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'Patronage and Pragmatism: The Art of Compromise in the English Regional Context'

Cochrane, Claire (2012) 'Patronage and Pragmatism: The Art of Compromise in the English Regional Context'. In: 'Subsidy, Patronage &Sponsorship: Theatre Performance Culture in Uncertain Times', 19-21 July 2012, Victoria and Albert Museum. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

In these uncertain times regional producing theatres, historically subordinate to the metropolitan elite institutions, face particular challenges as state patronage is eroded, philanthropic largess is scarce, or non-existent and managements struggle to secure sponsorship from equally fragile industrial sources. Positioned within the third sector: that is perceived as neither wholly legitimised public service providers, nor commercial profit-making enterprises, not-for-profit theatres manoeuvre between sectors adopting strategies for survival which comply with the imperatives imposed by both sides of the for-profit, not-for-profit divide. The need at all times to attract audiences impales artistic directors on the horns of a dilemma which at worst puts avant-garde aspiration in direct conflict with populist pragmatism. The difficulties are compounded when the immediate producing/trading environment has been weakened by economic trauma. My paper will focus on the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry which when it opened in 1958 as the first, purpose-built, not-for-profit civic theatre could be seen as one of the most hopeful beacons of the era of public patronage for the arts. More than 50 years on, the theatre has survived a turbulent history which has forced an accommodation with the consequences of industrial decline and the impact on the local population. The pragmatism of the current managerial and artistic policy which has seen the company rescued from predicted bankruptcy, balances unambiguously populist, commercial product with a wide-reaching community outreach programme and carefully controlled experiments with artistic innovation. In common with other theatre managements, business interests are assiduously cultivated. The extent to which this deliberate compromise is sustainable and indeed acceptable within the controlling ethos of the principle of public patronage raises important questions about the function of public subsidy in today’s economic climate, and the relationship between public and private and not-for-profit and for profit in the maintenance of a regional theatre culture.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
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Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN2000 Dramatic representation. The Theater
Divisions: Academic Departments > Institute of Humanities and Creative Arts
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Depositing User: Claire Cochrane
Date Deposited: 26 Oct 2012 12:20
Last Modified: 26 Oct 2012 12:20
URI: https://eprints.worc.ac.uk/id/eprint/2004

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