Some thoughts on the Arts Council’s national portfolio announcements

Today arts organisations across England discovered if they would form part of the Arts Council’s new National Portfolio of regularly funded organisations from 2012-2015. We have all known for a while that there would be less money to go around, a consequence of the thinly veiled ideological assault on the arts and those that benefit from them by a government aware of the cost of everything and the value of nothing. The Arts Council, it would seem, have done everything they can to be fair, transparent and sensitive in how they have distributed this much-reduced investment. Our collective anger should be reserved for those who wielded the knife, not those tasked with the impossible job of stitching back together as much of the body as possible.

Forest Fringe did not apply to be part of the National Portfolio. This was in part because the majority of our work takes place in Scotland at Edinburgh Festival and despite many Microfestivals and other adventures in England, we’d like the Festival to remain our focus. It’s what we know and what people know us for. Equally significant, however, was the sense that Forest Fringe could fulfill a different role than those vital regularly funded organisations. We felt that by existing outside of the pressure and unpredictability of conventional subsidised models – by remaining an artist-led community sustained primarily by people’s belief in the value of that community and their commitment to it – we could achieve more, benefit more artists, reach larger audiences and speak more eloquently for the importance of art on our own terms; as an expression of political will, as a means of collective re-organisation and as a different way of encountering the world.

Forest Fringe has worked very well as a complement to more conventionally funded organisations and at this time more than ever we believe we will need to continue to do so. We’ll see you up in Edinburgh, where we can gather to talk and to think. Where we can collaborate, not out of resourceful economic expediency, but because working together is going to be one of the more powerful ways to resist the brutal utilitarianism and insidious social engineering of our present joke of a government.

UPDATE: As you can imagine, this response was written in a furious hurry earlier today. It’s now been edited to correct a few grammatical errors and to clarify a few significant points.


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