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ACE Announces Cuts, Increases and Standstill Funding for the South-East

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You win some. You lose some. The three-year funding for producing theatres and festivals across East Anglia and the South-East of England (national portfolio funding) announced by the Arts Council (ACE) sees the annual Norfolk & Norwich Festival a clear winner with the equivalent of an 87 per cent rise in funding. On the other hand, Trestle Arts Base in St Albans loses all funding for its touring programme.

This seems somewhat ironic for a couple of reasons. One is that ACE has, over the past four years, funded this physical theatre work, and it’s had considerable success. As artistic director Emily Gray comments: “ACE is wasting that investment and denying audiences and venues around the country the opportunity to be engaged by the exciting and high-quality theatre that Trestle offers”.

Moreover, Trestle has just agreed to run the arts programme at the newly refurbished Hornsey Road Baths; a visionary youth arts hub to which Islington Council has committed funding for the next three years. Trestle won the bid to run the building in partnership with Changemakers and Isledon Partnership because of its experience and reputation for quality. It is a trail-blazing opportunity that upholds ACE’s ambitions for opportunities for young people, supported by collaborative working from professional organisations.

Last year, Eastern Angles, the touring company based in Ipswich, felt a blast of threatened funding cuts, and successfully fought back to reverse this. It will now receive a grant of £230,000 for each financial year to 2015. Ivan Cutting, the artistic director, points out that inflation means that the grant still represents a nine per cent cut so even greater emphasis needs to be placed on raising money from alternative sources.

DanceEast, which is also Ipswich-based, Rifco Arts and Tilted are three organisations which will continue to receive funding. Basingstoke’s Anvil, Bury St Edmunds Theatre Royal, Colchester’s Mercury, the New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich, South Hill Park, the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton and Watford’s Palace Theatre are assured of funding for the next three years, though even further economies will have to be made by all of them.

HighTide, Suffolk’s theatre festival of new writing based in Halesworth ,will receive £2300,000 to develop its programming. The programme for this year’s Norfolk & Norwich Festival brings a range of regional, national and international talent into the city for an event-crammed fortnight in May. And on a completely different scale, Winchester’s Hat Fair street theatre festival in July will receive £140,000 for each of the next three years.

If a collective sigh of relief is expressed by many companies in this region, it is going to be accompanied by a distinct tightening of artistic and administrative belts. We are going to hear much more about these issues over the next days, weeks and even months.


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