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Arts funding Q&A: winners and losers

30 March 11 17:19
Dame Liz Forgan. Copyright: Debra Hurford Brown

Arts Council England (ACE) has announced which organisations will benefit from its funding system which begins next year.

About 1,300 venues, theatres, galleries and arts groups had applied for grants from the council.

Some 695 groups will get funding - down from 849 - while 110 new groups have been successful.

But how were those decisions reached, and who were the winners and losers?

What is the new funding system?

The new "portfolio" system replaces the Regularly Funded Organisations (RFO) system, which provide s funding to 850 arts organisations across the country.

How many organisations applied and how many were successful?

1,333 organisations applied to be part of the new portfolio, and 695 organisations were successful. There were 638 unsuccessful applications.

When does the funding begin?

The new system will come into effect from April 2012 until 2015 although a small number of organisations have been offered a longer funding period. ACE says this is "in response to their particular applications and to test the potential of a more flexible funding approach."

Who are the new organisations to receive funding?

There are 110 new groups on the list.

Manchester International Festival tops the list of new additions with £500,000 followed by the National Skills Academy, with £400,000. The London-based Opera Group will receive over £1m between 2012 and 2015, while festival and event organiser Kendal Arts International will benefit to the tune of £290,000 a year.

There is first time funding for 20 new theatre organisations including Bristol's The Tobacco Factory, and 12 touring companies including Red Earth and Open Clasp.

How did the ACE make its decisions?

The ACE says it made decisions based on the "ambitions and aspirations" spelt out in the applications - and on a 10-year strategy framework published last year entitled Achieving Great Art For Everyone.

Why didn't everyone take the same level of cuts?

The Arts Council said it did not want "equal cuts for all", but took a strategic approach.

ACE Chairman Dame Liz Forgan: "Imposing equal cuts for all would have indeed have enabled us to fund more applications. Instead some organisations will receive more, some less, and some no funding at all."

ACE chief executive Alan Davey: "It's not about punishment or reward - it's about the right amount of money that we think will support what that organisation wants to do."

Who were among the big winners?

London's Arcola Theatre, housed in a converted factory in Hackney, had a funding increase of 82%.

"Immersive" theatre company Punchdrunk received an increase of 141% and South London Gallery in Camberwell saw its annual grant of £346,752 in 2011/12 more than double to £846,752 in 2014/15.-+

The Britten Sinfonia orchestra saw its annual grant increase to £416,649 up from its previous award of £316,485.

Who had their funding cut?

Major arts organisations like the Royal Shakespeare Company, Royal Opera House, and National Theatre were hit with reductions of around 15%. The English National Opera (ENO) had a smaller reduction of 11% owing to its "artistic ambition" and a business model "still in development".

The Almeida Theatre in north London saw a cut over three years of 39%.

The Institute of Contemporary Arts (ICA) currently receives £1.4m. By 2014/15 that annual grant will be reduced to £900,000 - a reduction of 42%. An ICA spokeswoman said it was pleased ACE had offered its "continuing support".

Derby Theatre asked for an annual grant of £726,000 for the next three years but was refused.

Among others who lost their funding completely were Hammersmith's Riverside Studios and Exeter's Northcott Theatre. A Northcott Theatre spokesman said "difficult decisions may need to be made" but stressed that the theatre remained "very much open for business".

What about criticism from a committee of MPs that decisions were made too quickly?

The Arts Council says it was important to give arts organisations a full year's notice before new arrangements began.

Dame Liz Forgan: "We went as fast as possible but no faster. This process has been the main focus of the arts council for two months... I'm absolutely confident that all applications were given the time and consideration they deserved. It's been an extremely thorough process."

What next happens next for those who lost out?

The Arts Council says organisations have a year to put new plans in place and it will "help in any way we can".

But Dame Liz warned: "We've put in this portfolio how we are going to spend all our money and there isn't any more. There are no back pockets and no slush funds."

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