It's good news for arts lovers this week as George Osborne's Spending Review sees no cuts to Arts Council England's annual funding, and even a slight increase between now and 2020. The increase might not quite be inline with inflation, but still, government support for the arts is any small way is cause for celebration in my book.
The key now, though, is to use it wisely.
Rare though it is, my concern actually isn't with the establishment this time. It's with my fellow artists. Having now been involved in the 'scrabble for cash' process of funding a project, and being around dozens of theatres and emerging artists who have been successful in securing funding to further their artistic exploits, I have to admit that I don't always think the artists are looking after the Arts. You need only look at the English National Opera's loss of NPO status due to 'concerns' surrounding their business model to know that clearly our stewardship of the money we're entrusted can easily be compromised.
There's a general consensus within the Arts that the rest of the world considers us unimportant. Now, that may or may not be true, but what is true (in my humble opinion) is what can occur as a result of that. We seem to think that if most of the world doesn't care, then we'll get together as much money as we can and 'make art for the artists', or say 'up yours' and carry on having fun. No wonder we live in such an incestuous world where even Kevin Bacon's six degrees of separation seems much too high a number. Is that what the Arts are about; knowing every name on the bill and have worked with half of them?
I thought it was more about creating work that speaks to someone, and using any funding you may be lucky enough to be granted to ensure that you reach as many 'someones' as possible.
Anyone, everyone has a responsibility to be a good steward of the money we're given. ACE funding or otherwise. We might have been lucky this time, but who knows how long that'll last? And when our pot does get smaller, who'll be the ones to lose out? Probably not the NPOs or the established artists with years of funding behind them (though they may be 'skimmed' a little). It's likely to be the young start-ups, the emerging artists. So as we go forward with our organisations, and we consider that next application and how much we 'need' for that project, perhaps we need to be thinking of the 'as-yet-nobody' with a great idea and no money to realise it. Perhaps we need to be thinking if we can do without that line on the expenditure list. Perhaps we need not ask for everything, and think more creatively about how to reach the same goal with less cash.
I think Fiona Gasper is dead right. We are a good deal for a small investment. But we could be an awful lot better. We all want a small slice of the £1bn pie. But let's counter-culturally think about every other slice for a change, and perhaps how many more slices we could manage if we all did the same.