Rough Diamond – personal thoughts on todays funding decisions

On a day where over 200 arts groups have had all their funding withdrawn it was always going to be a day of mixed emotions.

I was personally delighted to see Phoenix Square – a body I helped bring to life – welcomed into the inner sanctum of the National Portfolio and as a former board member to see SPARK (@sparkartsfest) – the childrens arts festival in Leicester – receive an 18% uplift. Very pleased too to see key Colchester organisations – the Arts Centre (@colchesterarts), First Sight (@firstsite) and the Mercury (@mercurytheatre) – continue to receive support

But I also was in the room when a ‘our funding has been completely cut’ announcement was made. The gasp, intake of breath and silence that followed that announcement must have been replicated up and down the country. There will have been many great creative people who felt punched in the stomach this morning throughout England.

I guess you could say its been a momentous day – but with the dust settling it seems important we keep that momentum going by turning it into a positive energy. Finding new ways to collaborate and stick together has been a theme on twitter and blogs throughout the day – (see for example forest fringe blog)

But there is also the sense that for many organisations this is an opportunity to rip up the business plan and the old way of doing things and find new ways or working and of delivering to audiences new and old. It’s a once in a life time opportunity to dare to be different

I was struck by Stephen Hytner’s (National Theatre) summing up of the situation (quoted in the Stage supplement, see here )

“It is impossible not to lament the damage the arts council has been forced by the government to inflict. A few days after the coalition came to power, Jeremy Hunt addressed a gathering of arts leaders at the Roundhouse and promised us he intended to preside over a golden age for the arts. Dream on.”

Damage has certainly been done – but collectively –with new thinking and new ways of doing – it is a chance to ensure its not irreparable damage. And though the golden age may be gone perhaps its time now for the age of the rough diamond.

I’m strangely excited and energised by the thought that we will prosper in spite of ,and not because of our governments sadly short sighted decisions.

Arts Council funding – the decisions
The official line
Charlotte Higgin’s blog
Sam West’s speech at the TUC rally

Sam West speaks at the March for the Alternative from Trades Union Congress on Vimeo.


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