The Evil Imp

Can We Have Some More Please?

Last weeks announcement that arts funding will not be cut back to pay for the Olympics, in fact funding is going up in line with inflation plus 1.1%, have brought the great and not so good out of the wood work to wax lyrical.

Arts funding for ACE will increase by £28million over the next four years, which sounds like a lot but for a country of 40 million people it really isn’t.

The directors of the big organisation, like The Royal Opera House (ROH) and the Barbican Centre, both in London, are breathing a little easier this week because they stood to lose the most if arts funding was cut.

Unlike the previous cut to Grants for the Arts (GFA), chopped down by £29million per year, any cut to the core funding of ACE would affect organisations that receive “regular funding” more directly. ROH gets more than £20million per year and at the rate they spend money, losing any funding at all would cause a massive headache for their bean counters.

ACE would have been under a lot of pressure to start cutting back funding on the bigger players and leave the smaller, so called “regional” companies alone, because they already took a beating with the GFA cut backs. Kicking small-scale companies and new artists in the teeth twice in one year wouldn’t look good on a press release so a lot of tough choices would have to be made and ACE really doesn’t like making tough choices.

Large, London based companies already receive a lot of criticism for being elitist, a claim not easily countered by high ticket prices, lack of availability of low price tickets and online booking systems that just don’t work, thus, favouring the locals. Making the argument that “National” companies based in London, that don’t tour, are somehow for everybody has never had much credibility.

What’s also interesting about the reaction, in general, is the sense of relief that the arts were not the victim of a Central Government beating, as was expected. It’s a lot like expecting to be mugged, hoping it doesn’t happen, feeling relief when it doesn’t happen and all the while you have forgotten that people are not actually supposed to mug you.

At the moment it is still not clear what impact the Olympics is going to have on arts funding. Some of the new money is being directed toward the “Cultural Olympiad”, whatever that means, so only time will tell just how much Olympic orientated drivel art we will be seeing over the next few years.

Christopher Frayling, ACE’s Chairman, released an enthusiastic statement opining “… the current excellent health of the arts in England.” Really Mr Frayling? You seem to have conveniently forgotten the £29million cut to Grants for the Arts, but that only affects those pesky “new” artists who perform in the regions in shabby community centres.

Sometimes when nothing bad happens it doesn’t mean that nothing bad has happened.