200 arts bodies nervously await funding axe

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The Independent Culture

Craig Hassall, the managing director of the English National Ballet (ENB), will spend this morning at his office computer surrounded by his senior team, nervously waiting for an email.

Like Mr Hassall, arts executives up and down the country will discover by 9.30am whether their organisations will receive funding from Arts Council England (ACE) from 2012 to 2015. ACE is expected to scrap funding for up to 200 organisations, with many more experiencing cutbacks. Arts leaders have said that the cuts, prompted by a fall in Government funding, will be "disastrous" for the creative industries.

"We will be having breakfast, staring at the computer screen, wringing our hands," said Mr Hassall. "There will be our finance director, our communications person, various other senior management, all in the room. It's very weird." The ENB fears a 15 per cent cut in its ACE funding – around £900,000 a year – which could lead to the scaling back of tours and an increase in ticket prices.

Tim Walker, the chief executive of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, said it had already reduced staff and concerts after funding cuts for 2011 to 2012. If there are further cuts, he said the company would move performances to Europe, to benefit from preferable exchange rates. "I suspect we would reduce the amount of performances we put on," he added.

Derby City councillor Alan Graves, also a regional council member for Arts Council England East Midlands, claimed ACE had turned down a funding application for Derby Theatre. He said in his region there had been a marked switch between funding to "the shires" and away from the cities.

He added arts organisations in Derby were facing a 5 per cent cut. Leicester meanwhile would see its grants decline by 3.5 per cent and Nottingham by 1 per cent.

Mark Skipper, the chief executive at Leeds-based Northern Ballet, said the company could be forced to curtail its 24-week annual touring programme and reduce its new repertoire. He added job losses were "not impossible".

On Monday the Culture Media and Sport Select Committee said the cuts would be "disastrous" for creative industries and called on the Arts Council to make cuts to its own operational spend.