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chop chop

So, I’m one of the people who isn’t getting their grants for the arts money because of this cut.

It’s possible of course, given the mysterious round-table meetings that characterise the GFA process (“sorry, it was a busy week this time, so regardless of the quality of your application, tough shit”) that I wouldn’t have got it anyway, but let’s, having read the tea-leaves, assume that I was, and fell into the unfortunate 35% abruptly dropped without a parachute.

I can tell you that this has not made me work harder to create something I really care about, as the commentators who bizarrely think our arts were overfunded seem to suggest. In fact it has made me terrified and anxious about a project that previously seemed straightforward to manage. It’s meant that more hours are going into desperate fundraising than into working on making the art istelf. It means all sorts of shabby stalling and timewasting, fobbing off, concealing budgets, making vague promises, crossing fingers, cashflow panics and hoping things will come together. It means the work will suffer, my sleep will suffer, and the people I’m working with will get less out of me. The show will be fine, but there will be a sense of trepidation about its execution that I pray doesn’t communicate all the way down the line to the audience. In this case thankfully the GFA component wasn’t much of the overall budget – but all over the country you can hear the sounds of people who suddenly have no work for the summer. I daresay there will be some good deals going on Edinburgh venues at the last minute.
hand on our balls Lammy and Jowell are popping up here and there telling us that this isn’t core ACE funding – it’s just the lottery top-up, and it wasn’t permanent. Well, Tess, if you were funding it properly there would be no need to top it up out of the lottery, would there? What seems to be clear is that they (or rather their predecessors) have made a balancing act over the last ten years (in contravention of the constant rhetoric that lottery money does not replace tax spend) that has enabled the cultural growth that made some of us (briefly) optimistic and led to some of those nice public buildings that everyone can enjoy all over the country – a genuine legacy only if they’re full of activity. And the current DCMS team have misunderstood how this works, taken the so-called optional bit out, and are latterly realising that that was the brick at the bottom of the pile.

It’s not strictly speaking true to say that the Tate Modern and the Royal Opera House only exist because of my sterling efforts, but the fact remains: you created a (semi)-stable system, and if you are taking it apart, then you need to plan for it and have a think. Not just suddenly whip some of the cash away. This is not really about the Olympics. The Olympics exist and need funding (and are being badly managed). Ditto the regeneration of East London. The Arts exist and need funding and, because they are not monolithic, the badly-managed parts of them fall away in any case. So, let’s chop out some emergent shoots to make room for the car park?

Improve GFA please. It is quite a poor system. But don’t take the money away. And don’t try to avoid the subject of the discussion about arts funding by telling us about other nice things you are spending the money on.
Blogging just to let off steam? you bet.

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Now usually I like to keep out of the real world on the blog but this one is just too much.
I can barely listen to an edition of the world at one without someone coming on and telling me there should be more local government (who is Tony Travers?). Well, the Wandsworth Council here in vibrant, cool, cultural, insightful London have decided that they need to cut their funding to what is as far as I can see their only professional theatre, BAC.

BAC, in case you aren’t up on the development of British theatre companies, is the place where you go if you’re not a playwright – or even if you are a playwright if you’ve come to London and got bored with the Royal Court Young Writer’s programme. Almost every theatre-maker of value has been involved in some way with the work there. We’re not talking about the tourist trade theatre you understand. You can read elsewhere on the web why it’s so good. Here, for example, or here. But seems to be happening is that the councillors of Wandsworth have no idea how good it is, and are acting in an incredibly blinkered, short-termist way.

Every local borough in the world has a few things that they have that are brilliant. It might be a park or a sports facility, or an old building. Wandsworth has a few, but less than most other parts of London if we’re honest. Sometimes (usually) they cost a bit of money but it’s worth it because that’s what that part of the world is about. BAC is a brilliant thing that needs to be kept alive – they should be bigging it up and splashing it across their own publicity, not choking it and stifling it in stages as their current plan seems to be. It looks like they have decided it would be OK if BAC slunk off quietly to die, so they’re cutting off the food and water.

People are saying this is the effect of the Olympics. The idea’s alright – the olympics is supposed to provide a focus for sport in the UK for the next 5 years (plus all that beautiful tourist money). But it’s only two weeks long. Can’t we cancel the Olympics, spend the extra money on community sport, and on making sure every london borough has the basis of arts and sport provision? Wandsworth should be investing in more arts, not less.

But I can’t expect them to succeed on my standards. Wandsworth is a Conservative-majority council who are mainly interested in the appearance of things, and keeping the council tax down. But what’s depressing is that they fail by their own standards: they’re failing to value and preserve the things they have. My (limited) experience of local councillors is that they’re self-important idiots, closed-eared party ideologues, single-issue activists or impotently parochial. This is how they behave.And we want to put them in charge of more services?

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