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ACE salaries up 13% as another UK venue goes under

Sticky Mike's Frog Bar "could be saved for a lot less" than the latest Arts Council pay rise, says MVT, as the Brighton venue becomes the latest to be forced to close

By Jon Chapple on 03 Oct 2018

Sticky Mike's Frog Bar

Sticky Mike's Frog Bar

Pay and pension packages for the seven most senior executives at Arts Council England (ACE) totalled nearly £1m last year, its latest annual report reveals, as the organisation faces fresh questions over the lack of funding available for grassroots music venues.

ACE’s chief executive, Darren Henley, and deputy chief executives, Simon Mellor and Laura Dyer, along with executive director/CFO Elizabeth Bushell, COO Richard Russell, executive director, public policy and communication, Mags Patten, and executive director, enterprise and innovation, Francis Runacres, were paid £983,000 in the year ending 31 March 2018, according to ACE’s 2017/18 annual report and accounts.

That represents a 13% increase, or £111,000, on 2016/17, according to Arts Professional. Average pay for staff other than executive directors rose by 4.1%, from £36,300 to £37,800.

News of the ACE salary increases, which were signed off by the Arts Council’s remuneration committee, comes amid the closure of yet another small venue, the 200-capacity Sticky Mike’s Frog Bar in Brighton.

A favourite of Great Escape delegates, Sticky Mike’s is a “Brighton institution” and “one of the most vibrant, community-based grassroots spaces in the whole country”, says venues association Music Venue Trust (MVT), which broke the news this morning.

“You don’t need us to tell you that venues like Sticky Mike’s can be saved for a lot less than £983,000”

“It’s also a perfect summary of where many venue operators/owners find themselves,” reads the MVT statement. “Rent, rates, costs too high, profit margins non-existent, a new development coming at them which inevitably means noise challenges, a decaying infrastructure it’s too expensive to maintain, licensing conditions which cut into business… it’s a mess, and not of their own making.

“Frankly, the team at Sticky Mike’s should get a medal for keeping it going this long. Every venue team you know is fighting these battles. We should erect statues to the lot of them.”

Sticky Mike’s will close on 31 December 2018.

IQ revealed in August that of the £1.6bn of public money that makes up ACE’s national portfolio funding for 2018–2022, just 0.06% is allocated to popular music venues.

The only two venues with contemporary music as their main programming being funded by ACE in 2018–22 are Band on the Wall (340-cap.) in Manchester and Café Oto (200-cap.) in London, both of which also received National Portfolio funding in 2015–18. Half the entire 2018–22 contemporary music budget – £14m, or £9,622 per day – was awarded to one venue: Sage Gateshead, a mixed contemporary/classical music venue and centre for music education in the north-east of England, operated by the charity North Music Trust.

“Frankly, the team at Sticky Mike’s should get a medal for keeping it going this long”

According to MVT, Sticky Mike’s could have been saved for the price of just two days’ worth of the grant given to the Royal Opera House annually.

Or, to put it another way, a lot less than the pay rise ACE awarded its own execs, MVT’s Mark Davyd tells IQ. “The pay and pension packages for the seven most senior executives at Arts Council England increased by 13% last year, by £111,000 to a total of £983,000. You don’t need us to tell you that venues like Sticky Mike’s can be saved for a lot less than £983,000. They can be saved for less than £111,000,” comments Davyd.

“This has nothing to do with whether money is available to stop the loss of culturally important, vital, community spaces like Sticky Mike’s – and everything to do with priorities, a willingness to act and a sense of urgency.”

Responding, an ACE spokesperson says: “We restructured our leadership team, meaning some staff were promoted in 2016 and received pay rises in line with their new responsibilities. Their annual pay increase was 1%. Overall, this new structure saved the Arts Council £18,000 per year. Projects helping with people’s health and wellbeing, and rehabilitation from prison, have become an increasingly important priority for us, as has our work around digital, so we’ve invested in senior leadership for these programmes so they help more people. 

“We recognise that the senior leadership team is well paid, but they are fairly rewarded in line with their level of responsibility, and in keeping with other senior public-sector salaries. Over the next four years we’ll invest at least over £100m in music – more than ever before.”


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