The Evil Imp

Too Much

Akram Khan thinks that the arts have been “fed” too much money according to an interview he did with the Daily Telegraph back in February, an article lost in the murky depths of random arts coverage in the newspapers.

The full quote is;

“Khan says he has noticed, in his conversations with arts commissioners around the world, that economic confidence is seeping away; people are cautious in committing money to the arts. He describes this as unnerving, but not necessarily bad. “It’s really tricky now but it is also a good time because I think the arts have been fed too much money. It is important to start from restrictions again. I think there needs to be a tension and that tension was getting less and less.”

Curiously Mr Khan disagrees, in the same article, that spending £27Million on the opening ceremony for the Olympic Games is too much money. Perhaps that’s because he’s involved in that ceremony and almost certainly being paid quite well into the bargain.

Perhaps Mr Khan is speaking from his relatively privileged position of being well supported by ACE (£225,000 per annum), Sadler’s Wells Theatre and lots of international promoters and, of course, LOCOG.

The venerable dance maker may also be aware of some hitherto undiscovered world where all professional dancers are in full time employment, where jobs are plentiful and free, instantaneous health care abounds. DanceUK has probably just been exaggerating about all that injury stuff for years now.

As for all those choreographers and dance companies squeezing the last ounce of worth from every penny they can get, they’re probably just crying wolf all the time, they’ve obviously had it too easy for too long.

For now though let’s look beyond the somewhat ill-advised comments and think about the virtues of struggle for a moment. That is after all what Mr Khan appears to be talking about here, it’s good to struggle, because when you make things hard, then you make things good. Right?

In some ways that is probably true. If everything comes too easily then you can, perhaps, become complacent, lazy and just expect everything to be given to you without question. Ask the Royal Opera House, they know all about that.

But for professional dancers and dance companies the “struggle” is already there and it always has been, especially for the dancers. Getting through the training is the first big hurdle that dancers have to overcome, a struggle, in this country at least, that just got a whole lot harder thanks to large increases in tuition fees and the subsequent debt problems that will bring.

Once you graduate you’re dealing with a freelance career, few jobs, poor pay and the ever present risk of injury.

Putting funding to one side, there are plenty of struggles to be had. If we’re comparing resilience, the ability to cope with stress and mental strength between a professional dancer and an average “joe public” we think we know which one would come out on top.

There are barriers aplenty, we don’t need to add more to the mix. Things might be easy for some, but they are the exception, not the rule. The main issue with public funding of the arts is not about “too much” money but the fact that what money there is is far too narrowly focused on large scale organisations.

Large scale organisation like The Curve in Leicester, co-sponsors of Mr Khan’s work ‘Desh’, that needed more than £1Million in Sustain funding from ACE to support a potentially failing organisation. Sadler’s Wells, also co-sponsors of ‘Desh’ needed £720,000 in Sustain funding to support, ironically, the commisioning of new work on top of the more that £2Million per year they already receive from ACE.

We wonder if Mr Khan was referring to those organisations with regard to his “fed too much money” comment.

At no point in the Telegraph piece does either the journalist or Mr Khan detail his plans to repay the more than £1Million of public money invested thus far in his company.

[ The Telegraph ]