Grunts for the Arts


The Beautiful Age
April 25, 2008, 4:49 pm
Filed under: The Saga of the Arts Council

Once there was the Arts Council, and the Arts Council was good.

It funded the arts nicely and whilst all the people weren’t happy all the time, and there was never going to be enough money to fund every artist’s project – there was a cosy budget of £83 million for a year’s worth of project funding.

This golden age was the 2006/7 financial year and the fund was known amongst the faithful as Grants for the Arts.

But then disaster and cataclysm descended. The powers that be decided that they should redirect £625 million of Lottery Money from its Good Causes fund (the Arts Council, English Heritage and Sport England) in order for the 2012 Olympics to remain within its ever-escalating budget.

This devastation included an immediate 35% reduction in Grants for the Arts money to £54 million in 2007/8.

Shock, fear and outrage descended on the arts community and with the governments Comprehensive Spending Review only a matter of months away, there was a real sense that further cuts would ensue.



Ode to the Temporality of Joy
April 25, 2008, 4:48 pm
Filed under: The Saga of the Arts Council

And so, last October, the government met and published their thoughts on how they were going to spend the country’s money over the next three years.

And the optimists were rewarded. Surprising even the hopeful, there was an inflation level increase of 2.7% to the Arts Council.

Of course, the money that had already been taken away wasn’t coming back – but no more holes were torn into the hull of the great ship Art.

As others have so wisely remarked, times of bliss and stability can never last forever, and this period of happiness was perhaps shorter than even the miserable had feared.



The Toppling of Fragile Beauty
April 25, 2008, 4:47 pm
Filed under: The Saga of the Arts Council

Within a matter of months, the Arts Council had a monumental shakedown of its regularly funded organisations – even, some say, disregarding its own policies and procedures (http://www.thebookseller.com/news/50922-dedalus-to-sue-arts-council.html).

Magnificent institutions such as Chisenhale Dance Space, Total Theatre, Station House Opera and the National Disability Arts Forum (amongst many tens of others) – were stripped of their regularly funded status and left to sink or swim in the much harsher climate of non-statutory and local government funding.

Of course, many esteemed and worthwhile organisations gained funding, or even received an increase in what they were already receiving. And it would be only the most foolish amongst us who would suggest that once granted RFO status, an organisation should forever remain that way.

But to mismanage these shifts in such calamitous fashion, and so soon after the dismal reductions to Grants for the Arts funding, has alienated the Arts Council hugely from those who they should be supporting and allowed a bleak and chillsome climate to settle upon the sector.

We at Grunts for the Arts would never dare make such a suggestion, but some have been so bold as to wonder if there wasn’t certain strings attached to the CSR increase – that perhaps governmental interference lies behind the Arts Council decision to focus on ‘Excellence’ (read product and output) and to move away from experimentation, innovation and process.

 

This, friends, is the landscape that artists now find themselves in. In disagreement with those who are supposed to be their allies, their once wealthy (or at least wealthier) world lies in ruins around them and those seers amongst us, as they look towards the distant hills of the future, can see only grey misery and dark clouds on the horizon.

But don’t be miserable. Grunts for the Arts – like the Phoenix – will rise again from these ashes. A shining beacon of goodness and belief we stand proud for all to see.
And whilst we can’t make money return to where it was once given so generously, we can play sport, and we can make art, and we will do both in particularly splendid ways.