The announcement by the Arts Council of England (ACE) of projects worth over £90m that have been admitted to its Arts Capital Programme has been met with delight by the 60 organisations for whom development money has been earmarked over the next three years. In a move to address historically low levels of funding for the culturally diverse arts sector, £29m has been allocated to Black, Asian or Chinese arts organisations.
Projects include the development of a new Chinese Arts Centre in Manchester, for which £2.1m has been reserved, and Kala Sangham, the Academy of South Asian Performing Arts, is to receive £1.5m to relocate to a West Yorkshire base. London based Black arts and carnival organisation Yaa Asantewaa Arts & Community has been allocated £2.75m to create a multipurpose arts venue and the Stephen Lawrence Charitable Trust has £1m earmarked to set up an educational resource for architecture and design.
Other strategic priorities being met in this new round of funding include projects that work with children and young people, with £4.5m to re-house the Unicorn Children?s Centre in London and £1.35m to Dance North in Newcastle, providing a national centre for dance. Projects totalling £4.4m have been earmarked for professional development for artists, such as £780,000 to Wysing Arts Charity to provide more work and exhibition space for visual artists to develop their work. £5.9m will be spent supporting producing spaces, including £1m to Creative Art House in Doncaster.
A key difference between the new scheme and the Arts Council?s original capital programme, which ran from 1995 to 1999, is that the successful organisations are not automatically guaranteed funding for their projects. Based on brief initial proposals, organisations with capital plans which are thought to most closely meet the strategic priorities of ACE have been invited to work directly with ACE staff to submit detailed applications for full assessment. The aim of the new approach is to enable organisations to prepare their projects in the knowledge that funding has been reserved for them, and to ensure that plans are fully developed before funds are released ? issues which proved highly controversial under the original ACE capital scheme.
Over 400 projects were submitted for consideration to the new Arts Capital Programme, leaving hundreds of unsuccessful applicants with decisions to make about their future. ACE?s admission that the selection process has meant turning down ?projects which are not as able as other projects to meet the programme?s specific aims or objectives? has come in for particular criticism from Oval House. Based in a part of London suffering considerable social deprivation, Oval House provides a seed-bed for new work by Black and Asian artists, has predominantly Black audiences and runs a major arts programme reaching thousands of young people. Director Deborah Bestwick has condemned ACE?s rejection of its proposal to create a comprehensively accessible new venue to house leading professional disabled theatre company Graeae, describing ACE as having ?apparently defined Cultural Diversity solely in terms of race and ethnicity and ignored disability.?