Raised by feral wolves in the foothills of the Himalayas he came, back in the day, to these shores intent on wreaking havoc and spreading despair, then he found the dance world and came to the conclusion that mocking people was more fun! It is rumoured, though none will say it, that even the Batman fears him!
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Yesterday, here in TheLab™, we published our 200th video feature on Article19, a comprehensive look at the Cloud Dance Festival in London and some of the dance makers involved.
The oldest video feature on Article19 has been online for over 11 years and this particular website (in all of its various forms) has not been offline for more than an hour since 1999.
All of this accomplished with very little money and very little external support.
We mention this because last month (October) the ACE/BBC website The Space was deleted from the internet along with all of its content. After spending millions of pounds the wretched digital experiment was put out of its misery after just over a year online.
In the spirit of mischief making we decided to follow up with the organisations that created the initial four pieces of dance content. DanceXchange with 'Spill', Dance East with 'Come Dance With Me', The Breakin' Convention with their "live" broadcast and Russell Maliphant with the slow motion soft porn movie that we can't remember the name of.
When we first wrote about The Space last year DanceEast explained that their six episode long series of videos that would "demystify" dance (created at a cost of over £80,000) would have a long lasting legacy. When The Space shut down the videos would still be available for all to see they told us.
Fast forward to late 2013 and Dance East (one of the UK's National Dance Agencies) has run into a bit of a snag on the legacy front. They can't find the videos.
It would be appear that nobody at Dance East thought to make a copy of the files. The whole series could have been copied to a 64GB thumb drive at a cost of about £50. That might have pushed the already ridiculous budget over the edge though.
The production company that created 'Come Dance With Me', Tiger Lily Films in London, did not answer the phone number listed on their website on multiple occasions and did not respond to tweets directed at their Twitter account.
After two weeks of trying Dance East had been unable to determine if the production company still exists although Tiger Lily's Twitter account was updated as recently as November 21st.
The AD of Dance East at the time, Assis Carriero, is now ensconced in Belgium pretending to be the artistic director of a dance company. She could not immediately be reached for comment.
To put this matter into perspective it's like purchasing a brand new Mercedes 'S' Class with all the trimmings and then forgetting where you parked the thing. Careless!
Spilling Your Guts
DanceXchange, another of the UK's National Dance Agencies, were given over £75,000 to produce a filmed version of a children's dance piece called 'Spill', performed in playgrounds across the land.
DanceXchange told us;
"Most of the Spill films are not available online currently, due to our original agreement with Shaun Parker (the choreographer of Spill) that the films could only be presented on The Space for a limited period of time which has now elapsed."
The perils of "licensing" writ large for all to see. It's a curious answer though given that a video of 'Spill' is available in its entirety on DanceXchange's YouTube account (you can see it below).
That version is filmed far more effectively than the horrible creation done for The Space (the production company on The Space version was Maverick Films) which was dull and grainy and unnecessarily split into ten parts.
It's also not entirely clear why so much money was spent creating a new film of a work when one, evidently, already existed.
The Breakin' Convention did not respond to questions put to them via the contact form on their website. There are several videos on that website that look like they could have come from the "live" web broadcast of their 2012 show (at a cost of over £50,000) but sans confirmation we can't be sure.
Russell Maliphant's contact information from his own website doesn't work. A message sent to Sadler's Wells (where he is an associate artists) garnered no response from the dance maker about where his film is or where people might be able to see it. There is no mention of the film on the company website.
So there you have it dear readers. Hundreds of thousands of pounds spent and there is literally nothing to show for it. It is the final humiliation for an online resource that existed for no other reason than to generate some press releases about "digital arts".
Given the complete lack of legacy and the absence of anything approaching professionalism in the choice and delivery of the content it should come as no surprise to learn that The Space will try to make a comeback next year. More evidence, as if any were needed, that the arts in UK on so many levels have completely lost their way.
The mighty guardians of the arts in the United Kingdom - Arts Council England - have been, of late, making a big push into what they would probably describe as the digital realm. For ACE it's all digital all the time. It's like the internet has just been invented.
Step forward the funding monolith's new chairman Peter Bazalgette with an op-ed piece in the London Evening Standard on November 4th extolling the virtues of said digital technology and how it's going to save the world, or something.
Facts have never been ACE's strong point and this trend continues in this particular piece under the watchful eye of their faux commander in chief.
"Last year our National Theatre screened its superb live stage productions in 360 UK cinemas and 350 other venues around the world, with NT Live reaching an additional two million people."
