As far as the performing arts are concerned, there’s nothing really controversial about the cuts, or indeed the increases. What remains at issue is the value—in both political and “real” terms—of making the cuts at all. It’s almost too wearisome to point out that the arts make money for this country, or that television and the film industry leech off their creativity, or that life is not worth living without them.
I’m no economist, but the amounts of money are so small, so piffling, that the cuts Arts Council England have been compelled to make look merely vindictive. But these are brave decisions, and evidence that the Arts Council has studied the form and tuned into the zeitgeist, and avoided blundering into uninformed no-mans-land, which is what happened with the last round of cuts three years ago. So I guess it’s two and a half cheers for Dame Liz Forgan, the ACE chairman, and her chief executive, Alan Davey, for discharging a difficult task with tact and discretion.
That said, I’m slightly shocked by the mortal attacks on Dance Umbrella and the Almeida Theatre in Islington, and the obliteration of the lively touring company, Shared Experience, even if the latter’s function might have been superseded by Rupert Goold’s Headlong, which remains on the across-the-board funding “standstill” (factoring in inflation, a 2.3 per cent cut, which, over three years, is 11 per cent in real terms). Other invaluable enterprises receiving a similar cut are the Bush, Donmar Warehouse, Kneehigh, the Tricycle in Kilburn, the Royal Exchange in Manchester and the Warwick Arts Centre.