Norfolk arts groups fear funding cuts

Arts organisations and theatres across East Anglia should hear within days what cuts they can expect to their grants.

Announcements are expected from the Arts Council and Norfolk County Council – and major players on Norfolk's cultural stage fear the results could be devastating.

Those affected range from the Norfolk and Norwich Festival (NNF) and Norwich Arts Centre to Sheringham Little Theatre and Westacre Theatre.

Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey has warned already that 'a significant number of good applications' will receive nothing.

Norfolk County Council is poised to announce its arts allocations for 2011-2012, too. The council has slashed its arts grants budget by 44pc over the next three years and has �310,000 to hand out – �73,000 less than last year.

Norfolk and Norwich Festival is among the Norfolk and north Suffolk organisations that will hear on Wednesday whether they have secured 2012-2013 National Portfolio funding from the Arts Council, which has had its own budget slashed by almost 30pc over the next four years.

William Galinsky, artistic director of the festival, said Arts Council cash accounted for about half of its funding.

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Last year, it received �385,000 from the Arts Council and, without it, the festival would be a much smaller organisation, he warned.

Yet the organising team argues that it played an important role in Norwich being shortlisted for the first UK City of Culture and has brought new people to the region, with 18pc of audience share coming from outside Norfolk. Last year, the festival boosted the local economy by an estimated �9.2m, it says.

At the Poetry Trust, based at Halesworth, in Suffolk, director Naomi Jaffa said Arts Council funding was critical to the organ-isation. She added: 'If we're unsucc-essful we will have to radically rethink whether or not we have a future.'

The trust's �51,427 for 2011-2012 represented about a third of its total income. Raising money for poetry was hard because it wasn't comm-ercially 'sexy' and didn't attract corporate entertainment money, said Ms Jaffa.

At Norwich Arts Centre, manager Stuart Hobday said Arts Council cash accounted for a fifth of its income. The team had already introduced cost-cutting measures following a 10pc cut in grant from Norwich City Council, including reducing some staff hours.

Norwich Theatre Royal chief executive Peter Wilson pointed out that companies such as Propeller, which brought productions of Shakespeare's The Comedy of Errors and Richard III to the city last month, were only able to tour because of their Arts Council grants.

Without the likes of Propeller, Glyndebourne on Tour, Rambert Dance and National Theatre and Royal Shakespeare Company productions, the theatre's programme would be far poorer, leading to fewer tickets being sold and a gradual, downward spiral affecting the local economy.

But Rory Holburn, of Openwide, which manages Cromer's Pier Pavilion, called for less to be spent on elitist culture. 'It is up to the theatres to stage more populist entertainment that will attract a paying audience,' he said.

The Writers' Centre, in Norwich, and the British Centre for Literary Translation, based at the University of East Anglia school of literature and creative writing, are also waiting to hear whether their Arts Council applications have been successful.

Westacre Theatre, based at West Acre, near Swaffham, Sheringham Little Theatre and King's Lynn Arts Centre are among those hoping for county council cash.

At Lynn and at Lowestoft, passion for the arts has already seen communities rallying to save much-loved venues threatened by local government cutbacks: in the latter's case it was the Marina Theatre.

Last week, a charitable trust was formally given the go-ahead to run the Marina; and a trust is to take on Lynn Arts Centre from Friday.