Arts funding could be cut by a third
PLANS to cut funding for prestige arts venues across Birmingham will damage the city’s world class reputation for cultural excellence, leading arts figures have warned.
The city council’s budget proposal is to slash funding for the arts by a third – the equivalent of £1 million a year for four years.
Symphony Hall, the Royal Ballet, the Rep, the Midlands Art Centre (MAC) and the city’s celebrated symphony orchestra, the CBSO, are among those in the firing line.
The proposal has triggered fears of higher ticket prices, reduced outreach and community work – and could even sound the death knell for the most financially fragile organisations.
Julian Lloyd Webber, principal of Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, blasted the city council’s ‘short-sightedness’.
“I have just returned from China where I was repeatedly reminded of Birmingham’s reputation for its fantastic cultural offering, through the likes of the CBSO and Symphony Hall,” he said.
“In the lead-up to the Commonwealth Games it seems incredibly short-sighted to be targeting the city’s arts and culture. We are renowned across the world for the quality of our institutions. It’s extremely hard to build a reputation like this and it can be lost very quickly.”
It’s the third consecutive year of major cuts to the city’s arts budget. Organisations directly impacted also include Town Hall, Ex Cathedra, The Ikon Gallery, Birmingham Opera Company, Dance Xchange and Sampad.
Community programmes focusing on promoting arts in areas of high deprivation and among black and minority groups are also facing 33 per cent cuts.
Conservative councillor Ewan Mackey criticised the plans, adding there was a “real sense of betrayal” in the city’s arts sector because the last round of funding cuts had been agreed amid a pledge not to make further cuts for two years.
He said: “If Labour do push ahead with this proposal, there is no doubt in my mind that we will see organisations going bust whilst much of the outreach work that the larger organisations do will be decimated.”
Terry Grimley, who was arts editor at the Birmingham Post from 1979 to 2009, said: “It would be a real tragedy if all the hard work that raised the city up to its current world class status was to be destroyed.”
Conservative councillor Alex Yip (Sutton Wylde Green), a CBSO trustee, said: “The CBSO and the arts are so important to our city, playing a critical role in stimulating creativity, learning and wonder.
“We are working closely with the council in the budget consultation, urging them not to make further short-sighted reductions.”