Arts organisations across Scotland and Wales are celebrating announcements by their respective governments, of major increases in arts funding.
The National Assembly for Wales is to increase its funding for the arts by 23% for the financial year 2002-2003, in addition to its £37m investment in the Wales Millennium Centre, announced only last month. The Arts Council of Wales (ACW) has unveiled a three-pronged approach to the distribution of the funding. According to ACW Chief Executive Peter Tyndall, top priority for Wales is redressing the economic shortfall experienced by the Arts sector as a result of years of standstill funding, and the majority of ACW?s revenue clients are to receive a 15% increase in their annual funding. A further tranche of the windfall will be used to redress ?historical anomalies?; and a start will also be made on addressing the strategic priorities identified through recent consultation, including increased funding for community arts projects, a Youth Arts Fund, and support for the Creative Industries and Dance.
In Scotland, Culture Minister Mike Watson has announced a funding package for Scottish Theatre worth £3.5m over the next three years. The cash is to be directed at consolidating and improving the quality of performance, and the development of a stable infrastructure for Scottish drama. He said ?We have an ambitious theatre sector in Scotland of which we can be proud. I want to see it achieve its full potential and establish a profile which ranks with the very best international work. I am therefore asking the Scottish Arts Council (SAC) to ensure that the additional funding is directed to this fundamental objective.?
£2m of the £3.5m funding package was initially announced in 2000, having been earmarked by the Scottish Executive for the development of a new National Theatre for Scotland. It is this money, plus a further £1.5m, that has now been released for the financing of theatre more widely. According to Watson, the plans for the establishment of a National Theatre for Scotland have been placed on hold while Scottish theatre paves the way for the new venture and ?pressing issues facing [our] existing companies? are addressed. SAC has been asked to prepare more detailed plan for the new National Theatre, and it is anticipated that the first productions commissioned by the new organisation should take place in 2004.
The announcement by the Scottish Executive was made shortly before the publication of SAC?s 2002-2003 budget. With the exception of drama funding, the budget is based on standstill funding, and many Core Funded Organisations (CFOs) receive either no increase or inflationary increases of just 2%. SAC has already committed to carry out a full review of funding in the coming year, and already hinted that changes may well be made to the funding patterns of CFOs. The allocation of Lottery funding is to change, enabling a New Work Fund of £1m to be established. The Fund will support major work with an international dimension, which aims to generate new audiences and strengthen Scotland?s cultural identity beyond Scotland.