News Published 31 March 2011

Arts Council Announces Funding Cuts

Cuts fall unevenly as ACE takes a “progressive” approach.

Rosanna Hall

Across the country this morning, news of funding levels were released by the Arts Council England (ACE) affecting the financial futures of arts and theatre organisations across the country.

With a 29.6% cut in its grant-in-aid from the government over three years, the ACE accounted for 15% of cuts to the arts as a whole. Taking the approach of ‘strategic choices not salami slices’ it has taken the decision to shape the arts landscape, with some organisations receiving increases and some slashed entirely.

628 organisations who applied for funding have been denied, 208 of them formerly regularly supported by ACE, with 110 new arts organisations being bought into the fold, including High Tide Festival Theatre, Birmingham’s Live Art Fierce Festival and the Manchester International Festival.

Theatres such as Derby Theatre, Exeter Northcott, the black theatre company Nitro and Shared Experience see their funding completely axed. While Arts and Business, an organisation which helps arts organisations financially support themselves was also badly hit, as was the audience development sector.

Amongst those who will feel the cuts include large national organisations such as the National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, English National Ballet and the Royal Shakespeare Company who will each suffer a 15% real terms cut, with noticeable cuts for the English National Opera of 11%.  The Barbican however saw a 108% rise in funding, mainly on the basis of their outreach operations in London’s East End.

While some companies such as the Almeida Theatre in London’s Islington took a surprise blow with 39% of their funding being cut, neighbouring theatre Arcola in Hackney saw its grant increase by 82.1%. The visual arts also experienced mixed fortunes in financial distribution; the ICA (who recently controversially abandoned its Live Art programme) is down 42% to £900,000, with South London Gallery enjoying an uplift of 107% and increases for a trio of galleries about to open.

Opinion in the theatrical community seems divided about the distribution of these cuts; that appear to have hit the Southwest hardest, and to have broadly favoured touring and outdoor theatre.  Richard Eyre called them “smart”, while Simon Callow called them “bewildering”.  Most commentators however appear to broadly agree with the sentiments of Michael Billington who set the cuts in a broader political context, and wrote “I can attach no blame to the Arts Council who face an impossible task”.

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Rosanna Hall is a contributor to Exeunt Magazine