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Following on from my last blog…My final correspondence to Arts Council England.

Dear Keir Gill,

Many thanks for your reply of the 26th October 2015 outlining Arts Council England’s position concerning, avenues of compensation, freedom of information requests and grants for the arts.

I have to say, I did have to have a slight ironic chuckle to myself about Arts Council England’s ever so slightly patronising position, and its assumption that I have never applied for FOI or Grants for the arts before; both of which I have.

Let me tackle FOI first. In my experience this is the sequence of events that occur when an organisation does not want to reveal information:

  1. A letter requesting information is sent to the organisation
  2. A polite reply is sent from the organisation explaining the application has not been specific enough (as in your reply)
  3. A second letter full of more detailed and specific requests is sent to the organisation.
  4. A polite reply is sent explaining that this request is has been deemed a nuisance and the information will not be revealed
  5. A third letter is sent to the organisation outlining their responsibility in law and that they have six weeks to divulge the information or a letter of complaint will be sent to the FOI commissioner.
  6. The organisation does not reply in six weeks
  7. A letter is sent to the FOI commissioner with all the relevant correspondence.
  8. The organisation then reveals only part of the information….and so it goes on.

I will not be going down this line, as I really don’t think Arts Council England merits any more of my time than this reply.

Now, let me move onto Grants for the arts.  I have applied for such a grant; I spent two days filling the form in only to be rejected.  In my thirty years of working in all areas of education and support, the general idea with helping children and adults achieve goals is to make the work challenging, but where they can always succeed. However, the application form for the Grants for the arts is quite clearly designed to make the applicant fail. It is designed so that the applicant has to contact Arts Council England in order for that organisation to tell the applicant what they want to hear and see; if you don’t conform you don’t get the lolly! It’s my ball and if you don’t want to play by my rules, you don’t get to play.  But the point is, it’s not your ball, it is the taxpayer’s ball. It is my ball and I, as an artist, never get to play with it…only the chosen few. And who chooses?  The chosen few…

You also stated in your reply to my original letter that Arts Council England has ‘robust application processes’. I’m really not convinced by such a bold statement.  Let us look at the case of the Globe Gallery in Newcastle.  This is not a criticism of the gallery or anyone involved with it, but an example of how public money is wasted by organisations and governments because of whims of policy, taste and bureaucracy. (Empty ‘Sure Start’ buildings all over the country)

The original Globe Gallery had to close, I assume (information not given), because of lack of funding. Over twenty years the organisation had gained grants to create a state of the art three story art gallery which now stands empty.  One could ask: where were the ‘robust application processes’ over the years to allow such a situation to happen? One could suggest that the money would have been better used by simply putting it all in a bag and setting fire to it, KLF style.  It certainly would have been a far more forceful political and artistic statement.

I realise these comments are a matter of opinion, but do opinions matter? I think the book is still open on that one concerning Arts Council England.

I have attached an invite to my relocated exhibition, outside Arts Council England’s and the gallery systems grasp.  I look forward to your attendance.

Yours sincerely

Mark A. Carr  BA (hons) Fine Art, PGCE, MA (and general nuisance)

PS. Before I sent the original FOI request I posted a note on my desk, it read:

  • My FOI      request will be rejected because my application will not be specific      enough.

How right I was…that patronising smugness is catching!