The artist in the room
: An investigation of the independent artist as stakeholder in the decision-making of subsidised theatre in the UK

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


Academic research and industry awareness have grown concerning artists’ precarity and the widespread intersectional inequality of cultural labour of the creative cultural industries (CCI) in the UK. By contrast, public policy continues to champion the success of the CCI. Against this backdrop, this thesis asks why artists are still poor, and what role do they have in decision-making such as cultural leadership and arts policy-making.

With a focus on subsidised theatre, this research investigates how stakeholder theory can aid understanding of the artist as a stakeholder in these processes. Building inductively from theory, the study draws together perspectives of three groups - policy-making officers in public bodies, leaders of subsidised theatre organisations and independent artists - and reveals how these groups perceive the inter-relationships with and role of, these other groups. A transdisciplinary investigation suggests an absence of the artist in research discourses of cultural policy, cultural value and cultural leadership. Empirical evidence from participant interviews, documents and focus groups, and drawing on Mitchell, Agle and Wood’s (1997) theory of stakeholder salience, demonstrates that, although present within value creation and production, artists lack salience in decision-making.

This study presents important findings that show political and public management influences dominate arts policy and subsidised theatre, prioritising economic value and accountability. Within these processes, artists are detached, devalued, normalised as precarious, non-economic and dependent on the patronage of organisations and public bodies. Leaders of organisations and officers in public bodies are compromised by self- interest and networks of dependency, struggling to meet the multiple, interdependent, competing expectations of sector, artists, and the state as a dominant stakeholder. Important conclusions are drawn about subsidised theatre being rendered an unethical rationality in which no player can resist dominant systems of value and decision-making without a radical alteration of how the sector operates. It may be desirable to see a wholesale dismantling of publicly subsidised organisational and policy systems, but this study suggests the interdependencies at play mean change cannot be achieved without radical collaboration between existing players.

These implications raise questions about the ethical responsibility of cultural leadership and arts policy-making. Further, it asks how assertions of intrinsic artistic value (distinct from or opposed to, economic valuation) can be sustained if research and practice continues to devalue the status of artists.
Date of AwardDec 2019
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Queen's University Belfast
SponsorsNorthern Ireland Department for the Economy
SupervisorDavid Grant (Supervisor), Shirley-Ann Hazlett (Supervisor) & Victoria Durrer (Supervisor)


  • Stakeholder theory
  • theatre
  • arts management
  • artist as stakeholder
  • arts policy
  • cultural leadership
  • cultural value
  • cultural labour
  • decision-making

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