Now, that sounds very impressive. Two Million people is, after all, a lot of people. The only problem is it's not really true. The National Theatre told us that the number is derived from ticket sales in cinemas for their relay shows but the "two million" figure was achieved over a period of the last four years, not last year alone as Mr Bazalgette implies.
He goes on;
"The Tate connected with two million people via social media and had the most popular website of any gallery or museum in Britain."
It would appear that a figure of "two million" is pretty much standard practice in the arts. The Tate does have over 970,000 followers on Twitter and over 620,000 on Facebook but those numbers don't really tell you much of anything.
The Tate is one of the most well known galleries in the country and is very well funded by public money so a lot of social media interest is to be expected. The level of interaction with their followers however is nothing spectacular.
Many Tweets receive, relatively speaking, only a few re-tweets (a reasonably good measure of how many people are listening to you) and the Facebook posts similarly receive relatively small amounts of interaction.
This is a problem experienced by everybody who uses social media. Getting people to follow you is one thing, getting them to pay attention is something else altogether. So, taking raw follower numbers at face value isn't really proof of anything.
The Tate was unable to provide Article19 with substantive evidence of how they arrived at the conclusion that their website was more popular than any other art gallery website in the UK.
A Long Con
If we look at the National Theatre and their live relay shenanigans Mr Bazalgette also leaves out a very key piece of information.
It's all very well for theatres with huge amounts of funding to beam their shows all over the country, and the world for that matter, for the masses to see but it doesn't really help anybody else. Such technology doesn't help anybody else because they can't afford to use it.
There is also a very real concern that showing hugely expensive productions in the regions, sans those companies having to get off their backsides and tour, could have a damaging impact on local theatre companies trying to get people to come to their "live" shows.
Why pay £20 to go and see a local company in the scruffy "regional" venue when you can pay £10 and watch the well-heeled companies do their thing in the far more comfortable multiplex?
The National Theatre probably spends more money relaying its work all over the country than most companies have to spend on their entire productions.
Never Ending Story
The points made above have always been the big problem for Arts Council England. It's all just so many words without ever addressing the reality on the ground for those whose level of funding does not extend into seven or eight figures on a yearly basis.
The funding monolith tackles every problem it encounters in only the most fundamental of ways without giving any thought to the bigger picture.
If the National Theatre can broadcast their shows into cinemas then technology must work for the benefit of the arts, right? If The Tate can get a lot of followers on Twitter and Facebook then social media is good for the arts, right? If Arts Council England can just put enough words in the right order then they must know what they are doing, right?
Unfortunately for ACE that's not how it works. Anybody paying even the slightest amount of attention to their day to day nonsensical yapping can pull them apart in very short order.
Not much of what ACE has done in the past can sustain any serious stress testing and Mr Balzagette's latest "media strategy 101" exercise is no different.
If you don't believe us, ask the people who work at The Point in the West Midlands. Well, they don't work there anymore because the £70Million art gallery has been shut down, again, this time for good. It's probably because they didn't have enough followers on Twitter, right?
Long time followers of Article19 will know that one of the things that makes us unique are the video features we run as often as possible. Here in TheLab™ we don't just use promo videos from dance companies and re-publish them. We go out and film the work ourselves, do the interviews, do the editing and then publish.
It is, as far as Article19 is concerned, vitally important that there is impartial, comprehensive coverage of publicly funded dance works, free from the constraints of company marketing departments.
In many ways Article19 acts as a public record, albeit of the works we have the resources to cover, that anybody can access at any time. Our archive is not subject to the whims of changing leadership at dance companies or the arbitrary imposition of restrictions that some dance makers wish to impose on the work they create.
Also, once we publish something it stays published.
If you take a look around the websites of many dance companies the visual, online record of their works, available to the public, free of charge, makes for a grim browsing experience.
Apart from a few promotional videos (our disdain for most of those is well known) there is not a great deal to see. A small minority of companies do better than others and some have far more resources than others but, whatever way you look at it, the ability of the general public to see what dance companies are doing and what they have done in the past is severely constrained.
The situation is made all the more strange because this is, after all, the performing arts. Work is made with the specific intention of showing it to other people, it's kinda the whole point.
The Public Access Argument
We keep mentioning "the public" because, apart from the United States, most of the contemporary dance work created on planet earth is almost entirely funded by public money. Remember, governments don't have any money, it's the public's money, governments are just the ones who spend it.
