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Page last updated at 10:41 GMT, Wednesday, 22 October 2008 11:41 UK
Should arts funding change?

The Royal Opera House, London
Should artists have more control over the way they are funded?

That is the question being debated by heavyweights of the arts world at the Young Vic theatre, following claims that artists have lost confidence in the body they depend on for funding.

The Arts Council for England - the body who decide which English arts projects should receive government and Lottery funding - has presided over a massively increased budget under the Labour government.

But contentious decisions over the allocation of funding, including the decision to siphon off more than 100m from their budget for the 2012 Olympics over the next five years, have raised concerns from some in the artistic community.

Arts Council decisions mean that several regional theatres are now under threat, including venues in Cornwall, Derbyshire and Oxfordshire.

And in January, the actors union Equity passed a motion of "no confidence" in the Arts Council England at a meeting attended by actors including Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey and Joanna Lumley.

Would more involvement from the artists themselves in the way funds are allocated improve the situation?


National Theatre associate director Tom Morris is putting forward a proposal for an artists' parliament to oversee Arts Council decisions at the Old Vic debate.

It is vital for the Arts Council to survive and it is vital that decisions are made which regain the confidence of the artistic community.

These are decisions about artistic activity, not loft insulation
Tom Morris
If it does not it is very hard for it to do its job and it is very hard for it to defend itself when it comes under attack.

What I am proposing is that a parliament of artists should be set up which is generally representative of the artistic community.

Not a sitting parliament that bores everyone to tears with endless detailed debate of the politics of the arts.

Nor should it be involved in the detail of decision making.

Bush Theatre
The Bush Theatre in London faced a 40% funding cut, but the decision was overturned following protests
It should be convened to help the Arts Council re-think key areas of its activity, to invent a new decision making process which is built around the nature of the artistic process rather a Frankensteinian hotch-potch of processes from business planning, marketing, financial modelling and political consultation.

These are decisions about artistic activity, not loft insulation.

The second thing that an artists' parliament should be involved in is a wider evaluation of why we should spend tax payers money on the arts at all.

Although there has been a massive increase in government funding of the arts since 1997, it has always been made on the basis of measurable social impact, rather than the value to a community of the uncertainty inherent in the creative process.

I think a parliament of artists could make that case.


Playwright and satirist Alistair Beaton is arguing against an artists' parliament at the debate.

We are all agreed that the funding of the arts is too important to leave to politicians, which is why we have an arts council.

I also think that the arts are too important to be left to artists themselves. Funding for the arts has to be filtered through an independent body.

We should continue to criticise them and support them at the same time
Alistair Beaton

The problem with the Arts Council is that it has become an instrument of social engineering and that it has had a few lunatic ideas. This has brought it into disrepute.

However, the fact that we have a problem with the Arts Council does not need a solution that will make things worse.

What we need to do as artists is continue to put pressure on the Arts Council, make sure that the funding stays in place, but not for the artists themselves to take over.

However critical we are, we should remember that since the Labour Party came to power there has been a 73% increase in revenue.

Terrible decisions, like the shocking amount of money that has been hived off for the Olympics, has brought the Arts Council into disrepute.

But in among all the terrible decisions there are very many good ones.

We need the Arts Council and we should continue to criticise them and support them at the same time.

Do you think artists should have more power over the way they are funded? Tell us what you think using the form below.

There should definitely be a serious review/inquiry into the allocation of Arts Council funds and every effort should be made to reduce the AC funding to the RSC and NT so that struggling provincial arts organisations can keep their heads above water in these difficult economic conditions. The amount of money allocated to these two organisations over the years by the AC is obscene. A more fair and balanced approach should be drawn up.
Paul Norton, London

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