Arts 'cannot survive a year of further cuts'

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The Independent Online

Leading Arts Council executives yesterday warned of "major and painful" closures of artistic venues if there are further cuts in government funding for the arts.

The warning came as the Arts Council of England announced its allocation of grants for 1996-97. Many theatres, galleries, orchestras and dance companies had feared the worst last November when the Government announced a cut of pounds 5m in the Arts Council's annual budget of pounds 191m.

However, yesterday its chairman, Lord Gowrie, said that a re-apportionment of the Arts Council's and Regional Arts Boards' overhead costs of pounds 4.3m for dealing with applications for National Lottery funding, and a further pounds 1m from Arts Council contingency funds, had been released to offset the cut in funding.

But he warned that this could not be repeated and that closures were inevitable if the Government's threat to cut pounds 3.2m from the 1997-98 budget is followed through.

Mary Allen, the Arts Council's chief executive, said: "The arts can't survive a year of further cuts and there will be inevitable closures if there are further cuts. If cuts are on a scale as predicted by the Government those closures will be major and painful.''

She added that the re-apportionment of funds this year was a one-off gesture: "All the rabbits have been pulled out of the hat.''

The Arts Council announced a standstill - or freeze - on funding to most of the 170 organisations and all 10 Regional Arts Boards it supports in England.

This standstill is the same as the devolved systems of Arts Council funding operating in Scotland and Wales. The English standstill - for most companies the fourth in succession - represents a cut in real terms of 2 to 3 per cent because of inflation.

The Arts Council also handed out one-off grants of pounds 100,000 to Dance House Network, a new organisation aiding dance development in London, and pounds 150,000 to the troubled Donmar Warehouse theatre in Covent Garden, central London, which was on the brink of financial ruin.

The Museum of Modern Art in Oxford also received a grant of pounds 29,000, while the English Touring Opera was given pounds 75,000 to avoid an expected cut of 50 per cent of its annual productions.

Lord Gowrie also praised the National Lottery as ''the best thing that has happened to the arts in our lifetimes''. He welcomed the announcement by Virginia Bottomley, Secretary of State for National Heritage, earlier this week that National Lottery money would be made available for funding new talent in sport and the arts.