So what does this have to do with anything?
It has to do with the fact that we are encountering too many choreographers and dance companies trying to keep their work off the internet and they are doing so without any explanation or coherent rationale.
Take a look at the websites of Random, Akram Khan, Rambert, DV8 and others and see just how much of the work they have produced, paid for with millions of pounds of public money, that you can see. You will be lucky if you can find even the shortest of badly filmed clips.
We are aware that Rambert does have some work on TheSpace website but those pieces are so badly filmed it's actually worse than not having them there at all. There is also no telling how much money has changed hands to actually put them there.
30 years from now, when most of these companies will be little more than a memory, what will exist for future generations should they wish to study the history of dance from this particular era? If things continue as they are then, for many companies and choreographers, there will be nothing to see.
Even if the videos exist we have little doubt that some administrative body or other will relish the task of keeping access to them as limited as possible.
From Article19's perspective the majority of dance makers and choreographers are happy to be filmed and let us put out reasonable amounts of video of their work.
We like to think of them as the open-source dance makers! Article19 can only hope that the balance does not shift towards the "you shall not" group who are more akin to Apple and their over zealous walled garden approach.
Getting video of dance "out there" can only help the ongoing struggle to get this art form noticed a little more. One thing we know for sure, it's not going to hurt the profession to get more work online.
It shouldn't need to be stated that contemporary dance is not the most popular art form in the world and a self-serving, irrational, protectionist attitude towards dance works isn't going to help change that.
What we would like to see is new rules for ACE funding (and public funding for dance across Europe) that requires dance works to be published, online, in full no more than 5 years after they have been made if they are no longer touring. 10 years if they are still touring.
This would also require that dance companies properly document their works so future generations are not left with little more than some shaky rehearsal footage or the terrors of the "promo" as illustrated by the video embedded below for Hofesh Shechter [Company]'s new work 'Sun'.
Allow us to reiterate. These works belong to the general public (and no, we are not talking about copyright here) because they foot the bill for them to be made. Allowing general access to substantive clips is the very least that the dance profession can do to show their appreciation for that financial largesse.
If Article19 covers the work then, say it slowly and deliberately, it doesn't even cost the companies any money.
Allowing unfettered access to "dead" works is simply the right thing to do for the sake of the historical record of dance and to shore up the arguments for continued public financial support of the profession to keep on making new works.
Dance can ill-afford the selfish preening of the few, especially in these difficult financial times and the seemingly never ending times of relative obscurity for dance.
Verve13 from Northern School of Contemporary Dance
A few weeks ago we wrote about the comically misguided and completely unjustifiable situation Arts Council England had gotten itself into with the £400,000* annual funding for
(Sadler's Wells Theatre) the National Youth Dance Company.
Ostensibly, the purpose of NYDC is to provide a pathway into professional training for teenagers interested in dance whilst completely ignoring the lack of jobs for graduates after that three to four year professional training is over.
This got us thinking, here in TheLab™, that if ACE, along with their partners in crime in central government, are so concerned about the future of dance and the profession's most important resource then perhaps they should consider another idea.
Several companies and independent dance makers take on apprentices, some of them even get paid for the privilege, so they can learn the ropes and make the transition from student to fully fledged professional dancer. More often than not these apprentices are recent graduates from the UK and other schools around the world.
Post graduate positions within companies are, for many dancers, an important first step in their dance careers. Post graduate companies like Verve and Edge play a vital role but places are limited and the dancers don't get paid. In fact, post graduate positions have to be paid for by the dancers as the role is effectively an additional year of training.
To expand the opportunities for post-graduate we would like to welcome you, our dear readers, to what we are calling The National Graduate Dancer Programme, funded to the tune of £400,000 a year (or as much money as it takes, whichever is larger) by ACE and the Education Department because they care so much about the dance profession (allegedly).
In not keeping with Arts Council England general policy this scheme would be very simple. All of the National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) dance companies would be required (as part of their funding agreement) to take on at least one post graduate dancer per year. Alongside that programme experienced dance makers, (4 years or more creating and touring in the field), funded through Grants for the Arts (GFA) would also be required to take on one post-graduate apprentice.
The beauty of it all is that the apprentice is already paid for, automagically, through ACE. Dance makers just fill out their GFA application, match the experience criteria and a preset amount is added to their successful funding application to cover the pay and other costs associated with the dancer (travel expenses, etc).
