Arts Council cuts legit funding

National, RSC, Royal Opera House lose coin

The National Theater, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the Royal Opera House will all see their funding cut by 15% (including inflation) in the next four years in a swathe of cuts announced by Arts Council England (A.C.E.).

A.C.E., the funding body that disburses the U.K. government’s arts coin on behalf of the Dept. of Culture, Media and Sport, had been forced to implement a 29.6% cut over four years. Funding at London’s Institute for Contemporary Arts has been cut by 42%, legit house the Almeida by 39%, while touring company Shared Experience and London’s Riverside Studios have been axed entirely.

Following 1,333 submissions from orgs large and small across all art forms, A.C.E. awarded funding to 695 to create its new National Portfolio with £950 million ($1.5 billion) in funding from 2012-15. The portfolio sees 110 new clients and 206 existing clients losing out altogether.

“This is about a resilient future for the arts in England,” said A.C.E. chair Liz Forgan. “We have taken the brave path of strategic choices, not salami slicing, which has meant some painful decisions, and it is with great regret that we have had to cease funding some good organizations.”

Reducing grants to large-scale operations like the National — which will receive $28 million in 2012, down from $29.4 million in 2011 — has allowed for an increase to regional theater funding by 1.1% in cash terms. New writing investment is up by 2.9%, with several orgs including the Royal Court and Paines Plough receiving increases.

A total of 110 new orgs have been brought into the portfolio. Twenty legit companies, including the all-male Shakespeare touring outfit Propellor and regional producing company the Tobacco Factory, are being funded for the first time.

A.C.E. is receiving an additional lottery income boost from $239 million in 2010-11 to $358 million in 2014-15, but restrictions on how it can be allocated mean that it cannot be used as core funding for these regularly funded orgs.

The losers in the equation, including the U.K.’s orchestras, who have shared a 2.3% cash cut, are bullish, as evidenced by a statement from the Almeida: “Whilst the Arts Council cut to our funding equates to 20% in cash terms over four years or less than 10% of revenue, there will be no cuts to our innovative artistic policy or to our ambitions. In the coming years we will take our work to more people than ever before.”

Senior industry figures expressed more resignation than open hostility over the decisions, with the level of dissatisfaction voiced most clearly by National Theater a.d. Nicholas Hytner.

“The National Theater has no argument with the Arts Council,” he said. “We recognize the pressing need to support organizations less well-funded than we are, so a 15% cut in real terms over four years seems to us like a sensible decision in the circumstances. It is impossible not to lament the damage the Arts Council has been forced by the government to inflict. A few days after the coalition came to power, (culture minister) Jeremy Hunt addressed a gathering of arts leaders at the Roundhouse and promised us he intended to preside over a golden age for the arts. Dream on.”