What is the future for arts funding?
After a nervous start by the duo (Alan Davey appeared both shaken and stirred under Labour MP Tom Watson's interrogation regarding the ACE's funding of The Public arts centre in Wolverhampton), they settled down to explain how they were going to fund the arts in this time of cuts.
The question of flogging parts of their art collection to help raise money was brought up. Liz Forgan batted this away as a source for funding arts organisations but agreed to consider selling certain works (de-accessioning) to provide extra money to buy new art.
But the meat of the conversation was about the imminent cuts ACE is going to make to the organisations that it currently funds on a yearly basis, which they call Regularly Funded Organisations, of which there are 840.
They have asked all of them to reapply for their funding, as well as inviting previously unfunded organisations to put in an application. The upshot is a total of 1,340 applications. Given that the intention is to cut their existing portfolio by between 100 and 200 arts companies, this new level of applications is going to make their work much, much harder. It's possible nearly half of the applicants will be disappointed and displeased.
So when they make their announcement in 60 days' time there will vociferous criticism from a lot of disgruntled people. That's to be expected. But what will we end up with? Will tough decisions have been made? And will they, as Labour MP Paul Farrelly MP asked, take the opportunity to re-draw the arts map and spread their largesse more evenly across the country and not have so much of it concentrated in London?