Arts organisations have been locked in emergency talks with Birmingham City Council after a leaked document revealed proposals to cut £3.5 million in arts funding in the next four years.
The drastic funding cuts have proposed 16 arts organisations out of 22 which currently receive funding from the city council should have all support withdrawn by 2013/14.
The six remaining organisations, Performances Birmingham, which runs the Town Hall and Symphony Hall, CBSO, Birmingham Royal Ballet, The Rep, Mac and Ikon gallery could see a 28 per cut in funding.
The city council insists the report was a draft “discussion” document and did not reflect official proposals.
Councillor Martin Mullaney, cabinet member for culture, hosted an emergency meeting with small arts organisations in a bid to ease fears.
Although final recommendations will go before Cabinet next week, it is believed the council may look at funding on a project by project basis.
Birmingham Opera Company is among the 16 facing a complete funding cut. The group, which received £204,959 this year could get £185,000 for 2011/12 but then lose all support from 2012-2014.
The company, which works to bring opera to new audiences in unusual settings, casting members of the public, fought back from almost losing its Arts Council support two years ago.
Its recent production of Othello will feature in a BBC4 programme Best of European Opera on Christmas Day.
General manager Jean Nicholson said the company was aware a number of scenarios were under discussion, adding: “We know that, like every other sector, we must bear our share of the cuts. However, I sincerely hope that most of the arts organisations currently funded, including ourselves, would receive some funding from Birmingham City Council to enable us to approach other organisations for partnership funding for future projects.”
Crafts development organisation Craftspace, which received £26,000 this year, is listed as receiving nothing from 2011.
Director Deirdre Figueiredo said: “It reads like a choice being made around supporting the big mainstream organisations.
"It actually goes against all the pitch that was made for the City of Culture, where the message was about Birmingham having a strong independent sector, engaging communities in the arts.
"I think it would seem a bit hypocritical to put all that in a bid and then later on say, ‘oh well, we’ll just take a very conservative position’. It would give a different message about what the vision is for arts in the city.”
Other organisations facing a complete funding cut include Stan’s Cafe, Ex Cathedra, Sampad, Tindal Street Press and Birmingham Contemporary Music Group.
In a comment on the website www.createdinbirmingham.com, Coun Mullaney said that he “felt sick” when he first saw the spreadsheet. He wrote: “Believe me, from my perspective, art organisations are crucial to the economy of Birmingham.
“I can’t promise miracles, but believe me when I say that I will do my upmost to find ways to avoid the proposals.”
Birmingham-based film producer Roger Shannon said: “If the figures are true, then the only way to interpret them is as an assault on ‘culture’ in the widest sense of that word, ie. a greater democratisation and diversification of culture, and a traditional Birmingham knee jerk support for a narrow and backward looking version of the “arts”, ie. the preservation of traditional high arts.”
Matthew Daniels, CEO of social development agency Sound It Out, was among those attending the emergency meeting.
He said: “The council said the document was just one version of many, but obviously it caused quite a lot of concern. We really need to open up the lines of communication.”
A Birmingham City Council spokesman said the document was a draft and not the final version and subject to consultation. He said a report into the cuts would be discussed at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.