Costs will of course vary from company to company and dancer to dancer so any money not used for the apprentice is returned to ACE but £10,000 should just about cover it.
Remember, GFA supported companies don't run 52 weeks of the year so you don't need to fund an annual salary, mores the pity, but we can't have everything all at once.
NPO companies might need a bit more funding as they tend to operate for longer throughout the year, hardly any of them employ their dancers on full time, 12 month contracts though.
Several companies already do take on apprentices and we feel sure they would welcome the additional funding so they can re-direct existing funds to other parts of their operation or take on a further apprentice with the additional money.
What About That Money
Where is the money going to come from to pay for this? Well, that's easy because ACE's dirty little secret is that they are completely loaded with cash. They must be, how else could they fork out £40Million for the "Exceptional Projects" programme, Rambert's new fridge shaped building in London and whatever the Royal Opera House is getting more money for this week.
The funding monolith has lots of money, they're just not very good at using it in productive ways.
As for the post-graduates who might benefit from his programme? Well, they get the most valuable experience possible, working in the field they have been training for over several years.
Interacting with and working alongside experienced professionals and, perhaps, touring and performing professional work will give each of those dancers valuable practical experience as well as a massive psychological boost to take the edge off the mind-numbing fear that grips many a graduate when they walk out of the front door of their dance school for the very last time.
Generating support for such a wide reaching programme would require the NPO's to get onboard. If they can all stop tweeting about how exited they are about something or other and do a bit of lobbying then a national apprentice programme for post-graduates could actually happen.
It's asking a lot, but if you don't ask you don't get and half the fun of this art form is making the powers that be sweat through their expensive cotton shirts.
*50% of the money comes from the Education Department.
Anybody who has received funding from Arts Council England, or any other type of funding for that matter, will know that numbers are everything. Especially when it comes to audience numbers for the performing arts.
Numbers can make or break your company because if they aren't high enough, or the right kind of numbers, then future funding could be at risk and with that the future of an entire company.
If we did a survey of the toughest challenges when it comes to running a dance company we're not sure if creating the work or getting people to come and see it would rank higher.
Getting people in off the street and into a venue is akin to getting oil out of water or individual sugar granules out of a bag of salt. Most marketing folk have to practice this darkest of arts with little, if any, resources.
Last week, while browsing The Guardian website, we stumbled across an advertisement for 'Political Mother' from Hofesh Shechter [Company] that will bow on July 3 at Sadler's wells in London.
This promotion though was far from being just a regular banner ad. The theatre had payed for a gutter ad (meaning the ad runs in the gutter of the page on the left and right outside the bounds of the actual page), a regular banner at the top, a side bar graphic and, as if that wasn't enough, a footer ad near the bottom of the page.
Apart from the fact that such advertising is completely over the top and more than a little garish the idea is that you, as the reader, don't miss the advertisement.
The format is nothing new, it's being going on for years with ad companies using the technique to hawk everything from cell phones to computer software. One thing is certain though, such advertising is not cheap and therefore not available to everybody.
Those working in the small and mid-scale touring environment know only to well that booking a tour is just half the battle. Getting the venues to actively promote a performance, even if they have the resources to do it, is another struggle in and of itself.
For the small-scale this problem is often more pronounced. We, here in TheLab™, regularly hear stories of dance companies arriving at venues only to find absolutely no promotion for their show on display at all.
Not only that but the venue have, often times, been less than active in promoting the company's education projects, one of the key elements in developing an audience and generating revenue for a small dance company.
Sometimes this is down to resources and sometimes its simply because the venues staff don't care. If the latter is true then said staff need to immediately replaced with people who actually want to do the job.
Have and Have Not
What we have in this country is nothing short of a class system for dance companies. The "haves" can run ads in national newspapers (funded by the venue) and are afforded every opportunity to build audiences and continue with their work. The "have nots" are down in the trenches fighting with sticks and slingshots trying to get the metaphorical oil out of the metaphorical water.
The metaphors are mixed, but you get the point.
We have mentioned before in these pages about the lack of willingness demonstrated by large-scale organisations, the ones with all the money, to help the small and mid-scale companies, the ones without all the money.
Piecemeal measures have been put in place, associate companies at The Royal Opera House for one, but there is very little practical progress being made and with further funding cuts due in a couple of years things are probably not going to get much better.
You get the feeling that the strong will just get stronger and everybody else is collateral damage waiting to happen.
