Both companies were given large grant increases by the council but all the new money was earmarked for touring. Announcing a 272 per cent increase in touring money for the NT (£98,000 to £365,000) and a 39 per cent increase for the RSC (£550,000 to £765,000), the general secretary, Mary Allen, said: "These are national companies and they should be available as a national resource. We had to address the role of the two national theatre companies in national terms and address their role in the country."
Yesterday's grant announcements showed a determination to have a greater say in how the money that it gives to the big companies is used.
The Royal Opera, for example, did get a 3.5 per cent increase in grant to £8,806,000. But the council said that this money was tied to the company presenting modern work with some new commissions, and, most significantly, reducing ticket prices for thesenewer works.
The Arts Council also set up a pool of £450,000 for regional orchestras, some of which are perilously short of funds. At the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, the renowned conductor, Simon Rattle, had threatened to resign if funding was not increased.
Among the lesser-known organisations, the council is giving £437,000 to Iniva, a visual arts organisation for black and Asian art, which Miss Allen said had made great waves within the ethnic communities, even though it was not well known outside.
The biggest loser in the annual grants round was the contemporary dance company, The Kosh, which lost all of its £150,000 grant. The council says it is unhappy with its current artistic level, even though the company has proved hugely popular with audiences.
Adrian Noble, artistic director of the Royal Shakespeare Company, said that it was delighted with the increase and would now be taking productions to regions where they did not normally tour.
Lord Gowrie, chairman of the council, said yesterday: "The welcome £5.1m increase in our grant-in-aid has enabled the Arts Council to give increases to organisations in a critical position. But, because the increase only restores us to the position of two years ago, the council has had to take a firm strategic view overall, rather than distribute the money evenly."
Announcing a £100,000 increase for the Royal Ballet, part again earmarked for a resident choreographer, Mis s Allen said: "The Royal Ballet now is one of the best ballet companies we have ever had. They are doing magnificently.''
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