The Evil Imp



Hard as this may be to believe the arts, as a whole, is working itself up into an enormous lather over the recent cuts announced to regularly funded organisations by Arts Council England.

Such is the outrage that artists took to the streets this past Tuesday wearing masks and wielding banners, (stop giggling at the back), to vent their anger over the funding giants behaviour.

The Stage newspaper is even quoting Nicholas Hytner, the artistic director of the National Theatre, as saying that the cuts are a “strategic catastrophe” and, I kid you not, “bollocks”. If any of our non UK readers are confused about the last one it’s a less than polite way of saying the cuts are wrong!

The Stage is also reporting that ; “….more than 500 actors and theatre professionals gathered at the Young Vic [in London] to pass a vote of no confidence in the council..”. Such a vote has no force or effect of course and it’s not too surprising to learn that artists have little or no confidence in ACE.

As much a point of contention as the cuts themselves is the manner in which ACE has handled them. Arts organisations in receipt of regular funding were informed just before Christmas of the decision to either cut their funding, reduce it, keep it the same or increase it. 194 of them got the bad news that their funding was being completely removed and they had just 4 week to appeal that decision.

The National Campaign for the Arts is also up in arms and has sent a letter (yes, people still do that) to James Purnell the Minister for Culture, Media and Sport. They claim that ACE’s reasoning behind some of the cuts is both “inaccurate” and “flawed”.

Here in TheLab™ the appeals process strikes us a little more than a procedural gesture. If all of the appeals were successful then ACE would be up a certain rancid waterway lacking a certain essential method of propulsion because the 80 new regularly funded organisations would be left out in the cold. We imagine their protests would be just as vociferous.

Were ACE to backtrack on these cuts right now it would almost certainly create an even bigger mess than the one they have already caused and would probably lead to an official enquiry by the government about how the council was being run. It would be a massive embarrassment to ACE and their elected handlers so don’t hold your breath waiting for it to happen.

It is encouraging that the arts has managed to develop a sense of outrage and even take to the streets when a perceived injustice is being perpetrated against them. You can’t help wondering though where they are the rest of the time? It’s not like ACE started acting like a basket case in the last two months and lobbing bricks (metaphorically speaking) at the outgoing chairman Peter Hewitt (he is soon to retire) is a bit pointless.

It will be interesting to see just how many of those 194 appeals are successful!