NEWS: Birmingham cuts arts funding by 17%

Flyover Show II - 2009

2011 will see significant change for Birmingham based music organisations previously supported by the government. In a recent arts funding review, 50% of Birmingham City Council’s top ten to cut hold a specific focus on music, with a further three high bracket organisations spanning both music and dance.

High profile institutions such as SAMPAD, The Drum, Birmingham Opera Company and Ex-Cathedra will lose between 9-18% of their annual funding, whilst Performances Birmingham, the registered charity that manages and runs both the Symphony Hall and Town Hall, is the worst hit with a 23% revoke.

In total the city’s music economy will lose approximately £1¼million in annual support funding. Whitehall has set BCC a yearly target of £2million for the wider arts sector.

Cabinet Minister for Leisure, Sport & Culture, Councillor Martin Mullaney, said ”Arts organizations, large and small, are important to Birmingham, they add to the economy and the whole cultural life. I am passionate about the arts scene, I didn’t come to politics to reduce funding, but we’ve had to make a 17% reduction in our funding to the arts in line with the national reductions. We’ve been as pragmatic as possible, discussing with the arts organisations how we can make the squeeze so that no organisations collapse.”

Andrew Jowett, Director of Town Hall & Symphony Hall, said ”All arts organisations are having to share the pain of cuts, and Town Hall-Symphony Hall is no exception. Over the last 20 years Birmingham City Council’s support has established an international reputation for these two iconic concert halls. The future will not be easy, and we are doubly vulnerable to these cuts because unlike many arts organisations we receive no Arts Council funding and Birmingham City Council is therefore our sole source of public funding. But we will rise to the challenges ahead by seeking a balance between cost-saving and artistic excellence that enables us to continue presenting the most diverse and exciting range of concerts outside London.”

Several smaller music organisations have also been effected, having their funding fully withdrawn and put back into a ‘Project Pot’. Although BCC has secured a 50% transition fund for lower level recipients, organisations including Birmingham Contemporary Music Group, Birmingham Jazz and Sound It Out will have to reapply for all previously granted bursaries in 2012.

Whilst much of the city’s arts community worries about the damage made by the funding cuts, a strong contingent welcome a change in the dissemination of government money. Commercial organisations that have previously been entirely self sufficient will now be eligible to apply for grants from the newly established ‘Project Pot’. BCC has added an extra £15,000 to the ‘Project Pot’ to encourage new applicants.

Councillor Mullany reports ‘complaints’ from ‘many organisations’ who feel excluded from the BCC’s arts funding agenda, and claims the new allocation procedure ‘opens up funding to all the smaller arts organisations of Birmingham, not just the few.’

The 17% cut in arts funding is less than the previously proposed 30% reduction initially laid down by Whitehall. Birmingham still invests nearly £8million per annum back into it’s arts sector, over double that of Greater Manchester, and has pledged to help secure ‘private sponsorship’ and ‘link them up with companies that are fitting with their image.’ This ‘strategic spending’ or private investment is hoped to allow BCC to ‘hold our funding at this year’s level’ during the next two years.