Grant reprieve for region's arts groups

Saturday, June 19, 2010
9:00 AM

Emily Dennis

Arts organisations across the region were breathing a sigh of relief last night after learning their budgets would not be slashed as much as feared this year.

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Emily Dennis

Arts organisations across the region were breathing a sigh of relief last night after learning their budgets would not be slashed as much as feared this year.

Arts Council England has bailed out the organisations it regularly funds by digging deep into its coffers as it implements £19m of government cuts.

The body said it has shielded them to some extent by taking the “exceptional” step of using £9m from its “historic reserves” cash, which it has drawn down with government permission.

The cuts, announced by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport last month, come on top of an earlier in-year reduction of £4m.

But while arts organisations across the region spoke of their gratitude to Arts Council England they are bracing themselves for further and deeper cuts.

Arts Council England's regularly funded organisations (RFOs), of which there are around 880, all face a cut of 0.5pc - an average of £2,000 each.

Some 34 RFOs in the East will receive cuts ranging from as little as £278 to £7385.

Arts Council England said that had the £9m not been used, the organisations would have been hit with a 3pc cut.

Stuart Hobday, director of Norwich Arts Centre, which has seen its £123,632 grant for 2010/11 cut by £618, said: “I think it's a relief for this financial year that the Arts Council has chosen to cover a lot of its losses by digging into its reserves, so we feel like we can manage a 0.5pc cut this year.”

He added: “It has been indicated to us that there will be big cuts in the next financial year, 2011, so we are bracing ourselves for that.”

Jonathan Holloway, director of Norfolk & Norwich Festival, which has seen its £415,624 grant for 2010/11 cut by £2,078, said it would have to review its activities planned for 2011.

He said: “These are tough times and every penny counts so inevitably this cut will mean that we, like scores of other arts organisations in the region, will have to carefully review the activities we had planned for 2011.

“We are keenly aware that we must do all that we can to secure funding for arts and culture in this region in the coming years whilst continuing to be world class in everything that we do.

“This May alone, we attracted a whopping 278,000 people to engage with the arts through Norfolk & Norwich Festival and contributed an estimated £9.2m to the local economy.

“We have worked intensively with young people and community organisations on world class arts projects and the impact has been uplifting.”

Chris Gribble, chief executive of the Writers' Centre Norwich, which has seen its £205,848 grant for 2010/11 cut by £1,029, said he thought that Arts Council England had done its very best in a “difficult situation”.

He added: “We're just going to have to work a little bit harder and more creatively to overcome the difficult times.”

The British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT), based at the University of East Anglia, has seen its £127,300 grant for 2010/11 cut by £637.

Acting director Dr Valerie Henitiuk said: “We were expecting it to be worse - it could have been 5pc. I think the Arts Council is showing they are doing their best to struggle through what is being imposed on them.

“We are very grateful because it is not as bad as we thought. However, we have to be prepared for the years ahead. We are facing a double jeopardy because we get half our funding from the Arts Council and half from the UEA. Both the Arts Council and the university are facing severe cuts from the government.”

Ivan Cutting, artistic director of Eastern Angles theatre company, which has seen its £230,188 grant for 2010/11 cut by £1,151, said: “Our reaction is one of relief that it is not worse. It makes a lot of difference there is to be just 0.5pc cut.”

He said it indicated that bigger cuts must be expected in future years, adding: “Clearly there's something even nastier coming around the corner.”

Helen Lax, Arts Council England regional director for the East, described the injection of funds from reserves as an “absolute one-off”.

“Had we not been able to do that the impact on these organisations would have been much worse,” she said.

“We do not know what will happen next year but as with all public sector we are expecting further cuts.”

Ms Lax explained that the body's historic reserves stood at £18.4m. The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has freed £16m, leaving the body with a balance of £2.4m which remains blocked from use.

Of the £16m freed, £9m is to be used to mitigate the in-year cuts, and £7m will be returned to the department.

It has been agreed that £5m of that £7m will be returned to the Arts Council's baseline funding for 2011/12.

Dame Liz Forgan, chair of Arts Council England, said: “We have done our best to minimise the effect on our funded organisations and the art they produce so brilliantly.

“The financial climate is tough, but the arts remain a compelling case for public investment. We will continue to put that case to government, and to make it clear that now reserves have been spent, the burden of any further cuts will fall on funded organisations.”

Arts Council England East region - in year cuts announcement 2010/11

Regularly Funded Organisation 2010/11 grant 0.5% reduction

Aldeburgh Music 1,476,986 7,385

Colchester Mercury Theatre Limited 834,353 4,172

Orchestras Live 816,961 4,085

Watford Palace Theatre 777,364 3,887

New Wolsey Theatre 763,547 3,818

Firstsite 666,200 3,331

DanceEast 601,196 3,006

UK Centre for Carnival Arts 539,175 2,696

Junction CDC Limited 533,914 2,670

Norfolk & Norwich Festival Ltd 415,624 2,078

Britten Sinfonia 341,649 1,708

Metal Culture Ltd 318,370 1,592

Trestle Theatre Company 262,183 1,311

Eastern Angles Theatre Company 230,188 1,151

Wysing Arts Centre 209,906 1,050

Writers' Centre Norwich 205,848 1,029

Theatre Is 184,680 923

New International Encounter 158,209 791

Kettle's Yard Gallery 157,539 788

Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds 137,735 689

British Centre For Literary Translation 127,300 637

the hat Factory 123,754 619

Norwich Arts Centre 123,632 618

Tilted Productions 123,403 617

Hoipolloi Theatre Company 122,378 612

Colchester Arts Centre 118,967 595

Bedford Creative Arts 111,801 559

Visual Arts And Galleries Association 108,642 543

Commissions East 105,473 527

DanceDigital 101,685 508

Bury St Edmunds Art Gallery 82,328 412

Southend-On-Sea Borough Council 75,974 380

Theatre Resource 60,701 304

The Poetry Trust 55,516 278

TOTAL EAST RFO: 11,073,181 55,366

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