Two weeks ago Arts Council England contacted us via Twitter to ask if we would like to write a "blog post" for them. To be honest it did take a while for that request to get past our "WTF" filter.
The Big Bad was asking TheLab™ to write something that they would publish with our name on it. So, write the piece we did, it was short, to the point and didn't mention statistics at all.
We can only imagine that's the reason we haven't heard back from the funding monolith since we emailed it to them. Article19 was very clear that they were not allowed to edit the piece, they could either use it or not so we figure they decided to "not".
Of course Article19 doesn't need anybody else to publish things for us, we have our very own platform right here.
Funding Culture Good
Arts funding is a discussion or, more often than not, an argument that never seems to end. Article19 considers it to be nothing short of a national disgrace that in the 21st century, national governments and local councils are closing down libraries and choking funding to culture organisations and artists.
So allow us to explain why funding the arts is a good idea from just one perspective.
Funding the arts is about the kid who goes to the workshop and experiences something new. Learns to work with and understand others, breaks down the barriers of social and physical isolation and makes new friends. It's about that kid learning to listen, learning to express him or herself in a way that's positive and meaningful, it's about that kid learning to understand things that cannot be seen.
It's about feeding and broadening the minds of young people not because society needs them to become artists but because society needs them to be well rounded, open minded, creative individuals who see nothing but solutions to whatever problems they may face.
To deliver those workshops we need professional artists fed by the experiences of their training, their employment, their performances and their own creative work. Those artists work in this country, throughout Europe and all over the world and bring those experiences back home to share with others.
Funding the arts is not about the big projects that make it into the media. Funding the arts is about the hundreds of thousands of positive, individual experiences that cannot be measured, recorded or quantified.
The return on that funding is worth more than any spreadsheet can measure, so you should probably stop trying to measure that return with spreadsheets.
So there you have it, talking about arts funding without using any numbers at all.
Last week the much anticipated, by some at least, televised "debate" in the House of Commons (the UK's legislative body) about the wide world of culture rapidly descended into the "not worth bothering with" territory that we, here in TheLab™, had predicted.
It's hard to determine what was more depressing about the whole affair. Was it the lack of MPs in the chamber, the never ending list of statistics or the hellish delivery of the politicians that seriously made you question just how they managed to persuade anybody to vote for them?
The debate itself was called by Harriet Harman, the Shadow Culture Secretary, and was attended, at the beginning anyway, by the Culture Secretary herself, Maria Miller.
Ms Harman got off to a bad start by getting the cost/return benefit of the arts wrong. Arts Council England (ACE) puts the number at £6 returned for every £1 spent, Ms Harman said it was £4. To be fair there are several different numbers floating around making similar claims and that only serves to emphasise how particularly useless those numbers actually are.
Ms Miller faired little better when she stood up to give her speech and started yapping about how great the arts were for the economy. If the arts are so great for the economy then why, as we asked last week, are they being cut? If you're trying to boost the economy and tackle the deficit you don't cut funding that makes you more money than you spend.
During the 5 hour long session nobody bothered to raise that particular point. Well, somebody might have raised that point but we gave up watching after 3 hours and Ms Miller had left long before that.
Before leaving though, the Minister also claimed that the coalition government was spending more money on the arts than the previous government.
Apparently this uptick in funding can be attributed to an increase in lottery money since grant-in-aid money has dropped by about 37%. What Ms Miller failed to mention was that the lottery funding had gone up because it was no longer being sucked away by the Olympics. Again, nobody appeared to raise this particularly salient point.
After the, constantly interrupted, speeches by the two main protagonists the viewing public were left with hour after hour of "back bench" MPs getting to their feet to list the various cultural things that go on in their particular region along with the never ending statistics we mentioned earlier.
For the most part it was like following the arts on Twitter, just a never ending list of things that have either happened or will happen and how unrelentingly awesome everything is.
Other than political point scoring there were no detractors in evidence during the debate. Liberal Democrat MP Danny Alexander, who works at The Treasury, didn't bother to show up despite being very much against the arts receiving any special treatment in the latest round of cuts.
The essence of any debate is about stating your case, listening to the opposing argument and then you try, using debating tactics, to persuade the other person around to your point of view and vice-versa.
It's also completely depressing that the "debate" is still stuck on the "should we fund the arts?" argument.
During her speech Ms Miller mentioned the National Youth Dance Company (NYDC), operated by Sadler's Wells Theatre and funded by Arts Council England and the Education Department.
