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Rose’s Bosses Accuse ACE of East London Bias

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As analysis continues and responses from arts leaders continue to pour in, one of Arts Council England’s claims - about maintaining a geographical spread – is being seriously challenged in London.

The capital takes the lion’s share of ACE’s money for its National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), and that includes for flagship bodies like the National Theatre, Southbank Centre and Royal Opera House. But according to Rose Kingston artistic director Stephen Unwin, beyond the city centre, there is a telling discrepancy between what’s been allocated to the East, where the Olympics will be staged in 2012, and the West.

Unwin said in a statement: “With cuts announced for the Waterman’s in Hounslow, the Orange Tree in Richmond, the Battersea Arts Centre in Wandsworth and Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, the funding situation in south-west London is now worse than ever and the contrast with east London – especially the Olympic Boroughs – is stark. It’s clear that a large part of the Mayor of London’s cultural strategy has been ignored.”

Only opened in January 2008, under its founding director Sir Peter Hall, the Rose in Kingston-upon-Thames, has never received regular funding from ACE and one of the 638 unsuccessful applicants announced today. Hall, now the Rose’s Director Emeritus, described ACE’s decision as “an absolute slap in the face”.

Hall said: “This morning's news is sad stuff indeed. I am only too well aware that the Rose is one of many arts organisations in some turmoil today and it is indeed an indictment of our times that so many are equally at risk. Since it opened its doors three years ago, the Rose has produced a strong artistic programme and the building itself, unique in its architecture, has become an important cultural centre. The Rose has achieved this with the support of the local authority, Kingston University and a loyal and enthusiastic audience. Yet it has been without the crucial Arts Council subsidy that would have given it security. The Council's decision not to back the Rose can only be described as an absolute slap in the face.”

Amongst the Rose’s hit productions to date was Hall’s sell-out staging last year of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in which Judi Dench returned to the role of Titania after 40 years. Dench added her support today, saying: “Whether it’s as a cultural centre for the local communities or as a landmark theatre providing world-class drama, I ask that you join me in helping the Rose to bloom.”

Blooming will become much harder for the theatre, which has already had to be bailed out once, in 2009 with a three-year £2.7 million loan, funded jointly by Kingston Council and Kingston University. The £11 million theatre, modelled on the Elizabethan Rose, was built after a massive local fund-raising campaign, led by Peter Hall, and more than six years of development.


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