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Arts group faces threat to funding
AN AWARD-WINNING Basingstoke-based arts group is locked in a battle for funding after being told it could lose a major grant.
Arts Council England's (ACE) decision to withdraw £106,000 of annual funding from The Making and axe or reduce grants to 193 other arts companies nationwide from April prompted a revolt by 500 top actors, including Kevin Spacey, Sir Ian McKellen and Joanna Lumley. They passed a vote of no confidence in the organisation last week.
The Making - which claims to be the only craft education charity in south east England - has appealed against the decision and ACE bosses will decide on Thursday, January 24, whether they have had a change of heart.
Director Margaret Benton is hopeful the arts bosses will change their mind.
"We have got a very strong and robust case for the appeal," she said. "We know our work is of the highest quality and it's also extremely popular.
"We are a very young organisation and the Arts Council doesn't seem to have taken time to acquaint itself with our work."
The Making was founded four years ago. The group initially wanted to create a landmark arts building in the town but, two years ago, changed its priorities and now takes its projects out on the road from its base in Basingstoke's Civic Offices.
The Theatre of Making enables young people and their families to work with leading artists to create hands-on pieces of craftwork, in mediums such as glass ceramic and metal.
Another project created artwork for the new Everest Community College, in Popley, and October's "Fired Up" event at Milestones museum demonstrated to schoolchildren how different materials are transformed by fire.
Last year, The Making won the Creativity Award at the A Place to be Proud of Awards in Basingstoke, being praised by judges for "giving everyone the opportunity to develop their creativity".
Basingstoke councillors are fuming at the grant cut proposal by ACE, which provided money to help found the group.
Councillor Keith Chapman, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council's Cabinet member for sport and leisure, told The Gazette: "The decision is completely wrong and I don't know where the Arts Council is coming from.
"It (ACE) said The Making has a lack of vision and a lack of management.
"I think the management is extremely good and the vision is excellent. They have done a good job, not only in Basingstoke and Deane, but around the county as well."
The ACE funding meets core running costs and helps The Making establish its funding potential, but Mrs Benton is confident it could cope by raising additional funds or focus on its key activities if the grant is lost. It has already raised £350,000 from other sources in the last two years, she said.
Arts Council England South East said it is reviewing its portfolio of funded organisations on a three-year cycle.
Sally Abbott, director of arts, said: "For some time, we have expressed significant doubts about The Making's long-term artistic vision.
"We are particularly concerned about how successfully they are fulfilling the role of an Arts Council regularly-funded organisation by providing leadership for craftspeople in Hampshire and beyond.
"As the national development agency for the arts, we have to make some tough choices, but we remain totally committed to supporting dynamic and vibrant art in Basingstoke in the future."
In October, the Government announced ACE would receive an above-inflation rise in funding over the next three years from £417million to £467million by 2010/11.