If anybody in that room had even a basic understanding of what they were talking about they could have perhaps asked a few questions about NYDC. Such as; what is the point of kids being in the NYDC when the profession they may want to be a part of is so woefully incapable of discussing the creation of more jobs for professional dancers?
Where are these kids going to find work if they go through dance school after NYDC and enter the profession? How are they going to find the money to pay for their education, what about their pay and conditions when they do find work?
What about the artistic director's of NYDC being appointed from the associate artist pool at Sadler's Wells? Is the theatre operating a closed shop approach to appointments and where are the opportunities for the rest of the dance community to benefit creatively and financially from the largesse of the NYDC?
Some very fundamental points from just one small part of the dance profession that was never, nor will ever be, discussed by those in a position to enact real change. After all, another word for politician is "law-maker".
In many ways the debate in the House of Commons reflected the quality of the discussion about funding and other issues affecting the profession that those in the profession are having all the time.
It's often rambling, incoherent, mostly irrelevant and fails to address any real world issue directly. Talking for the sake of talking isn't working.
Even if there are folks out there with a real point to make they are often drowned out by more overbearing voices that get more time and space to express whatever happens to be bothering them.
If anybody is having a real discussion somewhere about anything that actually matters then please do let us know.
We are, as always, hoping for the best.
On Friday last week the announcement was made by the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) that Arts Council England (ACE) would, in all probability, receive a 5% cut to their funding for the year 2015/2016.
The announcement was a prelude to the government's "spending review" that will be announced in full on June 26.
ACE's chairman, Peter Bazalgette, was quick to release a statement, via the funding monoliths press office, saying;
"This is a good result for arts and culture in such a tough economic climate. It is hugely encouraging to see that the Chancellor and the Treasury have listened to the argument that the arts and culture makes such a valuable contribution to our quality of life and the economy. Maria Miller has done an effective job in making the case for the value of public funding, backed with powerful arguments from the culture sector, who every day demonstrate their worth through the brilliant work they do, day in, day out."
No so fast with buttering up your friends in government Baz!
Numbers Don't Lie, Sort Of
For months now ACE, and a lot of other people, have been making a very simple economic case for the arts. "Every £1 invested returns £6 to the economy", ACE even made some nice graphics to illustrate the point.
Here in TheLab™ we have no idea if that's true or if that number can be reliably quantified but if it is true, and the Treasury really were listening to ACE's arguments, then they just poured £102Million down the drain.
A 5% cut to ACE's budget means they will lose about £17Million in 2015 so the arithmetic is not hard to do. This would appear to be antithetical behaviour for a government allegedly trying to encourage growth in the economy.
Since the coalition came to power ACE has lost almost 37% of their budget. Again, if ACE's numbers are to be believed this has actually cost the economy over £600Million per year alongside doing a huge amount of damage to the arts.
ACE was making exactly the same economic arguments in 2010 prior to a previous spending review that saw a budget cut of 30%.
Without even factoring in local authority cuts, that have seen some arts funding budgets completely obliterated, the DCMS and the Treasury don't deserve one ounce of thanks for their behaviour.
The 5% cut was a bait and switch exercise, one which ACE itself has used in the past. The DCMS ramps up the rhetoric, ACE complies and scares the crap out of the NPOs saying almost 600 of them may be de-funded. Eventually the DCMS makes the 5% announcement and everybody is grateful that arts still has a few teeth left after getting mugged for millions in funding.
ACE Chairman Peter Bazalgette - Photo by Media Parents Blog
A lot of details were revealed from National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) briefings given by ACE over the last few weeks. One such detail was, as stated above, that hundreds of them would lose their funding entirely if ACE received a 15% cut.
The dance world at large didn't raise too much of a fuss about the fact that, evidently, 85% of ACE's NPO budget goes to so few organisations and that their own funding was, once again, at risk.
When the cut announcement came through on Friday the NPO dance companies reacted by saying, absolutely nothing. Akram Khan Company did manage to send out a dozen re-tweets of feint praise for their previous evenings performance though.
Motionhouse Dance Theatre re-tweeted, on Saturday, more than a dozen congratulatory messages for company AD Kevin Finnan who was awarded an MBE in the UK honours list.
One of those messages was from Conservative MP Chris White (the MP for the region where Motionhouse is based).
Congratulations to Kevin Finnan MBE @MotionhouseDT - services to dance & Opening Ceremony of the Paralympic Games - Queen's Birthday Honours— Chris White MP (@ChrisWhite_MP) June 15, 2013
Mr White is part of the very government responsible for beating the arts with a baseball bat which they had just done, again, the day before.
