|Thespians & Theatre Lovers Cry Foul Over Arts Council Cuts|
Richard Briers & Sheila Hancock join local MPs in condemning proposed funding cuts
Some of the biggest stars in theatre have joined the condemnation of the Arts Council over their proposed round of grant cuts which could mark the closure of Waterman’s at a huge rally this week.
Local luminaries including Richard Briers and Shiela Hancock joined Sir Ian McKellen, Kevin Spacey, Caroline Quentin, Joanna Lumley, Roger Lloyd Pack, Samantha Bond, Alison Steadman and hundreds of others who believe the consultation period over the cuts had been too brief and the proposals shrouded in secrecy. They accused the Arts Council of failing to make clear what criteria it was using to make the cuts.
A spokeswoman for Equity said, "Unless Arts Council England not only listens to the concerns of people here today but actually takes action to respond to them then the credibility of Arts Council England could be fundamentally and possibly irreparably damaged.
"We demand a thorough review of the process and procedures used by the Arts Council in reaching funding decisions, and until that review is completed the status quo should apply and the current funding process should cease."
The “Support Waterman’s 100%” campaign has also been gathering momentum this week. Local MPs Anne and Alan Keen have both announced their full support. Anne Keen said “To loose such a centre would be a terrible blow not just to Hounslow art and culture but to art and culture across West London and the London region.
“Watermans is planning to move from its current location to a new site as part of Brentford High Street’s regeneration so to loose funding now would be a cruel blow.
“The Watermans provides an Art and Cultural centre for the entire borough of Hounslow and further a field. It provides a platform for budding performers and exhibitors as well as screening independent productions which otherwise would be overlooked.
“We have both pledged our support for the Watermans by signing their petition, writing to the Arts Council and securing a meeting with the Chief Executive of the Arts Council. We urge all readers to visit the Watermans website to sign the petition, which can be found at www.watermans.org.uk”
Councillor Peter Thompson, leader of the London Borough of Hounslow, said,“We are extremely shocked and disappointed that the Arts Council is threatening to withdraw funding from Watermans, and ask them to reverse this decision.
“By threatening to cut funding from Watermans, the Arts Council is endangering a much-valued and well-utilised venue, a focal point for the community, and an important cultural asset for the west London region.
“Hounslow Council and the Arts Council have hitherto enjoyed a productive, strong, open working relationship in the past, so it is extremely disappointing that it has made this proposal without consulting us, or giving us an opportunity to put forward a view.
“We were particularly shocked to receive a letter from the Arts Council that told us they planned to cut funding from Watermans without an explanation of their reasons for it. In fact, this proposed funding cut was buried in the small print of a table, which is hardly a sympathetic approach.
“This behind-closed-doors, cloak-and-dagger decision-making and lack of consultation is very hard to swallow and we will be making our feelings very clear to the Arts Council about their methods, as well as their decision.
Other local theatres affected by the proposed cuts include Bush, The Gate, and Richmond’s Orange Tree.
To register your support Watermans, go to www.watermans.org.uk. People can also sign a petition at Watermans.
January 10, 2008