Most of us pay tax, and most of us disagree with some of the things our money is spent on.
From the 1st April 2013 to 31st March 2014, the Bike Shed will be in receipt of money from Exeter City Council (ECC). My signing of the funding agreement dovetailed neatly with receiving notification of my personal council tax payments for the coming financial year. Whilst the money we’re getting doesn’t come from council tax (it comes instead from something called the New Homes Bonus), let’s pretend it does. It’s your council. It’s your money. And you may think funding us isn’t fair.
Admittedly, whilst this money is a lot for us, it’s not very much in the grand scheme of things. It’s £5000, which is 0.03% of ECC’s net annual spend. So if you, like me, live in a property in band C, you will be paying £1,319 a year in council tax, of which £115.41 will go to ECC. And of that, £0.03 of your money goes to the Bike Shed. So, 3p.
Now that figure may not seem a lot broken down, but it truly means a huge amount to us. Our funding agreement states that we must use our funds for two things. Firstly, we must support at least 35 emergent artists or companies. As a small space, we are in a perfect position to provide early opportunities to those at the start of their careers, to those who will make the incredible work that makes us have a reason to slog through the week.
The second agreement is that we must write a business plan. And the reason we’ll do this is to sharpen the organisation and, ultimately, give our audiences and customers better value.
So thank you, council tax payers of Exeter. On behalf of our organisation, I’m very grateful.
But I suspect some of you won’t be too happy about this. You won’t see the point in us developing more poncy actors (who we pretentiously call 'artists') and who think that most businesses don’t get funding to help write business plans so why should we. And I could probably make an attempt at an impassioned retort, about the value of art in a cultured society, about gaining a greater understanding of the human condition, of providing joy or creating things of beauty. I could wax lyrical about the economic impact, of urban redevelopment as a result of cultural investment, of lives transformed through participation in creative activities. But you may still disagree.
I guess we should give you your money back. But then, giving 3p might be a bit insulting.
So, late at night, I had a different plan. Here it is: if you’ve never seen anythting at the Bike Shed, we’ll give you a free ticket to see a show at our theatre. Any show, all year. So long as there are seats left. Why? What’s the point in giving away a £10 ticket rather than 3p?
Well, often we have empty seats. All theatres do. And unlike selling a beer (or a book, or a car), we can’t keep that seat in the fridge (or shelf, or garage). Effectively, it is wasted. The same costs are incurred whether one person sees a performance or one hundred. Moreover, I’m aware that a lot of people reading this won’t have been to our wonderfully quirky little space. Times are hard, money is tight, and taking a risk on new work isn’t a high priority. But you’ve given us your money. So we’re giving you something back.
Obviously this is subject to availability - we won’t turn away paying customers (I’m not an idiot). But if you’re an Exeter City Council tax payer (and can prove it) and have never been to the Bike Shed Theatre (you don’t need to prove that, we’ll trust you), take a look at our website, select a show, pop on down and I’ll see you there. It’ll be lovely to meet you.