Queer Up North, Manchester’s gay and lesbian festival, may be forced to close after the Arts Council told organisers that its £98,000 grant is to be scrapped. The festival is one of 194 arts bodies that have been hit with severe or total funding cuts at short notice.
According to The Independent newspaper, most received letters about this on 13 or 14 December and only have until 14 January to appeal. Taking into account the Christmas and New Year holidays, this leaves them just 18 working days to act.
Queer Up North is not the only LGBT arts project to be hit. The lesbian and gay theatre The Drill Hall, based in London, has been told its £250,000 funding will end from April.
And many children’s theatres are among the worst affected. The Norwich Puppet Theatre, which faces a 100% cut in funding, is one of only two puppet theatres for children in England and has been running for 27 years.
In response, Peter Hewitt of the Arts Council writes that sometimes loss of funding ‘is on the grounds of… performance to date and sometimes because we believe the money can be used more effectively elsewhere’.
In the case of Queer Up North, and the relatively small amount involved, I’m somewhat surprised to read that it may mean the end of the event.
Hopefully Manchester City Council, Manchester Pride or the city’s businesses will step in and save Queer Up North? £98,000 really is chicken-feed compared to the £2m grant the city council gave to Manchester’s new international arts festival this year.
While, according to the city council, businesses make £22m of extra income each year thanks to our Pride event. Surely they can give some of that back to the community by helping Queer Up North with a bit more funding?
Or maybe Manchester Pride (now ‘a charity’ in its own right) could try being a little less incompetent and profligate? This year it had income of £803,000 but only managed to give £95,000 of that (12%) to good causes. The rest went on ‘costs’. In other words to all the businesses and individuals who now leech off this one-time charity event.
Manchester has a huge LGBT population. Maybe it’s time we asked whether we are getting fair value for money for the income tax and council tax that we pay, the money we give to Manchester Pride and to the city’s businesses; which make millions from us but seem to give precious little back to our community?
Meanwhile last night community groups were meeting with Manchester City Council to discuss the future of the Gay Centre on Sidney Street. Just as Pride was beginning last August it emerged that the City Council was apparently making plans to close down the Centre. It has been on its current site for about twenty years and was on Bloom Street before that.
It’s starting to feel as if our community is under attack from every angle in this city.