U.K. Reconsiders Controversial Arts Budget

News   U.K. Reconsiders Controversial Arts Budget
 
Arts Council England is rethinking its proposed budget cuts and re-appropriations following protests from some of the U.K.'s leading artists and industry professionals.

According to The Independent of London, in late December 194 arts organizations were informed that their funding would be cut so that the Arts Council could redistribute funding to other groups, despite a £50 million increase over three years for the arts. This notification came without warning to many of the nation's innovative fringe companies, who were left with only 18 working days to respond.

Artists including Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey, Joanna Lumley, Nicholas Hytner and Andrew Lloyd Webber, signed petitions and some attended a conference held at the Young Vic to question Peter Hewitt, chief executive of the Arts Council. Ultimately, the united artists passed a vote of no confidence in the council.

Richard Pulford of the Theatrical Management Association commented, "Some organizations have been told they're cut because they're not adventurous; others because they have a risky artistic agenda. There's no coherence. It's astounding."

While 700 organizations would see increases in grants due to inflation, another 211 were informed of substantial budgetary increases, with 80 projects earning first-time grants.

Critics of the redistribution claim the funding would cripple institutions such as the National Student Drama Festival; London Mozart Players, a chamber orchestra; Queer Up North, a Manchester-based gay and lesbian arts festival; and Anjali Dance, a London company for dancers with learning difficulties. Christopher Frayling, the chairman of the Arts Council, now states he will reconsider portions of the funding cuts, following "reasoned argument" from the outspoken members of the arts community. The Independent claims companies such as the Bush Theatre and the Northcott Theatre could be spared cuts in funding.

Members of Arts Council England are expected to meet Jan. 29 to approve a revised distribution of the £417 million budget, which will take effect April 1 and continue through 2011.

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