One of the most irritating responses to the Arts Council’s grant allocations has come from company chiefs like the South Bank’s Jude Kelly (in the Guardian today) who describe their diminished cut or slight increase as ‘a vote of confidence’ in the work they are doing.
A vote for what, and by whom? Jude ought to know as well as anyone that the process by which these cuts were made was not rational or empirical. Many of the decisions were last-minute fudges. Her own South Bank, an Arts Council protectorate, was meant to get off even more lightly than it did – but, after the final meeting, when all C ouncil members had gone home , executive officers led by Alan Davey found a million-plus hole in the budget. The only way they could plug it was by a clawback from the South Bank, amid assurances that all would be put to rights once the present fuss had died down.
As I said last night on BBC Front Row, the methodology of Arts Council funding stands totally discredited. We need to get away from the Prize Day hysteria and adopt something closer to the German model, where funding is managed quietly, consensually and, on the whole, without much corruption or mutual back-scratching.
When we have a Government that is bold enough to address real reforms, it should consult someone like Peter Jonas, former head of ENO and the Bavarian State Opera, on how to make the arts work without so much otiose and artificial fuss.