How Screwed Are We? Please Can Someone Come And Explain The Funding Cuts? 

Convener(s): Sarah 

Participants: Imogen, Nell. Anne, Jo, Eleanor and others

Summary of discussion, conclusions and/or recommendations:

We wanted to know what was actually going on with the cuts, who would be affected and how, and what we could do to help ourselves. It’s a thing everyone’s upset about, but not everyone knows the facts.

Luckily, two people (Eleanor and an AC person whose name I didn’t catch) came who really knew what was happening and others who had a clear idea of the knock-on effects. Here are the facts as I understand them; those who provided the information should probably check I haven’t got it wrong somewhere!..

The government has cut 30% of the arts council budget. This predominantly affects the Regularly Funded Organisations – which are a larger groups or venues that get regular money (previously at least £30 grand a year).

All RFO’s now have to re-apply to the AC to justify their funding. The minimum funding has gone up to £40 grand. The application process was opened up for groups who wanted to become RFO’s.

The AC received about 1400 applications and can afford to fund about 700. 

The effects will be:

Smaller groups who could justify £30 grand might struggle to justify £40, so will lose all their AC funding.

Losing venues that support smaller groups/artists would cause a domino effect, as those smaller groups would lose space and support (for example, think what would happen if the BAC disappeared?).

Very large or dominant venues will have to be more thoughtful about how they spend the money they get. They cannot rest on their laurels and expect to be funded forever.

Funding for Individuals , ie, Grants for the Arts, will not be directly affected by the 30% cuts. GfA will continue as before, but there were already far more applicants than money. However, post Olympics, all the lottery money being spent on that should come back to the GfA pot, so if you can hang on til then, things should hopefully get better.

Also, there are a couple of government schemes in the mythical pipeline. One is a plan to reform how the lottery revenue is taxed. This could theoretically free up about £50 million that would go into the arts pot.

Another is a match funding scheme. This seems a bit complicated. Something like £80 million could be found if the AC can find £50 million. The AC prefer to push more towards encouraging philanthropy than take this route.

The AC has just published a list of 5 new priorities, and will send you a copy of the explanation if you ask them to.

The AC itself has to cut its own spending by 50%, so everything’s going to keep changing for a while anyway.

Local Authorities have had their budgets slashed, and since other things like education and health are Statutory funding areas, the arts will be the first areas affected by this. Again, this is more likely to affect venues or large organizations than individual artists that can’t get LA funding anyway.

Someone brought up the case of a local (200 seat?) theatre that rarely sells more than 15 -20 tickets for a show and clearly isn’t serving the community or valued by that community. Is it really fair that the Local Authority should have to keep bailing it out?

On a positive front, the cuts are an opportunity to clarify your aims, be more imaginative, find other sources of funding that may be more fun or easier to get hold of than AC funding.

If you’re an individual or GfA applicant, there was never any money anyway, so you already know you can survive on peanuts.

The AC representative said the AC is less about the social/community element than it used to be and more about funding good arts projects. They’d rather have a clear, honest and exciting proposal than one with community workshops crow-barred in for no reason other than box-ticking.

Someone else talked about We Fund, an online funding resource where you can pitch you idea to individual givers.

We also discussed who has to adapt to whom. Should we bend our projects to get the funding or present projects and expect the funding criteria to bend to us?