Just when you thought it could get no worse

Just when you thought it could get no worse


norman lebrecht

November 04, 2010


It’s the only word I can find to describe Alan Davey’s performance on the Today programme this morning.
The chief executive of Arts Council England has just ‘discovered’ that many of the companies receiving regular grants, the so-called RFOs, never actually applied for them.
Absolutely right. Maynard Keynes stipulated in 1945 that arts funding was to be ‘informal’ and the Arts Council existed to choose ventures and support those which had a ‘reasonable prospect of success’. This is foundation stuff. How is it possible that Davey has been chief executive for three years and does not know this?
And what point is there in making a National Theatre apply for its grant? Will any Arts Council ever dare to drop a national enterprise?
The entire plan is an arse-saving exercise, a paper-pushing job scheme by which the ACE is trying to justify its existence after the Government decided it was too fat by half.
The gimmick comes with a ten-year strategy plan that was first sketched in 2007 and bears no relation to present reality.
Unbelievable, in both senses of the word. The ACE initiative makes you wonder whether they are living on the same planet as the rest of us. And Davey’s presentation was so tremulous, so lacking in personal credibility that no-one can possibly imagine why this man is still in his job, earning £191,000 after a £16,000 increase last year.


  • Ed McKeon says:

    I didn’t hear the broadcast, but I’ve found Alan Davey to be committed, sincere, sensible and passionate about the arts. He was an improvement on Peter Hewett, for sure.
    ACE got a ridiculous cut in the spending review, yet they’ve handled this very fairly and intelligently with funded organisations. Messages have been quick and clear, avoiding panic and confusion which could easily have resulted. (I say this having run regularly funded organisations, but currently freelance.)