Friday, 28 September 2007

The lunatics are taking over the asylum

Two emails in my in-box yesterday (actually there were hundreds, most of which were trying to give me loans, a bigger cock or dodgy medications) that set my brain on fire. First was the announcement by Arts Council England that Alan Davey is to be their new CEO. That's Alan Davey the Director of Culture at the Department of Culture, Media and Sport - yup, he's the man at the ministry. So, the arm's length principle has finally been tossed out of the window. The arts can relax now they know that all decisions are being handed down directly from Labour Party central. And why is that so hellishly worrying, principles of independent decision-making aside? It's partly explained by the tenor of the second email.
More than a year ago I ranted about the Olympics stealing money from more important parts of publicly funded life. And yes, I know folks dismiss petitions as pointless, but I eagerly signed the one asking the Prime Minister to stop the Chancellor (then Gordon Brown) from using lottery money to fund the Olympics in 2012. My second email announced that the petition had finally received a response: It says, feebly, that "The Government is determined to ensure that the temporary diversion of funding from the existing good causes to the Olympic good cause is done with the least possible disruption."
If I may be so blunt, this is bollocks. The source of funding for most arts organisations, Grants For the Arts, administered by the Arts Council has already been cut by over a third and try telling artists and their audiences and workshop participants that this is causing "the least possible disruption".
Mandarin Alan Davey (that's him in the photo) will be in no position whatsoever to claw back what his masters have ravaged from the arts pot. He may understand better than anyone how things work within the political machinery but he can never champion the arts sector in shaming the government to change their tune. He has been put in place to ensure the ranting stops at his door. However, being realistic, I suspect that he is simply the final nail in the Arts Council coffin and his real job is to dismantle it or at least disarm it. Not that it has shown much ability to fight in recent times, what with the outgoing CEO saying back in June that it was not an appropriate time to appear hostile to the government. At the time this comment threw me sideways - if the government is deliberately hurting the sector you represent, it is always appropriate to speak your mind, and vigorously. Perhaps he killed the concept of the Arts Council stone dead at that moment. Jennie Lee, the First Minister for Arts will be turning and twisting in her grave. And I suspect that most Arts Council staff will be feeling equally uncomfortable.

6 comments:

Winchester whisperer said...

It is so wrong that Lottery money should be diverted to the Olympics just because the Government failed to take VAT into account in its budget forecast.

Peter D Cox said...

It'll be interesting to see how the situation works out with the 'devolved' countries. Scotland and Wales at least are still fighting - and mostly winning - the arms length principle. And the ultimate effect of raiding the Lottery funds for the Olympics will ensure that little or no local discretionary funding goes to sport (which stills needs it of course) if it can go to the arts to 'make up for' the British Government's theft.

mountainear said...

I fully sympathise with anyone in the arts arena anticipating loss of funding due to monies being sidelined in favour of the Olympics.

Our little village - bless 'em - have applied for Lottery funding for a new village hall (this is the focal point of a rural community's activity)and are over-the-moon to be in the last 542 applications to be considered to go forward to the next stage. What?!?!? How sad is that? And billions and billions are being thrown at an event which in reality touch few of our lives. Such a small proportion of that sum would make such a difference to OUR lives here in rural forgotten Shropshire.

There are so many projects nationwide, and these probably include sports as well as the Arts, which could benefit from a bit of joined-up-funding distribution.

Sorry, will take my incoherant rant elsewhere....

Mopsa said...

My rant seems to have found agreement. My sitemeter also tells me that three Arts Council bods have looked (and remained at some length) at this post. They have my sympathy; what a hellish situation to be in to have to placate unplacatable artists and arts organisations whilst your principles are mangled in the Jowellesque nightmare.

Cptn said...

It's interesting that this appointment preceded the funding cull of the regularly funded institutions - the newly revitilised Northcott among them. One aspect the Arts Council mentioned at the time of the announcement, just before Christmas, was the pursuit of excellence (difficult for a venue that was closed). Now we hear that the culture secretary James Purnell is banging the same drum. So will the obvious slick pr management make up for the hauty bad management within the Arts Council

Mopsa said...

Cptn - yes, I was reading the same thing in the Guardian today... I suspect the shit will be hitting the fan most volubly come Monday when everyone in the sector is back at work and in full fury at ACE.