ACE what do we do about it?

Convener(s): Nick Sweeting

Participants: James Stenhouse, Richard Couldrey, Ric Watts, Josh Neicho, Jo Crowley, Jade Gany, Grainne Byrne, Lyn Gardner, Ellie Beechham, Angela McSherry, Dee Evans, Rob (couldn’t read your surname – please add), Jonathan Holloway, Sara Perks, M Samuel, Pip Nash, Tassos Stevens, Andy Field, Chloe Deichery, Sebastian Warrick, Frank Bock, Morven Macbeth, Vo Stendall, Emma Stenning, Jon Spooner, Sophie Woolley, Jonathan Petherbridge.

Nick opened with summary of recent cuts and expressed shock at lack of ACE communication and transparency and questioned foundations of support for ACE if it didn’t open out to the industry.  Interested in process to suggest a better model. 

Notes from ensuing discussion:

ACE not accountable – only such organization and could only happen in the arts.

ACE originally set up to represent artists and ACE and artists were on the same side.  Decisions now politicized with input from government with worrying implications.  

ACE should distribute funding from arms length principle separate from govt influence. Increased involvement from DCMS. 

Relationship with local officers varies from region to region and officer to officer.  ACE should look at dissemination of best practice across all regions to improve confidence in ACE officers.  Biggest gulf ever between ACE and practitioners. 

Most people won’t stand up to ACE because they are scared of loosing their funding.  Current round shows that they might as well as doesn’t seem to have helped.

ACE should be clear about it’s role and less dependent on individual taste or the knowledge of particular officers. 

NS believes that ACE should exist, but without change and support from arts community and with interference from DCMS it could disappear with the next government.  

People who have received funding uplifts this time are keeping their heads down.  Should stand shoulder to shoulder with cut orgs as could be them next time.  Should speak out.  In the past there have been bigger protests, with people willing to stick their necks out.  If e.g. Nick Hytner, Peter Hall etc and all of us made a proper campaign it would make the papers and have an effect.  We shouldn’t passively accept these methods of financial control as nothing will change if we don’t make a fuss. 

Companies in latest round have to apply for the evidence used to judge their financial futures – not offered or included in letter informing them of funding decision. Unfair particularly to small organizations. 

Emma Stenning said there had been 2 grounds for these decisions – some companies had been involved in long term discussions about

ACE concerns about them.

Some are involved in a prioritizing of funding.  If new companies need to be funded they may be prioritized over an existing company to make funds available.  Normally ACE would make these changes over 12 months but this was not possible this time because of delay in spending review. 

Parent/Child or equal adults – sometimes child (the company) can know more than the parent(ACE) because of years of practicing experience.


For funding decisions should there be panels including peers and audience members?

- Peer review as in scientific fields?  Would that lead to preservation of status quo. 

- Audience review such as a type of jury service.

Do we believe ACE should be a partnership with practitioners.  What form would such a partnership take?

- Felt peers review is crucial but artists who get public money have to take responsibility for giving something back to the artistic community as well as produce work e.g. mentor, have to see other work, be self critical, look at other organizations as below.

- Should be shadowing or secondment system for practitioners and ACE employees to go into each other’s organizations and learn about them.

- Future funding decisions should come from a combination of peer scrutiny, officer recommendation, transparency of process and time to review decision – then ACE facilitates decision.

- Should practitioners be involved in interviews for ACE officers? ACE regarded as bureaucrats making decisions about us.

- Should there be a ‘shadow’ arts council to be conduit between artists and ACE?

- Should new members of ACE board be from artistic community?

- ACE should give more credence to advice from regional arts organizations.

- A big group of people should come up with their own ideas of how a future ACE would work.  Then we could see how much common ground there is and put that forward as concrete ideas, so would be a concensus.  Could be done as a meeting, in writing – whatever.


Should be letters.

Short term about this particular crisis

Agree ACE can withdraw funding but organizations should have long enough to appeal, and there should be transparency about the process and decision making.

Suggestion that current round of cuts be recinded while a transparent process is implemented properly.

Long term

Letter for long term vision of how we would like ACE to be.  Should go as soon as new CE of ACE arrives.  Someone needs to take responsibility for finding widest concensus for this.

Lyn asked Emma – ‘does the potential collapse of this funding round mean new clients won’t get funded’

Emma – yes

Lyn – Would this mean the end of ACE

Emma - ?

Emma would welcome response and feedback after the heat of the moment has passed.  ACE would have liked to announce all changes including potential new clients but were told they legally could not.

NB  Meeting Weds 9th Jan at Young Vic at 11am with Peter Hewitt about cuts. Organised by Equity. Contact [email protected]