August international arts council news roundup

Photo: production at Olive Tree Theatre, home of Johannesburg’s Women’s Theatre Festival part (© Manuela Accarpio)

National Arts Council South Africa (NAC) CEO Rosemary Mangope has announced that supporting women artists is one of the body’s top priorities. August has been designated worldwide as Women’s Month, and Mangope said that, ‘NAC will continue to work towards empowering the current and next generation of women during Women’s Month and throughout the year, not just in SA but on the African continent and worldwide.’ At present one third of NAC’s RAD17m budget goes towards women-led projects, such as the two-week Women’s Theatre Festival coming up in Johannesburg this October; Kuku Craft, a project in Bathhurst that trains women in craft art forms; and Piano Lab, led by Aletta de Vos, which provides music lessons for children in marginalised communities.

Northern Ireland minister for culture Carál Ní Chuilín has said she intends to fight proposed cuts to the Arts Council NI budget. ‘Despite the challenges presented by this situation, I have no plans to reduce budgets to the organisations funded by my Department,’ explained Ní Chuilín, before adding, ‘My focus is on defending the arts from further Tory cuts.’ In July the UK’s ruling Conservative party asked government departments to prepare for cuts of up to 40 per cent, leading some to speculate that Ní Chuilín was cutting Arts Council NI funding. ‘I want to make it clear that I have not reduced the Arts Council’s budget,’ said Ní Chuilín, before adding that she welcomed the efforts the Council has made to achieve savings itself.

Meanwhile, an increase in lottery ticket sales has seen Arts Council England’s income rise by almost GBP36m (€49.3m) in 2014/15 – in spite of a GBP6.6m reduction in its government grant. Revenues from the National Lottery rose by GBP21.7m which, when combined with a one-off GBP20.7m sum from the sale of Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, led to the increased total. 42 per cent of Arts Council England’s funding now comes from the Lottery, compared with around 33 per cent 10 years ago. Writing in ACE’s annual report, chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette commented that ‘Alongside public funding and revenue, we want to see better fundraising for art and culture,’ but added that currently these sources account for just three per cent of income.

Columbia’s minister for culture has announced record spending in 2015, stating that the overall budget for the arts has increased by 110.5 per cent in just five years. In 2015 overall spending on culture was COP463,426m (€141m), up from COP193,782 in 2010. In particular the government has invested heavily in libraries and reading under the banner Leer es mi Cuento [Read my Story], with COP309m spent and 104 new libraries opened since 2010. Another major project saw 296 new cultural buildings erected between 2010 and 2014, including 35 theatres, nine museums and four music schools.