The Arts Council has made significant sums of money available to the ESC. The postponement of the Faust project clearly meant that the subsidy set aside for that purpose could no longer be available. The problem is that the ESC's strategic planning has been weak, which makes a long-term commitment by the Arts Council difficult. Receiving theatres are free to book what shows they wish and are becoming disenchanted with the standard of the ESC's work and with its programme choices.
What is more, we sense that the theatres are less interested than they were in repertory companies that are essentially booked for their brand names rather than their programmes. They prefer a project-by- project approach. One reason for this shift is, no doubt, market volatility due to the recession.
Mr Taylor was wrong to claim the lack of a coherent touring policy at the Arts Council. For the past few years we have been carefully increasing the number of large-scale drama touring weeks, with excellent results. Witness the recent hit productions of Juno and the Paycock, Much Ado About Nothing and the Royal National Theatre's current Arcadia. Without Arts Council support, none of these would have been possible.
It is reasonable to criticise the Arts Council for its decisions - but not when changes occur in the marketplace or, more particularly, when a company has brought its troubles on its own head.
The Arts Council of Great Britain
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