Bush Theater gets reversal on cuts

16 other organizations win Arts Council appeal

The Bush Theater, the U.K.’s leading venue for debuting dramatists, is one of 17 organizations that have won a high-profile campaign to persuade Arts Council England to reverse a series of controversial funding cuts.

Arts Council England sent out annual proposal letters in December to the 888 arts orgs it funds, informing 194 of them they would receive a partial or total loss of funding. Appeals were mounted by 126 of the impacted companies.

On Friday, following the five-week appeals submission period and two weeks of deliberation, Arts Council England announced that 17 of the threatened organizations have won their appeals. These range from the Bush to the regional Northcott Theater; the historic Bristol Old Vic; the Orange Tree, which regularly disinters lost classics; the prestigious National Student Drama Festival; and the internationally regarded Birmingham Opera Company.

Arts Council Chair Christopher Frayling denied that this amounted to a climbdown and stressed that the council had not been swayed by “the decibel count” of highly visible press campaigns mounted by the Bush and other threatened venues.

“This is a radical plan — as the controversy of recent weeks has shown,” said Frayling, “But one I firmly believe will help to make the arts in England even stronger.”

A total of 185 orgs will not have their funding renewed and 27 will have reduced funding. Those that look set to close as a result include the Drill Hall (London’s premier venue for lesbian and gay performance), touring company Compass Theater and regional theater Derby Playhouse.

On the plus side, 753 (76%) of orgs regularly funded by the Arts Council have received increases in their funding in line with, or above, inflation, while 81 new orgs have been added to the portfolio. A total of £1.3 billion ($2.56 billion) will be invested in the arts between 2008 and 2011.

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