Fresh of the back of news that London could be about to get a “nightlife mayor,” the UK’s Culture Secretary Ed Vaizey has encouraged more music venues to apply for funding from public sector body the Arts Council of England in order to prevent the possibility of closure.
Speaking at the Music Venue Day conference, Mr Vaizey said “a vibrant music venue which is breaking new acts has just as much right to be considered a cultural venue as a local or regional theatre.” His comments are a reflection of current Arts Council funding policy, which Shadow Culture Minister Michael Dugher–Vaizey’s equal in Labour, largest non-ruling political party–highlighted as being “biased” towards what many consider the “high” arts–opera, ballet, and jazz–to the detriment of popular music. “I do worry that there may be an element of snobbishness in how money is allocated,” Dugher said. “We have a real crisis in the system. We are haemorrhaging small music venues–not just in London, but across the whole of the country. We really need to wake up to that and do something about it.”
Despite the encouragement, some people aren’t convinced it’s the right move. Applying for funding is typically quite a laborious process, as Mark Davyd of the Music Venues Trust explained. “We don’t have time to fill in hours and hours of very rigorous paperwork. And if I did it, you [the Arts Council] wouldn’t understand anyway. I want to put on a guy who’s playing white noise through a trumpet for no apparent reason, other than the fact that it might annoy someone and it’s just brilliant. It doesn’t fit in what you’ve got.”
The news also comes at an increasingly difficult time for public funding in the UK, with sweeping public sector cuts still high on the agenda as the country’s national debt soars past £1.5 trillion. While the arts, in any form, are clearly an important part of society, continued cuts in areas such as health, education, and pensions are putting increasing pressure on areas such as arts funding.