Norfolk and Norwich Festival speaks of funding fears

The People's Tower - a cardboard replica of St Peter Mancroft Church built during the 2014 Norfolk

The People's Tower - a cardboard replica of St Peter Mancroft Church built during the 2014 Norfolk & Norwich Festival. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

One of Norwich and Norfolk's biggest arts festivals could lose a significant part of its funding.

The Norfolk and Norwich Festival's funding from County Hall could be cut by about £76,700 in 2015/16, and there are fears this could have a serious impact on the May arts extravaganza.

In the current year the festival received £83,400 from Norfolk County Council but for next year it believes it could be given just £6,700. The festival's intended artistic spend for its 2015 festival is about £900,000.

Artistic director William Galinsky stressed the festival realised the county council needed to make savings, but called on the council to work with the festival to find a different way forward.

He also urged the festival's supporters to speak out against the proposal.


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'We know this is not going to get any easier,' said Mr Galinsky.

'We think the best case scenario here is two things – first of all is that the council agrees to work with us to maybe a three year reduction strategy, and we hope not a complete exit strategy, because then at least we can plan, then at least we can work up partnerships or grant-making trusts or new sponsors for 2016 and 2017. We need three years to replace that amount of money.

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'The second thing is a commitment from the council not to turn its back on the arts and culture because this looks like it could be an exit and I think that would be tragic.'

The council is having to make savings across its services, and a public consultation is running until December 19. It has already agreed 2015/16 savings of £40m and is consulting on proposals for a further £12.9m of cuts – of this £150,000 is being proposed to be taken from the arts. Last year the council reduced its overall arts budget by £92,250

The May festival has grown to be one of the largest arts festivals in the UK, attracting acts from around the world, engaging with 70,000 people in 2014, with 40,000 people enjoying the festival's free events.

'We're one of those offers that is shouting to the world about what an amazing place this is,' Mr Galinsky said.

'Talk to and work with us, be strategic, you [the council] don't want to lose what you have invested in and what you've helped us create.'

Some 2015 Norfolk and Norwich Festival events have already been announced – including the outdoor spectacle Wolf's Child at Felbrigg Hall - and the festival has said it was extremely unlikely these shows would be jeopardised at this point.

When asked what the potential funding cut could mean, Mr Galinsky added: 'It may mean there is less free work, it may mean that we need to look at the number of days we do the Spiegeltent, it might mean a shorter festival, it might do, it might mean less education work, it might mean a less exciting, a less inclusive festival, it might be the beginning of a decline.'

He said in the long run it could prove more difficult to put on the big projects which make the festival really stand out and be seen as 'world class.'

He added: 'If you love the festival as much as we do, please take three minutes, go online, fill out the consultation document and if you feel even further moved write to Paul Smyth, chair of the county council's communities committee, asking the council to work with the festival to manage the speed and scale of these proposed funding cuts.'

Paul Smyth, chairman of Norfolk County Council's Communities Committee, said: 'Over the past four years our central government funding has been cut by £85 million and the Chancellor's Autumn Statement this week indicated this prolonged austerity will continue for several years to come.

'Over the same period demand for services has increased, so the Council must take some tough decisions in order to balance its budget. But the vast savings required cannot be achieved through efficiency measures alone so other cutbacks will have to take place.

'Obviously, the council's priority is to protect essential services, especially those that help the most vulnerable in our county, so a reduction in arts funding is inevitable. The council is therefore proposing to cut its arts budget by £150,000 and it has written to the organisations that might be affected by this saving to provide them with advanced notice that their funding may be reduced.

'If members of the public wish to express their views on this proposal we would welcome their participation in the ongoing formal budget consultation which ends on 19 December.'

• People can take part in the consultation until December 19 by visiting www.norfolk.gov.uk/budgetandservices, emailing haveyoursay@norfolk.gov.uk or phoning 0344 800 8020. You can also visit www.facebook.com/Norfolkcc or tweet using #norfolkbudget

• What do you think about the arts funding situation? Write to eveningnewsletters@archant.co.uk

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