to the audience, the taxpayer, the one footing the bill. . . . . What about some goals, some framework for assessing and rewarding a theatre’s engagement with their community?”

On page 3 of the Findings paper (section 1 – Summary of Recommendations) it was recommended that Creative New Zealand invest in organisations that:

    play leadership roles

    broaden opportunities for creative and professional development

    develop audiences for the arts

    connect with a range of communities and

    provide opportunities for young and emerging practitioners.

The Council endorsed this recommendation and the Arts Leadership assessment criteria includes a framework for assessing the community awareness of an organisation and if an organisation is ‘well-run’.

The assessment framework will include consideration of how an organisation is responding to New Zealand’s demography – for example through any plans to engage with Mâori, Pasifika, and cultural or diverse communities (page 13 of the Call for Expressions of Interest).

We have also developed a set of best-practice indicators that spell out what Creative New Zealand would expect a well-run organisation to be doing as regards audience development (see pages 32 – 34 of the Call for Expressions of Interest).

On page 11 of the Findings and on page 7 of the Call for Expressions of Interest we spell out what we mean by New Zealand art and New Zealand work. The essential difference being that New Zealand art (e.g. the production of play) is work presented by New Zealand practitioners. The work may have originally been written by a New Zealander (e.g. Smythe) or by someone born overseas (e.g. Shakespeare).

On the other hand a New Zealand work is a term reserved for work originally created (authored) by a New Zealand citizen or resident.

Organisations supported through both the Arts Leadership Investment and Arts Development Investment programmes will be expected to support the creation and presentation of both New Zealand art and New Zealand work. Page 8 of the Findings paper notes this approach may raise issues for arts organisations wishing to bring international artists to New Zealand as part of their core business. In future these organisations will need to demonstrate the benefits to New Zealand arts practice of bringing overseas artists to this country, or else meet the costs from revenue sources other than Creative New Zealand funds.

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