You couldn't make this stuff up if you tried.
In his press statement Mr Bazalgette also spoke of the tough decisions ahead for the funding monolith. What this usually means is that a lot of NPOs at the bottom of the food chain are going to lose their NPO status (and their funding). Decisions all made behind closed doors.
Last week we reported that ACE was pushing for lottery rules to be changed by the DCMS so that some of that money (over £250Million per annum) could be used to plug the hole made in the cuts to ACE's regular, tax funded, grant-in-aid.
Later this year all of the NPOs will have to reapply to maintain their regularly funded status. ACE should continue to push for lottery rule changes absent a return to previous state funding levels from any new government.
The Big Bad should also make the entire funding and decision making process completely transparent so that the public knows who applied for NPO status, why they were turned down or why they were accepted and why existing NPOs were turned down or maintained their position on that list.
At present, ACE's funding strategy is top heavy, all the money goes to protect the very large salaries of the staff at large scale organisations.
Just 80 employees at the Royal Opera House cost more than £7.3Million a year with one staff member, Music Director Antonio Poppano, earning more than £740,000 according to their 2011 accounts, the most recent ones available.
Such numbers are indicative of a broken funding system that allows small groups and venues to shutter while the large scale thrives simply because they are given the resources to do so.
The rumours are swirling, or at least staggering about like an asthmatic mouse, that the Department for Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) is a goner if the up and coming Comprehensive Spending Review (CSR) has anything to do with it.
Lest you be unfamiliar with the DCMS they are the government department responsible for funding ACE, among many other things.
They also had responsibility for the Olympics in 2012 which a lot of people actually rather enjoyed so, why wouldn't the coalition government get rid of them?
Would the demise of the DCMS necessarily be a bad thing however? Join us dear readers as we explore the details and get those mice some inhalers.
Having a government minister who is directly responsible for culture across an entire country can be a good thing and a bad thing. If the minister is fully engaged and has a passion for the arts and arguing the case for culture in general (which is what they are supposed to do) then it's all good, mostly!
The last two Culture Secretaries however have been anything but. Jeremy Hunt, now the Health Secretary, cut ACE's budget by more than the DCMS was cut as a result of the last spending review. During his tenure he was more wrapped up in the controversy over BSkyB and the Olympics than anything else and showed an almost complete disregard for the arts.
As we pointed out a long time ago, as soon as The Olympics was over and Mr Hunt had proved himself to be the "good Tory soldier" he was promoted to a more prestigious post in government. Also, the last guy at the Health Department was completely incompetent.
Maria Miller, the current incumbent at the DCMS, is comically out of touch with planet earth, never mind the culture sector. Ms Miller gave a speech imploring the arts to make a strong economic case for continued public funding and in doing so managed to overlook the fact that everybody had been doing just that for about 30 years.
The actual "Culture Minister" Ed Vaizey can, at best, be described as a complete pillock (that's a very British insult for sure). As with Ms Miller, Mr Vaizey has been accused, on numerous occasions, of being completely tone deaf when it comes to discussions about culture and culture funding. Much like Boris Jonhson (the current Mayor of London) he's an amiable buffoon of very little purpose.
So, given the line up of completely disconnected miscreants that have been tasked with speaking for the arts at government level over the last few years it's a wonder ACE still has any substantive financial support at all.
You have to ask yourself, are we better off with or better off without a government department that has a culture portfolio?
If the level of support the arts can expect to receive is based almost entirely on whether or not the person in charge is even remotely qualified for the job or actually gives a flying pigs behind about doing their job properly then, really, what difference does it make?
As long as ACE continues to be funded (by no means guaranteed) it doesn't really matter what department is responsible for supplying the funding.
Getting rid of the DCMS may, inadvertently, help shield ACE from having its budget cut any further.
If the bean counters can tally up enough savings from removing the departmental infrastructure they may feel less inclined to cut the budgets of the organisations they fund. It's a very big "if" mind you.
Given that the goal of the coalition government is widely believed to be nothing more than an idealogical push to reduce the size of government then removing an entire department may quench their bloodlust.
Moot Is A Funny Word
Any discussion of the CSR and the DCMS may be rendered completely moot because the changes announced wouldn't take effect, if at all, until 2015.
2015 also happens to be the year of the next general election in the the UK (it's why the current government is doing the CSR now).
