Today’s arts cuts – £100m – would barely cover the cost of two Apache helicopters, if the lamentations of the liberal Twitterati are more than Chinese whispers. We’ve been spending that kind of money bombing Libya every night, apparently, if the figures that have been bandying around are true.
That’s part of the reason the Arts Council’s funding cuts, announced this morning, stick in the craw – although it is universally acknowledged it is not their fault, as the ACE faces its own significant budget worries handed down from the Department of Culture, Media & Sport. But it’s also because some of the Liverpool organisations they’ve pulled out of today needed just relatively tiny amounts to keep going.
Instead of choosing to “salami slice” the funding so every organisation suffered the same cut of just under 15%, the Arts Council decided to make all recipients reapply to completely reassess who would make the grade of its 2012 – 2015 rounds. In short, a national portfolio of 695 organisations replaces previous regularly funded portfolio of 849, and 110 new organisations “have been brought into the mix”.
Great for those who succeeded, like the Everyman & Playhouse, FACT, the Biennial and the Unity, which all seemed happy with their healthy secured funding, which even gave a little breathing room for inflation over the next three years.
The Phil, despite receiving more than a whopping £2m each year for the next three years has however, like many other orchestras, suffered a real term cut of 11%, added on to a 20% cut from the city council earlier this month.
Fact has secured just over £1m a year from the Arts Council. And so far, it seems its director Mike Stubbs has put it best, reiterating the importance of supporting art and culture in the city.
He said: “We understand that the Arts Council has had to make a lot of difficult choices given government cuts. Therefore it’s a huge relief to learn that Fact has retained its Arts Council funding, but the picture is far from rosy. With city council funding cuts, and the recession biting, these are really difficult and painful times for the cultural sector as a whole.
”We’ll be looking at further ways we can support artists and organisations from across the city and the arts sector. It’s vital that arts and culture remain at the heart of the Liverpool City Region agenda, and with our colleagues and partners across the city will be doing our very best to ensure these cuts do not undo the fantastic work the cultural sector has done to regenerate our city.”
Two festivals – the Arabic Arts Festival and the Writing on the Wall literary fest, alongside theatre companies 20 Stories High and Collective Encounters, are now Arts Council National Portfolio organisations. Deaf and Disabled arts showcase DaDaFest has also retained its funding.
Of course times are tough, and everybody is after a slice of the pie. Some 206 regular recipients of Arts Council funding got the bad news this morning that they would no longer be helped. In Liverpool, those that have lost out were not asking for the millions that others secured – relative peanuts, in fact. It’s utterly galling that Spike Theatre should be among them. The Hope Street based company has provided consistantly excellent touring theatre over the years – has at least one stonker of a project up its sleeve – and has seen plenty of talented people come through its ranks and on to bigger things.
Urban Strawberry Lunch at the Bombed Out Church is one of Liverpool’s most truly unique and inspirational organisations. That’s not lip service or hyperbole, there really is nothing like them.
Support and development organisation North West Playwrights, the extremely useful All About Audiences, Bluecoat Display Centre, the Circle of Literary Friends – Merseyside, the long-established Fuse Theatre for children and young people, and The Liverpool & Manchester Design Initiative Ltd have also lost their national portfolio status according to this rather sad list.
The changes come into effect in April 2012. And while of course it is good news that the city’s biggest arts organisations have come out of it relatively unscathed (this time), the question now is – what happens to a Unity or an Everyman if there’s less touring companies to fill them? What does a city’s Biennial stand to lose if some of its most loyal and creative supporters face closure before the next one comes to pass?
Grants will be available for those who have lost out. One thing that can be said is that these groups have lots of friends and plenty of support in the city to draw on. Let’s hope there is a silver lining to today’s news.
Have a look below at the full list of organisations who became NPOs today, and to what amounts they will benefit:
Pic of the RLPO by Mark McNulty. It’s always good to shoehorn Vasily into Madeup.lv somehow or another.