Since 1994 funding from a national level has been managed and distributed by Arts Council England. It’s their responsibility to work out where lottery funding should be spent in order to foster new talent in the arts and promote our existing artists.
Sadly, as part of the coalition government’s austerity measures the Arts Council has had its funding quite dramatically slashed. Undoubtedly there will be an effect on the ground in our society as a direct result of these cuts, but there could be much further reaching and longer lasting effects to come in the future.
Photo: Art against cuts banner. Photo courtesy popmisa
Scale of the Cuts
Last summer the Arts Council announced £19.1 million of cuts (comparatively total funding for 2011-2012 is £310.5 million). This affects 880 frontline arts organisations that it regularly gives money to and 206 bodies have had cuts of 100%.
What areas does this affect?
Arts Council England distributes funding for all of the arts, from dance to literature and theatre to festivals. But most affected is the visual arts sector that represents about 25% of those bodies who have received funding cuts.
Many of our nation’s most famous and respected cultural institutions have been affected by these cuts including, for example, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, cut 42.5%, Southbank Centre, which has been cut 15%, the Royal Opera House, 15% and the Royal National Theatre, 14.9%.
Photo: The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA), London – one of the larger bodies to suffer heavy cuts. Photo courtesy of danielabsilva
However, many smaller and local arts groups appear to be taking the brunt of these slashes to funding, for example, a 25.1% cut to Junction Arts in the East Midlands, 10.9% cut from A-N The Artists Information Company, and a massive 60.8% from the Voluntary Arts Network in the North East.
The biggest slice of the cuts came down on London with 49 of the 206 groups receiving 100% cuts but perhaps funding may have been slightly heavily weighted toward cultural institutions in the capital.
How might this affect the future of British arts
We are all personally feeling the pinch at the moment and if you’ve watched the news for even a minute in the past few years you will know that no area of government spending has been totally exempt from these austerity measures. Though, I can’t help but think what damage this scale of cuts may be causing to local communities right now but perhaps more importantly the type of culture in the future society that our children will live in.
The coalition government have frequently talked about the inheritance of debt they received from the previous government, and the inheritance of debt that our children will be saddled with as a result of our generation’s spending. But what about cultural inheritance? Some of my fondest memories as a child are of visiting fantastic museums and galleries but also getting involved myself with some of the local community arts groups – both in music and art, that children growing up now may never have the pleasure and excitement of being part of.
Perhaps the question is what will happen to many of these community arts groups in the coming years. In some cases, some may benefit from charitable donations from individuals or will find funding from corporate investors, but my guess is that this will be an exception rather than the rule. If we feel strongly about the importance of our cultural heritage in Britain and the role it can play in enriching the lives of future generations, then we must look closely both at some of our national landmark institutions and also those small groups working close to home, and either get involved ourselves, donate or buy works of art where possible, or ensure better funding is available in the future.