The Evil Imp

The Pile On

No, we’re not talking about the things that hold electric cables out of reach from the curious hands of small children. We’re talking about “piling on” when things are bad but you just need to keep kicking!

So, a couple of weeks ago we berated DanceUK, the ACE funded dance advocacy group, a little for the Streetdance 3D fiasco. This time their re-designed website has revealed something slightly more disturbing/infuriating/baffling/ridiculous about just who DanceUK thinks are friends of the profession.

From their “campaigning” page they offer us these choice snippets under the headline “Why does talking to MPs matter? Just look at the dance supporters in the new Cabinet:”

Jeremy Hunt MP, the new Secretary of State for Culture, Olympics, Media and Sport attended his first contemporary dance performance with Dance UK, (La La La Human Steps) and also attended several performances with the All Party Parliamentary Dance Group. When he had to choose a location for the party political broadcast he presented on Channel 4, he chose the new Jerwood DanceHouse at Dance East in Ipswich.

Yes, they are talking about “the” Jeremy Hunt, current Chief Bottle Washer at the Department for Culture Media and Sport. So what has this guy been up to lately?

The government’s comprehensive spending review cut his departments budget by 25%. Mr Hunt is such a darling of the cultural sector that he decided to pass on a 29.6% cut to ACE. He did however protect the big guns at the British Museum, Tate Modern, et-al with 15% cuts but so far so predictable.

Despite Mr Hunt’s protestations about “fighting for the arts” his political savvy doesn’t seemed to have enabled him to conjure up a convincing argument for the bean counters to not cut the arts at all because there is, apparently, plenty of money.

There must be plenty of money because the government are willing to pay more than £5Billion to construct an aircraft carrier for the Royal Navy that won’t have any aircraft on it? We can afford the boat but we can’t afford the planes.

Surely that’s an argument that could be made by your average 5 year old with only a basic level of understanding of arithmetic? But, we digress.

Crying Out Loud

What’s that we hear you cry, ACE can only make 15% cuts to the “frontline” arts or the DCMS will yell at them, so hah!

First of all 15% doesn’t sound bad until you try and hack that amount from a £350,000 budget (for example) and you end up with a staggering £52,500 less to actually get anything done with!

Not so protected by this 15% limit are grants to emerging dance makers or dance companies. Or funding to anybody that doesn’t receive year on year support. Budgets to help companies tour are being slashed by as much as 69%.

Yes, ACE has to find cuts of 50% from their own admin budget and 50% is more than 15%. Now, here in TheLab™, we’re the first to cheer if ACE can cut admin costs and boost direct spending, but 50%?

Even if that’s possible, which it probably isn’t and still keep ACE viable on a national scale, this could easily be a subtle play by the new ideological DCMS to gut ACE and eventually try and shift direct arts funding responsibility to the DCMS.

ACE is supposed to be “arms length”. Under no circumstances are the DCMS supposed influence the funding decisions made by ACE. It’s to stop them being politicised by power mad politicians trying do favours for their friends.

When Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, also cited by DanceUK as a “friend of dance”, was asked what would happen if ACE was unable or unwilling to comply with the 15% cut to “frontline” arts his response was that it would lead to an “interesting situation”.

How subtle the threats from the smirking thugs at the DCMS.

None of that matters of course because Jeremy Hunt attended a performance by La La LA Human Steps. A dance company from Canada! He also chose a hugely expensive dance building (Dance East) from which to broadcast his political spiel prior to the election. Let’s overlook, shall we, that arts organisations shouldn’t be providing any sort of platform from which politicians are speaking to try and obtain power.

DanceUK may want to grasp the reality that the people who have just knee-capped you are not your friends. Showing your grinning mug at a photo op makes you nothing more than a good old British politician.

Perhaps DanceUK would like to get these ministers in front of some cameras and demand straight answers to straight questions on a whole raft of issues. Or, maybe DanceUK can get together with Mr Hunt and host a series of dance events on the flight deck of that aircraft carrier. Should be safe enough with no planes on it.

The only voice of sanity coming from DanceUK is actually from Siobhan Davies who, when asked by DanceUK about the funding cuts, said;

“The first impact of reading this statement is a concern for the independent dance artists who are not regularly funded. Their commitment to the questioning of the artform while being in an unstable financial situation has been extraordinary and to loose that vigour will damage the healthy ecology of dance.”

Sadly, Ms Davies doesn’t run DanceUK.