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East London reacts to news of more Arts Council cuts

Inside the Hackney Empire. Pic: Hackney Empire

East London arts organisations have reacted to the Arts Council’s announcement that £11.6 million of cuts will be implemented nationally over the next two years.

Alan Davey, chief executive of Arts Council England, said on Monday that allocating the cuts will be “extremely challenging”, particularly in light of simultaneous local authority cuts to organisations.

The details of how cuts will be implemented are yet to be decided.

Poster for the ‘Sweet Smell of Success’. Pic: Arcola Theatre

Ben Todd, executive director of Arcola Theatre in Dalston, said they “recognise it is tough times” to fundraise in the face of austerity measures.

“There is no point making loads of money if you end up doing things that you weren’t planning to do or becoming something that you didn’t want to be.”

The Arcola, which received an 82 per cent boost in government funding last year, still generates the majority of its revenue through earnings.

The theatre gets 25 per cent of its income from the Arts Council but does not receive funding from Hackney Council, despite being considered “a very important partner” by the authority.

Circus Arts degree students at Circus Space. Pic: Bertil Nilsson

Hackney-based Circus Space is a charity, performance centre and circus education provider which became a National Portfolio organisation last year. Now the centre is unsure of its financial future despite promises of a three-year funding plan from the Arts Council.

Jane Rice-Bowen, joint-chief executive of Circus Space, said: “We always knew that we were in difficult times and that we would have to cut our coat according to the cloth that was available to us.”

Referring to Monday’s announcement from the Department for Culture Media and Sport, Rice-Bowen said: “It’s not wholly unexpected. You only need to switch on the news, read the newspapers, or be out there on a high street to know that we’re not in a period of boom any longer.

“We are just mindful of what is going on out there and we’ve been bracing ourselves for it. We have not let our guard down.

“Inevitably, if there are going to be more austerity measures, they are going to be visited upon us. As an arts organisation, you have to try and plan and you need to know what the funding is that you’re working with.”

Circus Space faced difficulty in 2010 when it had to make several redundancies in response to diminishing budgets. Rice-Bowen said: “Since then we have been a leaner and hopefully more efficient organisation.”

Nearly half of Circus Space’s funding comes from the Arts Council and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. For the remaining income, the centre employs a social enterprise model by earning money where it can in order to achieve its charitable objective.

The Hackney Empire. Pic: Hackney Empire

Hackney Empire was one of the arts venues not negatively impacted by 2011’s arts budget cuts and receives less than 20 per cent of its turnover from public funding. The centre generates approximately £2.3 million from box office, hires, fundraising and other income sources.

Clarie Middleton, chief executive of Hackney Empire Ltd, said: “Last year’s budget cuts did not really directly affect us – although it is impossible to say how much they affected the ability of other organisations to produce quality work that could otherwise have come to us.”

 

‘Reasons to be Cheerful’ at Graeae Theatre. Pic: Patrick Baldwin

Jenny Sealey, artistic director for the Graeae Theatre company in Hackney, said: “Should the cuts continue, there will be a significant impact on Graeae’s ability to continue as the country’s flagship disabled-led theatre company.

“It is vital that our work carries on with even more drive and determination as there is a real danger, in light of possible cuts to benefits and the arts, that Deaf and disabled artists and audiences will once again be relegated to the sidelines and forgotten.

Maria Miller, Culture Secretary, said in a blog on Monday: “We hope that by passing these cuts on in as swift a fashion as possible, we are able to maximise the time our sectors have to prepare for the tough decisions they will face in making the savings.”

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