On October 16th this year Arts Council England (ACE) told Article19 that the "vast majority" of regularly funded arts organisations (RFO) in England would be receiving "good news" about their ongoing commitment to provide support.
It would appear, following some recent revelations, that ACE has an interesting interpretation of the phrases "vast majority" and "good news".
194 organisations are having their funding cut or, as ACE describes it, "not renewed" when the new financial year comes around on April 1st next year. This cull is from a total portfolio of 950 arts groups across England. ACE did stress that 80 new clients will be added to their RFO portfolio but we imagine that's of little comfort to those who's jobs have just been put under threat.
In a typical example of just how much common sense ACE appears to lack when dealing with these matters we turn to the story of The Exeter Northcott Theatre which has just been redeveloped at a cost of £2.1Million (USD $4.2Million). The redevelopment of which was funded, in part, by ACE. Having rebuilt the theatre ACE has decided that the annual grant of £547,000 (USD$1.09Million) will be cut in its entirety.
The theatre has already set up a "Save Exeter Northcott" website to muster public support.
Nick Capaldi, Executive Director of ACE South West, told the Guardian that the decision was "not made lightly" along with some other references to audiences being "loyal" but "static".
We feel sure, here in TheLab™, that everybody in the arts feels his pain at having to make these tough choices. All we can hope is that Mr Capaldi can summon the courage the have a relaxing and care free Christmas holiday on his annual salary of £77,000. The fear, uncertainty, and doubt being spread throughout the arts in England by these cuts will ensure that a lot of people have very little time to relax and enjoy their holidays.
There is still a chance that organisations like The Northcott can have these decisions overturned, their ultimate fate should be known by February next year.
Some of you may be wondering why ACE is cutting funding at all when their own finances were boosted by 2.7%, in line with inflation, just two months ago. The reasons are simple and they are summed up in the wonderfully compact RentaQuote™ phrase that is "Thrive not Survive". This means that ACE doesn't just want to fund companies to exist they want them to be able to grow, so thinning the herd is the only way to get that done.
You could argue that ACE should have tried harder to secure more money from the Government, cut back still more on their own enormous operating costs of £51.6Million (USD $105.3Million) and not allowed themselves to be so completely shafted by the Olympics. Having achieved all of that, the cuts may not have been quite so deep, but we digress.
ACE will be letting Article19 know by the end of today how many of these arts organisations are in the dance field. Citing confidentiality reasons, they are unable to tell us the names of the companies however. If you are a dance organisation and ACE is dropping a very big hammer on your head then let us know.
Update: ACE have told us that of the 77 dance organisation currently with RFO status 12 of them will not be funded from next year, an additional 8 will be added in their place.