News: Sustaining the arts

Friday 24 April 2009

Arts Council England has announced several new measures to help maintain artistic excellence during the economic downturn. It has found an extra £44.5 million by radically reducing its Lottery cash balances over the next two years.

The new initiatives include Sustain – a new £40 million open application fund for arts organisations suffering as a result of the recession. Grants from £75,000 to £3 million will be awarded and the programme will run initially for two years, from 2009. ACE intend it to be a rapid response fund, with a maximum turn around of six weeks from application. Any arts organisation can apply but priority will be given to those who are seen as vital to the Arts Council achieving its mission of Great art for everyone.

Announcing the new schemes today ACE Chair Dame Liz Forgan said: “The Arts Council has three overarching aims as we plan for the coming years: Great art for everyone will be our mission in life. We will continue to support innovation and creative courage. And we will focus on recovery. Of course we understand that the national debt has to be tackled, but a few million off the arts budget is going to make no appreciable difference to that task. On the other hand it could undermine years of creative and financial investment. The Arts Council will do all it can to keep that investment in place. We cannot protect artists from the realities of recession, but we can be as imaginative, open and useful as possible in our efforts to get us all through this with minimal damage to the creative life of this country.”

ACE has also set aside £500,000 to support the Town Centres Initiative announced by Hazel Blears, Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government and Andy Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture earlier this month. Hundreds of artists across the country are already helping to reinvigorate town centres by taking over empty shops for creative activities and it is hoped this new fund, which will award grants of £1,000 to £10,000 will enable many more to do so.

The Grants for the Arts budget will be increased from £52 to £54million in 2009/10 and will rise again in 2010/11 to £56million. These additional funds will be available to individuals and organisations not qualifying for a Sustain grant, as well as to anyone applying to Grants for the arts in the normal way.

Although there was no specific mention of Culture in Wednesdays budget, it became clear that that the Arts Council will lose £4million for 2010/11, as part of the cuts to the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. ACE responded by saying that they will not cut grants to Regularly Funded Organisations, but would have to reconsider existing and planned new projects and look to find savings.

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“If there’s one thing that enrages me it’s the idea that the arts are a luxury,” she said. “The word summons up the vision of people swathed in mink getting out of Rolls-Royces. The reality of the arts is that it’s devoted people living on fourpence ha’penny who passionately love what they do.”
Read more of Liz Forgan’s interview in the Times, 25 Apr 09

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