Yesterday was possibly the weirdest day of my working life so far. Given the task of making£118 million in cuts, Arts Council England chose not to make standard 10/15% cuts across their regularly funded organisations, which they felt would have left everyone limping along maimed, but instead create a smaller ‘National Portfolio’ of Arts organisations and companies who would be funded at a minimum of £40 K. This means that 849 previously regularly funded organisations were reduced to 695. Yesterday the decisions on this were released.
It’s almost impossible not to get bogged down in the figures. Which is exactly what I didn’t want to happen here. What does any of it mean? This means in real terms some amazing organisations and companies: Third Angel, The Bluecoat, Lumen, Leeds Met Gallery & Studio Theatre (amongst others, Northern bias, cuz you know) are set to lose all arts council funding. There are other options (grants for the arts) but they make long term planning difficult.
It’s easy to get bogged down in the detail of who got funded, by how much, (because this ‘detail’ is people’s jobs and in that respect it does matter)…but as I saw people start to get drawn into debates on how the arts ‘have it easy’ in comparison to what is happening in the rest of the public sector right now. I felt like holding my head in my hands. Because if we’re going to start ripping ourselves to shreds the people making these cuts (and that is NOT Arts Council England) would like to thank us from the bottom of their heart from saving them a job. Because we’re dead before we even hit the ground.
What is happening is that the public sector across the board, are paying the price for a financial crisis which was not our making. We are not being cut because we are shit at what we do, because we are not valued, because we are failing, because we are fucking ‘wasteful’. You want to brand someone with these terms, try pointing your finger at our financial sector, who took risks, fucked up and got bailed out. No questions asked.
So what I ask you….Right here, right now…. Is what world do you want to live in? Because that’s the question they don’t want you to ask. While we’re fighting over where the axe falls, we’re distracted from why the axe is falling at all. Do you want a government which invests in the physical, cultural, social wellbeing of the society who it serves? Because look at our government and tell me that this is what it’s prioritising.
Don’t get distracted. Because it’s time to fight.
‘There’s never been so much at stake’