So the deed is done, and Arts Council England is officially born (p1).
Some sections of the press would have you believe the most important consequence of this is the expenditure on a new logo. Not for the first time they seem to have missed the point. The English regions have become one with the country?s central funding body and arts organisations are promised a streamlined future, faster grant decision-making, more coherent communications and ?mature? relationships with their funders ?based on trust, not dependency?. It?s a tough set of promises. As the Swan Theatre, Watersmeet Theatre and Channel Theatre Company are acutely aware (p3), placing trust in one?s funders can be a disappointing pursuit. Hopefully, the promised three-year funding agreements coming the way of regularly funded arts organisations in both England and Scotland will at least lay the foundations for a more secure future. Grant applicants will no doubt welcome the snipping of red tape, but the implementation of the new system raises a number of questions. A central funding pot is to be divvied up between the regions, and if your organisation is based in the North East, for example, you will apply for a grant in that region. Quite what will happen to applicants if the North East?s pot runs dry before that of its neighbours in Yorkshire is not yet clear. Gerry Robinson has assured us of the new system?s ?flexibility to re-allocate budgets in different areas ? between funding programmes and between regions?, though it isn?t clear who will referee any subsequent bunfight. Furthermore, when funds start to run out, how will the regions choose between applicants for a literature project, for example, and those wishing to invest in organisational development? Is it going to be first come first served, or a more complex but less transparent decision-making process? And will applicants with the best command of written English make it to the front of the queue? Take a look at the application form. With just 50 words to describe the activity for which you?d like some funding, so you?d be well advised to use them all with the greatest of care!