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International survey of the North East Culture sector

Author: Teresa Kirby | Partnership Manager | North East Culture Partnership

Introduction

As requested at the first meeting of the international sub-group in 2015, an international survey was designed and disseminated to find out which countries: local authorities, cultural and heritage organisations are currently working with, and wish to work with during the next 5-10, and 10+ years.

The survey was sent to 85 organisations on 22 October. Forty seven responded by 7 December; two of whom advised that they did not have any international links, giving a response rate of 56%.

Results

Quantitative analysis

The 45 NE cultural organisations who responded to the survey are working with 61 countries at present (31% of the countries in the world): Australia, Austria, Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cuba, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Kosovo, Luxembourg, Macedonia (FYROM) Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Palestine, Philippines, Poland, Qatar, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Republic of Ireland, Romania, Russia, South Africa, South Korea, Serbia, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Tanzania, Thailand, The Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Ukraine, USA, Venezuela.

The six most popular countries to work with per time period

Analysing the results, the top six countries in terms of the number of NE cultural organisations working with each country, per time period surveyed:

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The range of countries

Respondents are currently working with 1-27 countries, with the range changing to 1-14 countries for each of the time periods in the future.

Qualitative analysis

Import/export balance and the main reasons for international working

Grouping the projects reported by the 45 respondents into an “import/export model” shows that at least 37% of the activity is reciprocal/of mutual benefit, and that the “export” activity is double the “import” activity:

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Financial cost of international working to N.E organisations

Not all respondents answered the optional financial questions for the 193 projects they described and, as one of the questions was “financial cost of this international cost to your organisation”, some cultural practitioners replied £0 as they had received grant/earned income1. Therefore, the analysis below only includes the 26 projects which reported both the cost and the grant/earned income resulting from engagement in international collaboration: £716,120 vs. an income of £975,468, giving a surplus of £259,348.

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However, whilst the median average gives a very different picture: £5,000 for cost, and £5,000 for grant/income, demonstrating how a few large projects can give an unrepresentative picture of the scale of international projects in the North East’s cultural sector, it is important to note that the benefits go beyond finance (see below)

Funding/earned income to N.E organisation to facilitate international working

Financial support was secured from many sources including: earned income; funding from conference delegates; public funding from: local authorities, Arts Council grants, British Council grants, UKTI, the North East Local Enterprise Partnership, and the European Commission; sponsorship from private individuals or commercial businesses; grants from international foundations and networks, and self-support/financial support from parents.

Long-term planning

It was challenging for respondents to predict which countries they might be working with the next 10-15 years, with only 18 respondents completing this part of the survey. This could be due to a range of factors, such as the uncertainty of continuation funding, or it could suggest that cultural sector organisations might value help with long-term planning, and market development in the international arena.

Benefits and Challenges of international working

The survey also asked respondents about the benefits and challenges of international working.

Benefits

Respondents advised that working internationally benefits them in seven key ways:

1. Inward investment. International working can play a very important role in influencing cultural practitioners and their businesses about where they wish to live, work, visit, study and invest. It also demonstrates the outward facing nature of the North East, and helps to showcase the richness and depth of the North East’s cultural offer. This is clearly an important issue in the context of the economic growth objectives of the whole of the North East.
2. Increased profile and market for the N.E cultural offer: Working internationally raises the profile and reach of NE cultural organisations and the North East. This helps to encourage more visitors to the NE, growing the NE tourism industry and the local economy. The increased profile enhances the cultural practitioners’ reputation internationally. Working internationally also enables NE cultural practitioners to: meet buyers at major international markets; meet international programmers and producers, explore opportunities for co-production and co-commissioning opportunities, and participate in: showcases, performances, trade missions, conferences, and live touring.
3. Income generation: Partnering with international organisations enables NE cultural organisations to access alternative funding streams such as Creative Europe.
4. Relationships: The opportunity to forge long-lasting relationships with international partners, and the often associated benefit of strengthened NE/national relationships.
5. Developing the future cultural practitioners: Raises the aspirations of NE people to attend more cultural offerings, or to become cultural practitioners themselves.
6. Professional development opportunities – International working enables cultural practitioners to learn from others, develop skills, and gain new skills, via cultural collaboration and knowledge exchange/residences. It enables cultural practitioners to broaden their support network, and cultural knowledge beyond the NE/UK. It provides access to inspirational work, and cross-fertilisation between different art forms in other countries. Cultural practitioners can discover new ways of approaching their art-form, and experience new ways of living and working, and the opportunity to try out their ideas in different contexts. In addition, international working enables Cultural practitioners to see their work from an international perspective.
7. Audience development: Enables NE, and international, cultural practitioners to build audiences in other countries and in the N.E.

Challenges

The nine main challenges highlighted in the survey are:

1. Long-distance relationships: These are hard to find, develop and maintain over a long distance and require time and money to: travel, visit venues and festivals, international conferences and showcases.
2. Resource constraints: Respondents identified financial and staff time constraints. There is increasing pressure on continuous professional development budgets due to funding cuts. This negatively impacts on the quality and quantity of international activity due to the cost of international travel, accommodation and translation costs. Some respondents have had to turn down invitations to attend international events due to the costs involved. Respondents also mentioned that it is particularly challenging to find public or private funding to fund research and development work. Currency fluctuations cause additional problems, as do bank charges on overseas transactions.
3. Limited foreign language capabilities of N.E cultural organisations – so some organisations are choosing to work with overseas organisations which can communicate in English.
4. Cultural awareness and managing expectations. Overseas organisations may have different assumptions, expectations and ways of working to N.E organisations.
5. Different time zones – makes it harder to communicate in real time.
6. False perceptions of international work – some organisations have to counter the false perception that international travel is a “jolly”, meaning that they sometimes miss out on international opportunities.
7. Practicalities – several organisations cited the need for practical advice in: contracting, insurance, visas and immigration, general logistics, freight charges, transport of sets, DBS checks, developing genuine in-country knowledge.
8. Need to adapt work for international audiences.
9. Alignment with organisational strategy: Ensuring that international working aligns with your core organisational strategy is vital.

Conclusions

Based on the results of this survey, it is recommended that NECP:

1. Networks with the N.E cultural sector and Consulates, UKTI, and funders to develop relationships with cultural organisations in the top six most popular countries for NE cultural practitioners to work with according to this survey across all 3 time periods are: Germany (43), USA (35), France (26), S. Africa (24), Sweden (17) and China (12).

Thanks

Thanks go to the 45 organisations who kindly completed this survey:

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