The power of the crowd is not something that needs proving to be true. Think of the protestors both peaceful and violent, think of the ways in which the behaviour of individuals radically changes from the norm when placed in a crowd. Think of mobs, think of gangs. Crowds hold power, a lot of power.
At the end of It’s a Wonderful Life James Stewart’s character is rescued from despair and despondency not only by an angel, but by a crowd. By all the people whom he knows and loves, the people of his town who pull through for him in times of need. By all donating a small amount of money to his cause they make him the richest man in town. This is the spirit of crowdfunding for the arts.
To be honest many of us working, I use this term loosely in a way unconnected with financial gain, in the arts are currently in a similar state of despair and despondency. Support of the work we do seems to be being removed from all areas. But there is still hope, if there wasn’t hope to be found around the darkest corners would we still be doing what we do?
As artists, and as theatre makers in particular, we must believe in the power of the crowd – of the public, and of the good in people. That is why many of us turn to things such as crowdfunding to find a way to finance what we do.
Crowdfunding turns everyone into a philanthropist, an arts funder. It shows that the arts can thrive without the support of the government and established funding bodies, that all it needs to survive and to grow is a little love shown from many places.
There are a number of crowdfunding websites and that number is growing rapidly. Anyone can register their project, all you need to do is give a desired target to raise and set what rewards people get for funding certain amounts. The idea of crowdfunding is all about getting something back when you give.
The art world is a culture of offerings, and crowdfunding embodies this. As grants for the arts grow smaller, particularly for companies and work that is only just developing, crowdfunding seems to represent the face of the arts funding future.
I’m writing this because my theatre company Witness Theatre is currently crowdfunding its way to the Brighton Fringe festival 2012. We have until midnight on Christmas Eve to reach our target of £1000 and we’d be hugely grateful to anyone who feels they’d like to help us. Our crowdfunding page is www.wedidthis.org.uk/projects/importance-being-earnest
But I’m also writing this because I think it’s important to get the word out about such developments in the world of arts funding and about what you can do to help if you value the arts and want to keep them alive.