Axe falls on UK arts groups as cuts announced

Reuters News
Posted: Mar 30, 2011 11:19 AM
Axe falls on UK arts groups as cuts announced

By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The Arts Council England said on Wednesday it would stop funding over 200 arts organizations as part of broader public sector cuts being enforced by the government in its battle to bring down a record budget deficit.

It was the day of reckoning for galleries, music academies, orchestras, theater companies and dance troupes who rely on the government for at least part of their budget, as the council (ACE) sought to pass on cuts of 15 percent.

ACE expressed its regret at having to turn down many strong applications, including 206 organizations which currently receive regular funding.

"We have taken the brave path of strategic choices, not salami slices, which has meant some painful decisions and it is with great regret that we have had to cease funding some good organisations," said ACE head Liz Forgan.

The body decided to award funds on a case-by-case basis rather than reducing budgets by 15 percent across the board, a controversial decision which created winners as well as losers.

ACE received 1,333 applications to join its funding portfolio with bids valued at a total of 1.4 billion pounds ($2.2 billion).

The available budget was 950 million pounds, meaning that of 791 organizations regularly funded by ACE that chose to apply, only 585 were successful. Of the 542 new organizations that applied, 110 were successful.

Among those to lose their funding totally were Exeter Northcott theater and the Poetry Book Society, which runs the annual T.S. Eliot Prize for poetry.

Poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy reacted angrily.

"This news goes beyond shocking and touches the realms of the disgusting," she said. "The PBS was established by T.S. Eliot in 1953 and is one of poetry's most sacred churches with an influence and reach far beyond its membership.

Other groups had their funding partially reduced, including high profile cases like London's Almeida Theater Company which will lose a third of its funding between 2010/11 and 2014/15.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts faced a reduction in funding of 42.5 percent.

Among the winners was The opera Group, which will be included in the council's national portfolio scheme for the first time with funding of 1.04 million pounds between 2012 and 2015.

Major arts organizations like the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, English National Ballet and the National Theater were hit with reductions of around 15 percent in the review. Major orchestras faced cuts of 11 percent.

Culture Minister Jeremy Hunt said the government had limited cuts to "front line" arts organizations.

"The UK has some of the best culture in the world and we are doing all we can to support it through the challenges of dealing with the deficit, including measures to boost the amount of private giving going to the arts," he said.

(Editing by Steve Addison)