Black Arts Alliance loses funding

By Will Astbury

A MANCHESTER-based Black arts organisation will not be putting on any events for this year’s Black History Month after losing vital funding.

After five years of fighting the Black Arts Alliance (BAA) has lost its funding from Arts Council England North West and now cannot afford to host any activities for Black History Month (BHM), which takes place in October every year.

There are now concerns that BHM will go under represented in Manchester for the first time since the alliance set up its Acts of Achievement scheme in 2001.

Dinesh Allirajah, chair of trustees at the BAA, said: “We haven’t got the resources for BHM now. We’re not even contemplating one taking place.

“Our funding has gone and we are hand to mouth at the moment. It’s a precarious situation and we can’t pretend it is anything but that.”

SKINT: The BAA says its funding was cut because of bureaucratic changes at the Arts Council

SKINT: The BAA says its funding was cut because of bureaucratic changes at the Arts Council

At one time the BAA was the largest network of black artists, representing artists from a variety of different ethnic backgrounds and a mixture of art forms.

However, five years ago the Arts Council decided to reassess its funding and asked the BAA to undergo a review to help the alliance to become more efficient.

A consultant from the arts council was allocated to the BAA to help it operate and make it more suitable for funding.

But in 2007 the BAA was still not living up to the council’s expectations and it was given a year to draw up a business plan to try and save the funding.

Plans were drawn up and changes implemented by the BAA, but on 27 February 2008 a recommendation to make disinvestment was taken to Arts Council.

“There was a lengthy dossier produced to provide reasons why we should be cut. It was in our opinion cobbled together,” said Mr Allirajah, “It was just a bag of judgements aimed at justifying the cuts and we tried to contest it.”

The BAA believes that the Arts Council considered them incapable of putting together a business plan which would attract substantial support.

“Our beef is really that the funding cut wasn’t down to the work we were doing – we were expanding and building a bigger network of group. We were cut because of bureaucratic changes at the Arts Council,” added Mr Allirajah.

The BAA took this stance as it was offered £87,000 worth of funding after pitching the same business plan to a different group. This offer, and others since, was taken off the table when the organisation heard about the Arts Council cut.

Defending the cuts and dismissing ‘bureaucratic’ involvement, an Arts Council England North West spokesperson said: “Despite substantial investment and support for BAA over the last five years, the organisation had not been able to develop a strong forward plan that demonstrated how BAA could strengthen its core activity by building its membership base or become a strategic player in the promotion of opportunities for skills and capacity development for Black artists.

“Disinvestment was not made because of bureaucratic changes. It took five years to reach the final decision to disinvest in BAA and, in any scenario, a decision like this is arrived at through a systematic, open and transparent process that is built upon the ongoing monitoring and evaluation.”

The Arts Council claims it is still committed to supporting and developing Black and minority ethnic artists and since 2003 it has increased the number of Black and minority ethnic led north west organisations by 45 per cent.

However, the BAA is now struggling to stay afloat and is calling for people to help get involved in anyway they can to stop it from plunging into further financial turmoil.

For information on the BAA visit www.blackartists.org.uk.

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