Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Anxious about the arts...

Anyone else feeling a tad demoralised?

Yesterday, as Arts Council England announced it’s funding settlements for what are now National Portfolio Organisations, was pretty nerve-wracking.  As it turns out the situation was not as dramatic as feared, but hardly encouraging for anyone who cares about the arts in this country.

When fantastic small groups like Urban Strawberry Lunch lose what little funding they did receive from Arts Council England, it puts the cuts to some of my favourite Liverpool arts organisations –for example 4.9% for the Everyman and Playhouse and 11% for FACT (both in real terms over 4 years) – in a rose tinted context.

The official announcements, the tweets of relief and outrage, the newspaper and blog scramble to assess the impact, was utterly overwhelming, especially for someone who isn’t used to thinking about things politically or mathematically. Thankfully, Seven Streets do a very good job of summarising the headline figures for Merseyside organisations.

When Liverpool City Council recently handed out a flat 20% funding cut for all arts organisations, the dialogue was often pushed in the direction that it was a question of either/or…  that it’s education and public services against the arts. If you force even the most ardent artinista to weigh the value of a rape crisis centre against an arts centre, there is absolutely no choice. Yesterday this worrying rhetorical trend continued, with my friend and LIPA lecturer Maria Barrett commenting in a tweet: “'Arts Funding or NHS & education?' premise of #radio2 call in disgusting. Looking forward to 'TV Licence or food?' next week. #artsfunding

I won’t roll out that trite quote from Winston Churchill about arts funding that is doing the rounds, but I will suggest to fuck over the arts is the effectively neuter any city outside of London. This didn’t happen yesterday, but feels like a step towards it. We will be discovering what the decisions announced yesterday really means for the arts in the follow months.

Let’s upgrade demoralised to anxious.

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