I have to say, whilst not understanding much about how the Arts are funded in the UK, the recent behaviour of the Arts Council England has been nothing short of insane. By all accounts their initial decision to cut or remove funding entirely from 194 organisations was based almost entirely on functional, thoroughly marketised principles. What a load of nonsense. It’s a principle which doesn’t work in health, education or any other social field, yet these people thought removing funding entirely from the Bush Theatre made commercial sense. This being an organisation which has developed highly important talents like Jonathan Harvey – his Bush Theatre production of Beautiful Thing changed my life in 1994 – how many people’s lives would not have been similarly touched if the Council hadn’t been so vehemently challenged by Equity? I saw the show at the Donmar Warehouse theatre, not the Bush, but it was a Bush production. To penalise the Bush for the location of that experience was utter madness. They at least have their funding now partially restored.
It would be easy to read that last linked article and think that the Arts Council’s sudden u-turn was a good sign. It’s not. Whilst the Bush has had a significant reprieve, other vital venues have still lost out. The Drill Hall, London’s major lesbian and gay performance space, have still lost out entirely. Whilst I had read Tim Miller‘s work before seeing him there for the first time, seeing him in a gay-specific venue was absolutely vital. Name me another, similar space where work like that can be held with the same impact, and I’ll agree with its funding removal. Otherwise it too is a backward decision. I just don’t get it. Making lesbian and gay contributions to the arts less visible surely couldn’t be part of the Council’s remit?