Arts fund­ing could be cut by a third

Birmingham Post - - NEWS -

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.”

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