Birmingham cuts arts funding by £2 million

Steve Orme
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Birmingham City Council is to slash its arts budget by almost £2 million a year over the next three years, with some companies having their funding cut by 50%.

Organisations including Birmingham Rep, Birmingham Royal Ballet and the national centre for black British arts and culture The Drum will lose between 9% and 23%.

The city council will reduce its annual arts funding from more than £12 million a year to just over £10.1 million a year.

Those losing half of their funding include theatre company Stan’s Cafe, Birmingham Contemporary Music Group whose founding patron is Sir Simon Rattle, Birmingham Jazz, theatre-in-education company Big Brum, Women & Theatre, ACE Dance and Music, and The Royal Birmingham Society of Artists charity.

Birmingham Rep’s grant will reduce from £1.103 million to £908,000 while Birmingham Royal Ballet gets the same amount – down from £1.113 million. The Drum will lose £45,000 of its £480,000 grant and the recently reopened MAC (Midlands Arts Centre) has its grant cut from £756,000 to £650,000.

The biggest losers are Birmingham Town and Symphony Halls whose £3.25 million grant is reduced by 23% to £2.5 million. City councillors hope the venues will look for private sponsorship to make up their loss.

Cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture Cllr Martin Mullaney said: “None of us are exactly jumping for joy at the news but times are hard and everyone knows the current national economic situation.

“It would be naïve to think the budget cuts are not going to impact on the cultural sector here in Birmingham. What we’ve tried to do though is keep the impact down to a minimum for our arts organisations.

“It’s a 17% [average], not the 30% suggested in a speculative report ten days ago.”

Meanwhile, Leicester’s loss-making De Montfort Hall is to get more money from the city council in a bid to cut its annual budget deficit of £600,000.

The authority has decided to increase the venue’s subsidy from £711,000 to £988,000 a year. An advisory board of councillors and business leaders may be set up to try to improve De Montfort’s performance.

The Philharmonia Orchestra’s residency at the venue has been reduced from nine nights to seven and next year’s three-day folk and blues Big Session festival has been cancelled.

The authority previously ruled out bringing in a private operator despite council culture boss Richard Watson and theatre management consultant Hazel Clover stating the venue had failed to attract big names who had played similar-sized venues in other parts of the country.

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