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Union Dance threatens legal action after ACE withdraws annual grant

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Arts Council England client Union Dance is on the verge of launching legal action against the funding body, after losing its annual grant.

The black dance company, which has been running for 16years, has described the decision as a “slap in the face” for culturally diverse organisations. It was informed in February that it would no longer receive its annual grant of £264,000, following ACE’s radical funding shake-up

Union Dance general manager Cara Anderson told The Stage the organisation is in talks with solicitors about the possibility of demanding a judicial review in an attempt to overturn the decision.

He criticised ACE for not fulfilling its own disinvestment policy, and said the case will go to court if the funder fails to supply further documentation outlining its decision making process.

Corrine Bourgaard, Union Dance artistic director, explained: “We have had a good relationship with the arts council in the past so it was a very difficult call for the company to make, but in the end I think we just felt that the work of Union Dance was worth fighting for.

“It’s not a decision we want to make, but a position we have been forced into. We just hope that we can still find some way to resolve this.”

Bourgaard believes that black and Asian companies have been worst hit by ACE’s spending review because they are “more vulnerable to the whims of the arts council.”

Meanwhile, according to Anderson, the dance organisation is in the process of applying for transitional funding from ACE in order to keep it afloat when its grant runs out at the end of the month.

An ACE spokesman said: “Throughout the review of regular funding, we’ve sought to maintain a positive dialogue with Union Dance and assist them where possible. We acknowledge their history as a leading black-led dance company, but we have concerns about the artistic quality of the their work and their failure to hit their own financial targets. Consequently, we don’t believe that continuing to fund them is the best use of public money.

“We remain committed to investing in a diverse range of high quality dance companies such as Akram Khan, Akademi, Jonzi D Productions and Shobana Jeyasingh. Our funding review was a fair process, fully compliant with our disinvestment policy and in the event of a court case, we will strongly defend our position.”

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