Funding joy for arts in East Anglia

Arts organisations in East Anglia were dancing for joy today as they emerged unscathed from the latest, potentially disastrous, funding review. Not only have they all been successful in their funding applications but two new Suffolk organisations have been added to the list of officially funded organisations.

The Arts Council announced today that the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich, The Colchester Mercury, the Theatre Royal, Bury St Edmunds, Eastern Angles Theatre Company, Aldeburgh Music and DanceEast have retained their funding status and the HighTide Festival in Halesworth and Gecko Theatre, a physical theatre touring company based at the New Wolsey Studio and a New Wolsey associate company, have been added to the list of what the Arts Council refer to as National Portfolio Organisations.

Success in this current review – the most wide-ranging for a generation – means that their funding is secure for the next three years.

The previous round of budget cuts had produced an atmosphere of uncertainty. Last year the Arts Council opted for a one-off equal misery for all approach. They realised that this was not appropriate as a long term strategy.

They faced a cut of 14.9% cut in government funding which has had to be passed on to arts organisations. They asked all arts organisations to re-apply for funding. Not all would be successful but those who were would be well supported. Happily all Suffolk and North Essex organisations have been successful.

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Arts Council funding for Suffolk will stand at �11,646,819 for the next three years from April 2012.

New Wolsey Chairman David Edwards believes this is a good result in the current climate and proof that the Arts Council holds the New Wolsey in high regard. Chief Executive Sarah Holmes is equally pleased. “It is a good outcome and means that we can continue our work with artists, audiences, community groups and young people enriching and enlivening all our lives. Our commitment to creative learning and to artist development is secure, as is the PULSE Fringe Festival. Like our colleagues at other organizations we will be looking to other income streams, to diversity our income and attract philanthropy. We have a track record of innovative thinking and strong financial management. I am confident about the future.”

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Rachel Thorne from Colchester Mercury said: “This announcement signifies that Arts Council funding will continue at the current reduced level which will have implications on the amount of work we can produce. However we are committed to and confident that we can still deliver our core programme of quality theatre productions and wide-ranging Community activities for the next year. With regard to the long term future, our next step is to have discussions with all of our funding partners including Colchester Borough Council and Essex County Council.”

At Bury Theatre Royal, out-going chief executive Colin Blumenau was delighted that his three year plan had proved successful with the Arts Council. “This is really excellent news for the charity and Bury St Edmunds. Our development of this theatre as a centre for excellence has been acknowledged. Our place as one of Suffolk’s creative leaders will be supported for the next 4 years. This will allow us to continue with creative work and the burgeoning work we are undertaking on education and training.

“We hope that Arts Council England’s support will be mirrored by continuing support from St Edmundsbury Borough Council and Suffolk County Council as they confirm their funding plans. This will enable us to continue to provide a wide variety of arts and entertainment for our audiences. I look forward to working with Simon on developing the cultural offer that the Theatre contributes to the community.”

Helen Lax, Regional Director (East) for Arts Council England, said that their guiding principle had been “Achieving great art for all”.

She said that Suffolk will not only be receiving more than �11.6 million in arts funding between 2012-2015 but they would also be introducing an ambitious ten year strategic framework to allow greater planning.

“Fewer organisations will be funded but, set in the context of the Arts Council’s ten-year vision for the arts, the aim is to fund organisations that will get great art to even more people and work collaboratively to make the most of the available funds.

“In the East of England the portfolio will deliver great art for audiences, bringing real benefits for local communities and inspiring more people to experience the arts. Regretfully, we have not been able to fund a number of good applications, due to budget restraints – but we hope we may be able to support some of those organisations through our other funding programmes, such as Grants for the arts’.”

One of the organisations to lose out is The Poetry Trust, based in Halesworth.

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