British government’s austerity hurts theatres, visual arts

British theatre play about mining community women

From daily News Line in Britain:

Friday, 4 July 2014


MASSIVE Arts Council cuts were announced on Tuesday, hitting many superb professional theatre companies, opera companies, galleries and other arts bodies for six.

But in each case, the first response of the workers in the bodies was defiance, refusing to accept that these Tory cuts must lead to closure of these vital arts organisations.

Chris Lloyd, Producer of Red Ladder theatre company, based in Leeds, which has had its grant completely cut, spoke to News Line on Wednesday, insisting: ‘We are more determined than ever to keep going and continue performing in working class communities.’

Wielding the axe, ACE Chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette smashed hardest into 58 companies and arts organisations, throwing them out of the ‘Arts Council Portfolio’ altogether and hitting them with 100% cuts for next year.

Major arts organisations with significant cuts to funding include:

The Lowry Gallery in Salford – decrease of 20% to £2.4 million
English National Opera – decrease of 27% to £37 million
National Skills Academy – decrease of 31% to £810,000

Funding to the Red Ladder Theatre Company in Leeds, the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and the Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond were slashed to zero.

Other organisations thrown out of the portfolio include the touring theatre companies Propeller Theatre and Ridiculusmus.

Massive cuts in Arts Council funding are also to be inflicted on the Barbican Centre in central London, which is to receive a 16% cut, and English National Opera, which is to suffer a gigantic 27% grant slashing.

Overall, 670 arts organisations remain in the national portfolio, down from 696 in the previous round.

Responding to its 100% cut, Paul Miller, Orange Tree artistic director, said he was ‘deeply disappointed’.

Leeds-based Red Ladder said its cut represents a vicious reduction of £162,000 in 2014/15 to zero.

Rod Dixon, artistic director, said he was ‘bitterly disappointed’.

But he said this was not the end for the company and declared defiantly that he would find a way for the company to thrive using its ‘passion and dedication to making theatre that represents the dispossessed, tells stories of the injustices in our world and changes lives’.

The Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds said it was ‘really disappointed’ with its cut. It said its current funding from ACE represented 8% of its total income.

It said: ‘We will continue to work closely with St Edmundsbury District Council and Suffolk County Council to identify new ways to continue providing an exciting programme.’

It said it had nine months to formulate a new model for working, which it admitted would be ‘challenging in the current economic climate’.

English National Opera was revealed to be one of the biggest targets, taking a vicious £5 million reduction in its grant.

Announcing his cuts programme, Sir Peter Bazalgette, Arts Council chairman, said: ‘When funding is declining, you have to set priorities. This we have done.’

Three-quarters of organisations in the portfolio are to see their funding figure stand unchanged, equivalent to a 4.7 per cent real-terms cut by the end of the new three-year spending round if inflation predictions are correct.

The National Theatre, Southbank Centre and Royal Shakespeare Company will suffer harsh 6.7 per cent cuts.

The Royal Opera House takes a hit of £800,000 a year, while English National Ballet is to get standstill funding of £6.2 million a year. Overall, funding for opera and ballet across the country will be reduced by 7.3 per cent.

Bristol’s Arnolfini art gallery has been cut by 27%, taking its annual grant to £750,000.

The Lowry arts complex in Salford is down 22% to £800,000 per year.

The Barbican in London has lost 18%, taking its grant to £480,000 next year.

Serious cuts are also to hit the Horniman Museum.

Stephen Deuchar, director of the Art Fund charity condemned the use of the £60 million of lottery money in funding the portfolio.

The Arts Council claimed the cut in government grants would mean axing awards to around 400 organisations if Lottery money had not been used.

But Deuchar insisted: ‘The apparent use of Lottery money to compensate for diminishing government funds sets a dangerous precedent.’

Chris Lloyd, Producer of The Red Ladder Theatre Company, told News Line: ‘The Arts Council grant represents around 75% of all our income, so that’s going to take a lot of replacing.

‘But it’s not unfeasible to keep the company going and we are determined to do so.

‘We work with the Unite union, with other theatre companies and venues to defray some of the expenditure. The relationship with Unite is very strong and we are now working on our fourth production with them.

‘But the essential element of core funding is that it affords the company the luxury of having conversations with partners, with artists and potential collaborators and obviously not all of those projects come off, so it allows what you might call research and development.

‘It also allows us the luxury to mentor emerging artists and companies. Our current Arts Council funding runs until the end of March 2015, so we are now actively involved in fundraising for productions beyond that date.

‘One of the sad disappointing facts of these cuts is that we do make work and take work to economically excluded communites and to me that’s fulfilling a diverse roll of the arts, but this doesn’t seem to be one of the Arts Council’s diversity priorities.

‘It will manifest itself in potentially fewer working class or economically deprived people seeing culture. The last tour we did was to rugby league grounds. We perform in diverse venues, including working men’s clubs, miners’ welfare halls, libraries and also studios and main theatre auditoriums.

‘We are in rehearsal as we speak for a play commissioned by Unite.

‘It’s called We’re Not Going Back. It commemorates the outbreak of the 1984 miners’ strike and it’s forming part of the Durham Miners Gala next week.

‘To be brutally honest I’ve no idea if there is an agenda or not. I’d like to think there is not, but when you see an opera company who are based half a mile from us, Opera North, getting £2.2 million more, while we get slashed completely, is there an agenda . . ?

‘However, we are more determined than ever to keep going and continue performing in working class communities.’

10 thoughts on “British government’s austerity hurts theatres, visual arts

  1. Their slowly sucking the soul out of the UK! Just hope we can last until next years elections, but then it’s never a fair vote so Labour will get and continue feeding the corporations. Thats why we have to stand up now 🙂


  2. Britain, has to get its priorities right, the need for Britain to increase investment in military to defend against the Middle East invasion of Britain, and the arts are secondary to the security of our nation.


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