23 January 08 | Chad W. Post

Today’s update in the ongoing saga of the ACE funding cuts comes from Arcadia and Parliament.

First off, a couple of the new people who have signed on in support of Arcadia are Dominick Dunne and Caroline Michel. Which is great in and of itself, but what I find really fun are some of the “Early Day Motions” from Parliament about the cuts.

Here’s the EDM about the general cuts:

That this House regrets the timing of the decision made by the Arts Council to notify its regularly funded organisations of the details of its investment strategy; is concerned that this occurred over the Christmas period and that the appeal process is only lasting six weeks; is surprised that investment plans were announced before the publication of the McMaster Review and before the new Chief Executive of the Arts Council takes up his position in February; and calls on the Government and the Arts Council to ensure that there is sufficient time for organisations that are having their funding withdrawn to be properly consulted.

“Concerned that this occurred over the Christmas period”?!?? I can’t imagine anything so civilized (or open to interpretation as being in favor of a particular religious holiday) occurring here in the States. I mean, I guess I have a hard time envisioning anyone in Congress saying something like this either:

That this House condemns plans by the Arts Council to cut funding to Queer Up North; recognises the excellent work that organisation has done, including tackling homophobic bullying through performances of F.I.T. at local schools; notes with concern that funding cuts will lead to the cancellation of the 2008 festival in Manchester and all future touring plans, end its unique programme of work for young people and result in the immediate closure of the organisation; and therefore calls on the Arts Council to overturn its decision.


That this House condemns the decision by the Arts Council to cut funding to LipService Theatre Company; notes with concern that the timing of the decision occurred over the Christmas period, leaving very limited time to appeal; recognises the unique contribution to the Arts made by LipService, described by the Independent newspaper as Britain’s favourite literary lunatics; further notes with concern that LipService was given no warning or indication in its Annual Review 2007 that it would have its funding cut; and calls upon the Arts Council to reverse its proposal and reinstate funding to LipService for the coming year.

(Britain’s “favourite literary lunatics”—nice.)

One aspect of this that I haven’t adequately covered here is the timing issue. As referenced above—and in this op-ed piece by Ed Vaizey MP, Shadow Minister for Culture—Peter Hewitt, the current CEO of the Arts Council England is stepping down in February and being replaced by Alan Davey.

Furthermore, the $100,000 report on artistic excellence (the aforementioned “McMaster Report”) was released in mid-January, after the funding cuts had been announced. Of course, the report seems to run counter to the actions of the ACE, and it really doesn’t make sense to commission a report to figure out how best to stimulate the arts and then, less than three weeks before it’s released, slash funding for heaps of arts organizations.

Ed Vaizey sums this up quite nicely:

To be sure, the Arts Council has played a bad hand even worse. Faced with this late settlement, it should have had the courage to put the cuts on hold. Peter Hewitt should have said what is true – “I’m leaving, and a new guy takes over in February. I’ll let him read the McMaster report, and decide what he wants to do. It will be status quo for a year”. Instead, cuts have been rushed through, with, because of the Christmas period, arts organisations having just 18 working days to get their appeals together. And more and more arts organisations are showing that the decisions made by the Arts Council are based on flawed data and false assumptions. Even worse, those arts organisations that are getting an uplift have already been told. The council has sowed division among the arts community, with one organisation knowing it will only get fed if another starves.

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