ACE Review 2004

panta rei dans lullaby

Video - Panta Rei Danseteater 'Lullaby'

Norwegian dance company Panta Rei Danseteater, late last year, conducted a little experiment whereby three dance makers created two pieces with the same name based on the same idea, featuring three male dancers and two musicians, to see what the outcome was.

June 2nd, 2016

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by Neil Nisbet

There are few people with the stomach to wade through an Arts Council England (ACE) annual review. The document is the yearly report on the goings on at the biggest funding provider for the arts in the UK and in terms of what makes a good read these reports give Jeffrey Archer a good name. So we have taken it upon ourselves to have a look through this most tedious of documents and bring you the highlights! Such as they are.

In the opening pre-amble ACE specifies its aims and objectives thus;

“supporting the artist, enabling organisations to thrive, not just survive, championing cultural diversity, offering opportunities for young people, encouraging growth, living up to our values”

The first one is a given since what else would you expect from them? Numbers two and three provide pause for thought. It is interesting that ACE thinks supporting ‘organisations’ so they can ‘thrive, not just survive’ is important since the statement is completely hypocritical because most contemporary dance companies have to do just that.

We also find it grating that even though ACE acknowledges that artists should be supported they don’t seem at all interested in them thriving and not surviving because most dancers working under contract to a dance company will take home less than £300 per week after taxes.

“Championing Cultural Diversity’ is one of ACE’s buzz statements that sounds great at a press conference but withers and dies under closer scrutiny. From their point of view ‘culture’ would seem to be defined by the colour of a persons skin rather than any actual cultural differences between different people in the UK. Just go into any local ACE office and ask them if you can have special consideration because you are Scottish or American or Canadian or Australian!

As for ACE living up to it’s values! We have no idea what that means but it seems like a wonderful piece of circular logic. If one of the values is, in fact, living up to their values then it just goes round and round because they are always going to be doing exactly what they say they are doing, if you see what I mean? (hardly ever, Ed!)

The Council of Twelve

ACE is named as such because it is in fact a council. A group of people appointed in a manner that couldn’t be less interesting but there they are none the less. We don’t know if they have a big table to sit around and discuss the weighty matters that lay before them but in no particular order they are:

Gerry Robinson (Chairman), Sir Christopher Frayling (Chair)**, Sir Norman Adsetts OBE, Tom Bloxham MBE, Deborah Bull CBE, Paul Collard, Deborah Grubb, Professor Alan Livingston, Stephen Lowe, Joanna MacGregor, Sir Brian McMaster CBE, Elsie Owusu OBE, William Sieghart, Professor Stuart Timperley, Dorothy Wilson, Lady Sue Woodford Hollick

Each regional office has its own council and each member of the council named above is also a member of a regional council, still with me? Good!

For the year 2003/2004 ACE received the princely sum of £326million from the Department of Culture Media and Sport. This money is used to provide grants to large and small organisations and is distributed by the 9 regional offices but don’t kid yourself into thinking that the money is evenly divided. ACE also uses the money for itself to pay for staff, operating costs and lots of tea and biscuits! For the year in question they spent £277million on grants to arts organisation across England and spent £15.5million on Creative Partnerships.

From 2003 ACE used the Co-operative Bank for all of its banking needs and we feel sure that the amount of business they put through the bank qualifies them for a free pen or two!

Grant Me Some Aid

2003/04 saw ACE increase its ‘Grant-in-aid-income’ by £35.5million but the amount spent on grants only increased by £32.5million. ACE accounts specify some of its expenditure (£32million) as “other grant in aid expenditure” what that means could not be determined at the time of writing. Curiously the operating costs of the entire ACE organisation went down by a little over £600,000 to a staggering £46million. Makes you wonder just what kind of tea and biscuits they are buying?

As we said above Arts Council is separated into 9 regional offices and they all receive different amounts of money depending on how many big theatres you have that are attended by rich people so London figures at number one on the list as you would expect. OK, rich people and theatres may not be the only reason why London gets the most money but ACE’s own arguments for the massive difference in funding levels for the 9 regions are probably just as credible.

ACE Breakdown of Grants by Region
Region Amount
London £133,780,000
West Midlands £ 32,534,000
Yorkshire £ 21,305,000
North West £ 19,158,000
South West £ 12,130,000
South East £ 12,063,000
North East £ 11,132,000
East Midlands £ 8,855,000
East £ 7,718,000

In terms of population London has just 7.2 million out of a national population (England) of 49.5million. That’s just over 15% of the population receiving more than 45% of the funding. You can draw your own conclusions from those figures but if your conclusion is that most of the artists are living in London then we bet you all the money in our editors pocket (£5.63, Ed!) that if the money was all moved to Newcastle then the artists would follow fairly swiftly.

In times gone by ACE would list the funding they distributed by art form so it was simple to see who was getting what and compare art forms. This is no longer the case so digging up the amount’s given to dance are slightly more problematic as it involves wading through 20 pages of figure and picking out the relevant information.

Instead of doing that we will simply bring you the highs and lows of the funding for the year 2003/2004. The Royal Opera House, which includes Royal Ballet and Royal Opera, received a combined sum of £21,754,450 which is a lot of money to stand still, creatively speaking. Rambert, a company that does a great job at pretending to be a contemporary dance company, receives £1,656,568. So chuffed were they at staying out of deficit for the last financial year the company put out a press release gloating about the fact!

Siobhan Davies Dance Company, one of the better funded contemporary companies received £370,542 and cyber dance company Random (stop laughing at the back! Ed!) received £184,149. Motionhouse Dance Theatre, a company of 5 dancers which has one of the most extensive touring schedules of any company in the UK, ballet or otherwise, received just £61,673.

One of the grants that is fairly mystifying is for Dance Umbrella. Call it what you want but DU is just a festival; despite that they receive £415,889 whereas Dance City, our local National Dance Agency, receives just £268,377 and their remit to provide services to professionals and community alike is far wider than Dance Umbrella’s.

Your Number's Up!

ACE is also responsible for handing out lottery money either in very small amounts or in amounts so large it makes your head spin. Remember the £78million they gave to the Royal Opera House? And those jokers didn’t even have a business plan and the whole saga sparked a government level inquiry.

Trawling through the figures for the last financial year we see that Siobhan Davies Dance Company have received more than £2.6million which is presumably for the company’s new home In London. Michael Clark Company received £47,728. Since he gave up the chainsaws and completely crap choreography of years gone by we look forward to seeing what he spends the money on.

Although not dance but interesting because the figure is so staggering; English National Opera was given £10million for ‘stabilisation and recovery’. This essentially means the management have been running the joint into the ground and need to be bailed out and fast, We figure the Titanic wouldn’t have needed that much stabilisation and recovery.

We have the feeling that if a small scale contemporary dance company was that incompetent they would be thrown on the scrap heap in short order but one rule for them…………..

Arts Council England’s annual review is available from their web site or you can download it from us if you like, find the links over to the right at the top of the article.

**We don't think Mr Frayling is actually a small piece of wooden furniture for sitting on but we imagine that said furniture would be just as good at the job, allegedly!

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