When viewed in the wider context, the recent cut in funding for Arts Council England (ACE) can only be seen positively. With public spending cuts affecting all services, including the NHS, and resources being stretched further than previously thought possible, the 14.9 per cent cut in the Art Council’s aid budget is a good start, and we should be encouraging further cuts.
Firstly, for any arts organisation to rely completely upon ACE funding is absurd. These organisations need to be financially viable in order to survive, just as with any other business. Would any entrepreneur worth his salt invest money in a business that has made a continual loss for several years running, with no sign of change? No, it simply wouldn’t happen, and this new lack of funding should force organisations to think economically about their accounts and investigate ways of procuring new income.
My own local theatre, the Derby Playhouse, repeatedly suffered funding cuts and faced closure in 2008, amid much protestation. It seemed a dark day for the arts, but the building was not abandoned. Derby University signed a 99 year lease, and began work converting backstage areas into classrooms and offices. The University then reopened the theatre, using these spaces for teaching, administration, conferences and other external events, still offering “a platform for local talent.”
Derby Theatre, as it has now been rebranded, is an example of a theatre that suffered cuts and closure before finding profitability under new management. These funding cuts are nothing new, and as is proven here, it is completely feasible to turn a dire situation around.
Widespread concern has also been raised around “grassroots” organisations, which many argue would not exist without financial support from ACE. However, these are often the most uneconomical and least successful organisations funded by ACE. By funding these organisations, we are often rewarding failure, as inexperienced productions suffer critical reviews and yield huge losses. Money invested here could easily be used to greater effect elsewhere, not only in the art world, but also externally. Again, we must look to cutbacks in the NHS and similar essential areas, and in a time of widespread cuts, this lavish spending on grassroots organisations is simply wasteful.
It is important to realise that cutting this funding will not result in a cultural drought that, at first, seems inevitable with cut funding. Through economical spending, heightened ticket sales, better use of resources, and external funding from philanthropists; it is reasonable that many organisations will weather the cuts and prosper as a result. Furthermore, the money saved through cuts can be used to greater effect elsewhere, as arts organisations learn to run independently, rather than leaning too heavily upon ACE funding when it is not justifiably available.