Saturday, April 02, 2011

They don't like poets, those people at the Arts Council

Arc publishes poets from all over the world
and many in translation, as well as the inimitable
Ivor Cutler and artist Glen Baxter.
Someone got very angry the other day when I suggested that the Arts Council has become irrelevant. I was talking about how support for poetry and particularly poets has been systematically destroyed by that same body in recent years and wondering why. Last night, at Fabrica's new show, I learned that animation's suffered a similar attack. Is it that poetry has no expert champions anymore in the funding places? That poets who've done so well for themselves won't speak out when the form they work in is under attack?

I tried to contact my south east regional council members recently with a complaint. The Arts Council no longer allows members of the public to do this. If the Arts Council chooses not to forward an email to a member of the regional council, it won't. It filters the content of emails and decides if a question about the arts in your region is appropriate for a regional council member to read. If an administrator decides it's not, you have to make your enquiry through a relationship manager.

I was talking to the tax office recently about a couple of letters I received. One arrived a month after the posting date, the other two weeks. It's too confusing to even attempt to repeat the sequence of events or conversations. I was in quite a good mood, though, and eventually I laughed and asked the person on the phone if he'd ever read Kafka. His reply was beautiful: no comment.

And I think that is where we're at with the whole lot of them who take our money and redistribute it, including the Arts Council. Perhaps we need to just change our idea of what they claim to do. Not listen to what they say, but look at what they do.

They take money away from Arc Publications and Enitharmon, two independent poetry publishers (independent being the key word) and give money to Faber & Faber.

According to the Bookseller, "Faber has reported a record turnover of £17.5m for 2010." Sales were up 10% and the chief executive and publisher Stephen Page said: “We are delighted with last year’s performance. Sustaining our profit and growing sales while investing in our digital future and launching new businesses was an excellent achievement. The momentum of our publishing success has carried through to this year and we have just completed a very satisfactory first half.”

Arc needs people to speak up for it and draw attention to this kind of strangeness. Was this what the Arts Council was for? To fund big business and millionaires?