If the current polls are to be believed then David Cameron and his henchman are destined for the political dumpster and it's unlikely that any new government would carry through with further sweeping cuts that would be massively unpopular across the entire country.
We would also be remiss in not mentioning that every economic report issued since the coalition took power has shown their austerity measures to be an unmitigated disaster. Those two words side by side are not what you want to hear if you are trying to win an election or stay in power.
Before anybody thinks about starting a petition to "save" the DCMS we would urge you to think for a while, realise that the politicians are not listening because they simply don't care and then take your arguments to the people, where the real power is.
We have written often, here in TheLab™, about the fact that when the self appointed upper echelons of the arts complain about funding they often come across as self-serving, pompous buffoons. The reason they sound like self-serving, pompous buffoons is because, more often than not, they are self-serving, pompous buffoons.
Step forward Nicholas Serota, Chief Bottle Washer at Tate Britain. Mr Serota has been all over the press in recent months, (allegedly) sticking up for the arts but more often than not he comes across as a man sticking up for his very large salary.
Last week Tate Britain, aided and abetted by the Heritage Lottery Fund (£15.8Million in public money) and a few charitable trusts with more money than sense, ponied up more than £23Million for a single painting by John Constable, "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows", a painting of a cathedral in Salisbury from a meadow. (!, Ed!)
This act of, if we're being generous, colossal short-sightedness was carried out to "save" the work for the British public. Save it from what is not at all clear because despite the fact the painting was privately owned for more than a 130 years it had been on display
at the National Gallery in London since 1983.
When we spoke with Tate Britain they told us there was no specific threat that the work was going to leave the UK but it was always a possibility when you sell things on the open market. The gallery did confirm that there were other people interested in the painting but declined to say who they were. A spokesperson also said that the family of Lord Ashdon of Hyde, who owned the painting, approached the gallery to buy the work because they wanted it to stay in the country.
Tate Britain did say that there were other interested parties but they would not have been eligible for any tax concessions so the asking price would have been £40Million.
If your "thing" is fanciful pictures of the English countryside then you could see "Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows" as often as you wanted to. Failing that you could just go to Salisbury Cathedral itself because it's still there, in Salisbury, for all to see.Not sure about the meadow though, that might have been turned into a Tesco.
"Salisbury Cathedral from the Meadows", it's a painting of a cathedral........ from a meadow!
Even if there was any tangible evidence that the painting was going to end up in a private collection or be shipped overseas, so what? It's just one painting, there are plenty of other Constable works to be seen in the UK and plenty of works by other artists filling up galleries across the nation. Tate Britain itself is not short of a work or two to put on display.
Also, we're pretty sure there are plenty of prints of this particular piece so nobody was going to forget what it looked like.
It might also be a good idea to question the need for public galleries to pay out exorbitant sums of money for art work in general. The stock market looks positively sane when compared to the ridiculous sums of money being exchanged by bored billionaires for ancient paintings of fields.
A Deeper Mania
Tate Britain's purchase of this painting deftly illustrates the tone deaf attitude of those responsible. For three years now the arts, and culture in general, have taken a severe beating thanks to cynical government cuts.
This is of course news to our national organisations who are still spending money like water spewing from a broken tap on, in this instance, colossally expensive trinkets of dubious value to the public at large. It's a disconnection from reality matched only by people who willingly vote for UKIP.
Like so many spoiled children in a toy store they screamed 'I Want! I Want! I Want!" and their obliging parents bought them their new toy.
How ridiculous does it sound to the average member of the public when people like Nicholas Serota are complaining about cuts and hard times ahead in the press as they hand over £23Million for one painting? This is perhaps the greatest problem with the large scale, a complete and utter lack of tact, a complete and utter lack of comprehension of the public mood.
Too often this country gets obsessed with the work of too few individuals whether they be painters or choreographers and those individuals, even if they're no longer alive, are singled out for special treatment.
At this moment in time arts and culture organisations need to invest in people and artists who have not been dead for nearly two hundred years. The £15Million public slice of funding used for this purchase could have commissioned many thousands of works from living artists. That's the type of investment that creates economic growth and stability as well as lots of fresh new art work that can be put on display all over the country.
We realise that investment in people and new ideas, not ancient paintings, does not sit well with the massive egos of people like Nicholas Serota and his almost entirely fictional position of importance in this world. However, much like any politician, given enough time, he can simply be disposed of and replaced with somebody that actually has a clue.