The Evil Imp

We Know What You Did This Summer

Yesterdays announcements by Arts Council England of their decisions concerning National Portfolio Organisations came as some relief to the wide world of dance.

Most established companies and organisations survived along with a few new companies being added to the mix. Of the 3 NPOs that failed to get renewed we know that at least two of them did not even apply. The funding announcement covered grants from 2015 to 2018.

Beyond the headlines though the results of the funding decisions from the Big Bad hide a deeper malaise within the world of the publicly subsidised arts.


First of all one number doing the rounds, we think it was started by The Guardian newspaper, claimed that dance funding had increased by 9.4%, a number that, at best, is completely misleading and at worst gives politicians and ACE political cover they don’t deserve.

The truth is that of the 30 dance companies in the NPO portfolio 15 of them have seen their funding cut between 2011 and 2015. Of the 27 agencies or “other” dance organisations from the NPO portfolio just 2 of them them saw real increases in funding with the rest receiving cuts to their core grant.

Many of the dance company increases were very modest, Balbir Singh Company for example got a 3.8% increase to £150,460 per year. 2Faced Dance Company, helmed by Tamsin Fitzgerald in Hereford, received a 96.6% increase from 2011 but that takes their funding to just £192,000 per annum. It might sound like a lot of money but when you have to run a touring dance company for a year it actually doesn’t go very far.

The vast majority of the headline figure of the 9.4% increase went to big ballet companies. Birmingham Royal Ballet with a 3.4% increase to more that £7.8Million per year and Northern Ballet with an 18.4% bump to more than £3.1Million.

Mathew Bourne’s New Adventures company came from nowhere to receive a staggering £1.29Million per year. So we can all look forward to more productions like ‘Lord of the Flies’ in the near future along with endless re-runs of the male ‘Swan Lake’.

Application of the Application

Arts Council England does not release the details of how much money each company would have asked for in their application so it is entirely possible that organisations applied for less money.

However, given the fact that NPO applications are made in close consultation with ACE, it is probable that any application for less money was made because of a recommendation from an ACE advisor.

Scaremongering about the lack of funds available is a good way to keep people from asking for more money whether they need it or not.


The biggest overall increase for any dance company went to Akram Khan Company with a 122% boost to more than £500,000 per year starting from 2015.

It’s an increase that is particularly galling considering Mr Khan was saying, just 2 years ago, about how the arts were being “fed too much money”. What he must have meant was that everybody else was being fed too much money and his company wasn’t getting enough.

When you place this increase alongside the reductions handed down to others then it becomes more apparent still that ACE’s funding strategy suggests the funding monolith doesn’t know what the word “strategy” actually means.

Two small dance agencies, Merseyside Dance Initiative in Liverpool and Dance Manchester received hefty cuts (33.5% and 49.3% respectively) to their already modest budgets.

The decrease to those two agencies looks like it paid for the increase to Mr Khan’s company. What is it that Mr Khan couldn’t do before with his current level of funding that required two agencies in the north of England to be kicked in the shins so viciously?

Narrative Nonsense

Throughout the day ACE was spinning the line about how they were doing a lot with much reduced budgets from central government. That is, in part, true since the Department for Culture Media and Sport under the current government has been particularly vicious.

It is not the complete picture however. Dance companies such as Candoco Dance Company based in London and Ballet Lorent based in Newcastle have taken cuts over the last few years for no other reason than “just because”.

Candoco have dramatically changed the way they commission and tour new work recently to make themselves more nimble and adaptable while being one of the few fully inclusive dance companies in Europe.

Ballet Lorent, with their shows like ‘The Night Ball’ and ‘Rapunzel’, have brought audience participation and dance education to a whole new level across the UK.

And yet, they both receive cuts. Why?

The simple answer is because, as already mentioned, ACE doesn’t have a real strategy at all. Neither Candoco nor Ballet Lorent needed to be cut, not even a little bit.

More modest increases in funding for big ballet and a lot less generosity toward New Adventures would have provided the money to strengthen the core organisations in the wide world of dance, the mid-scale and the small-scale. That includes both of the companies mentioned above.

Need we remind you that the £8.1Million that ACE has committed to the colossally incompetent Space project (money that comes from lottery funding) could have not only mitigated cuts across the entire NPO portfolio but also provided a massive boost to touring funds for the performing arts in general.

It’s not that there isn’t enough money to go around, it’s that ACE is a terrible steward of that money.


Motionhouse Dance Theatre, based in Warwickshire, received a 19.4% boost to £338,306. An increase that was well deserved considering the massive amount of national and international touring the company does with multiple productions across multiple scales.

Our old friends Random Dance [Company] also received a funding bump of 3.8% to £515,212. In 2014 the London based company will have performed just 4 times in the UK, 3 of those times in London.

The company that does more gets less and the company that does less gets more. That’s the story of the NPO funding round of 2014.

[ NPO Funding Data For Dance ]