Arts Council funding causes concerns despite increased cash


Disability arts organisations were this week coming to terms with decisions made by Arts Council England (ACE) on which of them are to receive long-term core funding.

The overall picture for disabled-led disability arts organisations is still unclear, although there were some notable winners, particularly among those with a higher profile in the mainstream media.

ACE said the number of disabled-led arts organisations receiving funding will rise from 10 to 16, with support increasing from about £1.1 million a year in 2010-11 to about £2.5 million a year from 2012-15, despite cuts of nearly 15 per cent to its total core funding of arts organisations.

Liverpool-based DaDa – Disability and Deaf Arts, which runs DaDaFest, the world’s largest disability and Deaf arts festival, will see its funding increase in real terms by nearly seven per cent from £175,00 in 2010/11 to £205,000 in 2014/15.

Attitude is Everything, which works to improve access at live music venues and promotes club nights featuring Deaf and disabled artists, will see funding rise by more than a third to £184,000 in 2014/15.

Deafinitely Theatre, a Deaf-led theatre company which aims to empower Deaf culture, identity and pride, will see its annual grant increased by more than a fifth to nearly £170,000 in 2014/15.

And Vital Xposure, led by the writer and performer Julie McNamara, and which only launched in January, will see funding rise by more than half to nearly £105,000 by 2014/15.

But one notable casualty was Dada-South, a leading disability arts development agency, based in Kent, which will lose almost half its £100,000 a year core funding in March 2012, and have it removed completely the following year, in 2013-14.

Stevie Rice, director of Dada-South – which was established by a group of disabled and Deaf artists in 2003 – said the withdrawal of funding would “severely restrict” the work it could do and would “impact upon disabled and Deaf artists up and down the country”.

She said: “We have heard time and time again about Arts Council’s commitment to diversity – and this forms one of their key areas of delivery over the next 10 years – yet to withdraw essential funding from organizations working to represent and support diverse artists and their practice is inexplicable.”

The London-based disabled artist Ju Gosling aka ju90, said this was a huge blow to the development of new disability arts organisations and artists in the south.

Gosling said the decision also had to be considered alongside the huge cuts to local authority funding, with disability arts organisations certain to find it very difficult to secure funding from their local council.

She said she was particularly concerned about the situation facing disabled visual artists, who already find it hard to be taken seriously by mainstream visual arts organisations.

Colin Hambrook, editor of Disability Arts Online (DAO), said Dada-South had been “key to the careers of a number of disabled artists” and “excelled” at mentoring and supporting disabled artists.

A key part of its work was to support mainstream organisations to take on access issues and work with disabled artists, he said.

He said the disability arts organisations that appeared to have won more generous funding from ACE were those that have secured a higher profile within the mainstream media.

DAO itself was turned down for ACE core funding. Hambrook said this would put DAO “under some pressure”, although it would also mean greater freedom.

Meanwhile, Shape – which develops opportunities for disabled artists, among other work – will see its funding fall by nearly 40 per cent between 2010/11 and 2014/15, from £438,000 a year to £300,000.

Richard Muncaster, Shape’s communications and development director, said it was being “pragmatic” about the cut and was “delighted” to still be receiving regular funding, while its feedback from ACE had been “really positive”. He said Shape was “well placed to weather this hit”.

7 April 2011