What NSDF costs

18 April 2019

Donna Munday gives us a rundown

I’ve been asked a few times this week about what NSDF actually costs? i.e. in pounds and pence (as opposed to emotional cost :-) ), what does it cost to put on a festival with 12 shows, over 100 workshops, daily discussions, Noises Off, forums, night-time events, not to mention selecting 120 show throughout the year across the UK.

The answer is, about £200k per year. This pays for the following things:

Staff – we have just two year-round staff posts – currently James and Lizzie, plus a team of people who we engage in the lead-up to and during the festival i.e. Ellie (workshops), Graeme (technical), Florence and Naomi (Noff), Brett (digital), plus our senior technical team and advisors, and also our selectors who attend the Festival.

Selections – sending our team of fabulous selectors around the country to see every show that is entered – often this means a long train journey and an overnight stay. For the 2019 festival we did 120 selections.

Festival prep – things like site visits, meetings with venues, the annual selection day.

The biggest cost is the festival week itself. Our costs include:

staff, (as above) ticket bursary scheme, travel and accommodation for staff team and visiting artists, technical equipment, judges, catering, venue hire, production costs, advertising, festival programme, t-shirts/hoodies, awards, transport.

We also have to pay for a lot of very boring things like:

insurance, DBS checks, photocopying, phones, accountancy, tech storage etc.

All of these things make up the aforementioned c£200k per year, and on top of that we incur an additional c£65k of costs which is given to us “in kind”, i.e. donated by our incredibly generous supporters. This covers:

our offices and printing (donated by the Peter de Haan Charitable Trust), and nearly all of our technical equipment which is donated by SLX and Blackout. We would not be able to deliver this Festival without the support of these companies, along with others named below.

So, how do we pay for all of these costs?

Our biggest supporter is the Arts Council of England, who give us an annual grant of £56k. The Sunday Times give us a significant annual sponsorship, which is in fact the longest running sponsorship in UK arts history. Several other trusts give us grants, including the Peter de Haan Charitable Trust, the Cameron Mackintosh Foundation, the Martin Bowley Charitable Trust, and perhaps most importantly, the Arts Patrons’ Trust who have paid for our bursary scheme for the past 3 years. This scheme allows people to come to the festival who could not normally afford to buy a ticket – 105 bursaries were given out this year! And as well as the incredibly generous donation of tech kit from SLX, Blackout, Sound Stage Services and EM Acoustics, this year Curve have been astoundingly supportive by providing their venue and staff for free. The 2019 festival couldn’t have happened without Curve and all of the above supporters and funders.

As you probably know, all arts organisations cannot rely on grants and donations alone, and have to generate their own income too. For NSDF this income includes:

the 120 shows that pay for a selection (though the entry fee doesn’t cover the costs);

the ticket cost that you pay contributes towards the income, and we also receive other donations from individuals.

As you may have heard, 2018-19 has been a tough financial year for NSDF. We unexpectedly lost a stream of funding, and have been fundraising to replace it – not all of that money has been raised yet. Also, some of our 3-year funding is coming to an end this year, and we have to replace those grants in order for the Festival to continue.

Many, many people give their time and/or equipment for free, and we thank them for that enormously. The Board of Directors gives their time for free, and this year we want to say a special thank you to Mark Shenton and Sarah Nicholson, both of whom raised funds – (in Mark’s case specifically for Noff). Some of you have asked how we can afford for Noff to be so beautifully and expensively printed – the answer is that the Peter de Haan Charitable Trust have a print shop in Leicester and they do it all for free.

THANK YOU to all the companies, organisations and individuals that support us, especially Arts Council England, the Sunday Times, Peter de Haan and Curve. We also need to put James, Lizzie, Ellie and Graeme on a pedestal to thank them for the absolutely brilliant work they have done in making NSDF '19 so spectacularly successful.

Finally, all of us on the board and staff understand that this is not a cheap week for young people, and we are constantly doing everything we can to make it more affordable.

This is a sincere comment – if any of you (or your parents) are secret millionaires, we are very serious in our quest for further long term funding to replace the two trusts whose grants are ending this year. If you want to know more, or offer support, please contact the NSDF office after the Festival, or grab James or me this week.


@noffmag / [email protected]

Photo credit: Beatrice Debney