Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Mr Peter Hewitt
Arts Council England
2 Pear Tree Court

Dear Mr Hewitt,

I'm writing to express my dismay at the recently announced 35% cut to the Grants for the Arts scheme, and to voice my concern about the future of arts funding in the face of the spiralling costs of the Olympics. As a young professional playwright working exclusively in the subsidised sector, I am becoming increasingly concerned by the situation.

Despite government assurances that there shall be “no more boom and bust” in arts funding, the recent announcement that £675m of lottery funding will be diverted from the arts to the Olympics belies these promises.

The cut to the Grants for the Arts scheme (of which I have been a beneficiary twice in the past year) will hit new and emerging artists such as myself the hardest, and is likely to have a disproportionate impact on small scale, regional and touring theatre companies (particularly those with a community or minority ethnic slant), whilst the big institutions such as the various opera houses will of course be protected.

I am also very concerned at the level of advocacy for our cause in which your organisation is engaging. It seems from the outside that you are worryingly quiet in the face of these measures. We are relying on you Mr Hewitt, to make our case to government, and so far I am not satisfied that you are shouting loudly enough. Why were the G4A cuts announced so quietly and at such short notice? Why isn’t there any mention of this or the larger cuts that are coming on the Arts Debate section of your website? Why aren’t you making high profile statements in support of the arts to national broadsheets?

I worked extremely hard over many years, and had many rejections before I got where I am today. Much of my success is down to the G4A scheme and other funding pots such as the John Whiting Award for New Theatre Writing, of which I was the surprise winner last year. That award single-handedly revived my career, yet only a year later when I was asked to present this year’s winners with their cheques, the award was under threat. I made an impassioned speech urging the industry to save it, and as a direct result of that a consortium of theatres stepped forward to take on the funding and administration of the prize. So speeches can make a difference! But it shouldn’t be up to individual artists and theatre companies to have to rescue themselves in this way when we have a lavishly funded advocacy organisation in our midst.

So I urge you to please start fighting our corner. The Olympics will come and go, but British art and artists are the family jewels. Are you really going to sit back and let the government auction off our professional futures for the sake of a one-off sports festival which many of us didn’t choose?

Yours sincerely,

Fin Kennedy

CC. Tessa Jowell MP, David Lammy MP, Nick Raynsford MP


Jon said...

Good letter.

Jo Saucek (Online Editor arts debate) said...

Hi Fin,

Over at the arts debate we're very much aware that we ought to be using it as a platform to speak up for the arts. If you haven't already, please make a comment on the debate board so that we can feed it into our research and report.

We'll be featuring articles on the arts debate until the end of the consultation that speak up for the value of the arts. We have got Marcus Davey of The Roundhouse, Ed Vaizey, Shadow Culture Minister, Phelim McDermott from Improbable Theatre and many more writing pieces on why they value the arts.

Look forward to seeing you the arts debate blog.

Jo Saucek (Online Editor - arts debate)

Anonymous said...

the family jewels?

the dog's bollock's, surely?

Sal said...

Top class letter, Fin. Didn't know you were a blogger otherwise I might have said hello in Sheffield. Stumbled upon you, enjoyed catching up. And I loved your play, really wish I'd been able to see it twice.