Monday, April 30, 2007

The First Cut

Talk about coming down with a bump. I got back to England, fired up from my travels, the excitement of Nixon, of all I learnt in Greece, of the seeds planted in Hong Kong - and there was a letter from the Arts Council saying that they'd turned down our application to fund the development workshop for Re-Orientations. I make the dutiful phone call to check why - and get the response I pretty much expected. There's nothing wrong with the project or the application (though if other people were putting money in, they would be more likely to!!) - it's just that they have far less money to go round.

So - the cut has already bitten. In some ways, I'm not very surprised that it should hit us here; and I remain hopeful that they will fund Dilemma later in the year. But the development workshop would have been a closed, private period of experiment and exploration. No visible "outcomes", no boxes they can easily tick. Not many "art experiences" to put on record. Given that the Arts Council is under attack from both government and artists at the moment, it needs to APPEAR to be as active as it can, which means that work of this kind, which is not immediately visible, and has long-term rather than immediate results, will be the first to feel the pinch. Sadly, this also means that the development of really exciting, cutting-edge work, which needs this sort of time and space, will be cut short. And we'll end up with yet more of that blanding out which characterises our times.

The Arts Council has very kindly linked its website to this blog, and clearly likes to encourage the sort of discussions which are going on here - as much as anything because I'm certainly saying they should not have taken the cut they did. However, the internal decisions they are making are as disastrous as the ones imposed by the DCMS. If Grants for the Arts is so important to them, why do they fund it solely from the Lottery, which is subject to fluctuation, and was (remember this?) only ever intended to be a "top-up"? Why not spread the Lottery money AND the core funding through the Council, so that all sectors of the Arts economy are hit by Lottery fluctuations equally? OR - why not just redistribute a few funds internally, like cutting one huge gas-guzzling company, which could offset the entire cut to the small to middle-scale sector? Well - we know why, of course. Because a ritual sacrifice like that would cause such a big outcry - and they don't have the courage to take that on. So, instead, the entire experimental side of the arts world is subjected to the death of a thousand cuts. It will not do. Without experiment and vision, there is no inheritance.

And we need to find another way to make Re-Orientations happen. Which we will.

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