Birmingham Artists funding slashed by Council. One month to vacate.

A press release from Birmingham Artists that’s doing the rounds declares that Birmingham City Council has cut their funding with only one month’s notice to leave their city centre office and studio complex.

It could be argued that Birmingham Artists (BA) doesn’t need such frivolities as money and a permanent location, or that an organisation that’s survived for 21 years, has a membership of 150, runs the only Print Workshop in the region, does outreach and youth training and above all provides a networking node for Birmingham’s vibrant but disparate artistic community, that something like that isn’t really needed. These arguments could be made and in a bizarro parallel universe it might be concluded that BA doesn’t deserve taxpayers money and funding should be sourced from elsewhere, but allowing one month for that to happen is just madness, really.

I’m not saying Birmingham Artists deserve this support, though I suspect they do. I don’t think all arts organisations deserve public money by default. A significant number of them don’t and a lot of arts funding could be much better spent. But to take a well established organisation (how many arts outfits can say they’ve been in existence for over two decades?) and give it one month’s notice

Words are failing.

There are a number of crimes here. The first is a betrayal of the commitment the city has given to the creative industries in Birmingham. The second is a blindness to the importance of social infrastructure in the city. The third is an ignorance of sustainable investment. You can add your own to this list.

More on this story as it develops.

Here’s the full press release:

Artist Group to be axed by council and given one months’ notice

Birmingham City Council brags that it is committed to investing in the city’s creative industries, yet the 21 year old Birmingham Artists’ group has been given just one month’s notice to quit its city centre office and studio complex.

“This is cultural asset stripping at its most callous. Birmingham Artists have been an important resource for the city for two decades. Its members fly the flag for Birmingham nationally and internationally as well as working with Birmingham communities and schools.

The fact that BA was only given one month’s notice of the funding being cut is disastrous as it does not allow the organisation time to make alternative arrangements. Effectively this will bring an end to the city’s only membership based artists’ group and studio provider.” Said BA board member, Mark Renn, BA has a membership of 150, runs an experimental gallery, supports young aspiring artists and provides crucial information and networking opportunities for Birmingham’s artist community. BA’s studio complex at Lee Bank Business Centre includes the Birmingham Print Workshop, the only artists’ printing workshop in the region. A unique resource, which is enjoyed by people of all ages.

BA has pioneered exhibitions in non-gallery venues, such as the Chuck Works, an old factory in Eastside, the Central Library and commercial shop windows, allowing people from all walks of life to come into contact with the work of the city’s artists.

“This is an incredibly short sighted move by the council, which has been handled very unprofessionally. Given the council’s stated policies regarding the creative industries, it is totally hypocritical.”Mark Renn, BA Board member.


  1. matt m

    that’s insane, just when i though Brum was finally developing a sensible approach to the arts, words fail me…

  2. dp

    There’s precious little explanation in Renn’s statement, so I am left wondering if this is an overreaction. I can appreciate that someone getting short notice to relocate his business could be more inclined to react than explain, but there’s bound to be more to this story, and I want to hear it before coming to any conclusions. Perhaps one of the other tenants will step forward to give us some background.

  3. I’ve contacted BA for further details and should the facts magically change over time I will, of course, keep you informed of them.

    And if anyone else knows what’s going on, especially from a Council standpoint, feel free to let me know, either in these comments of by email (peteashton [at]

  4. I think the word ‘crimes’ is a little strong. We don’t know all the background to this story. Was it that they didn’t receive an automatic renewal of core funding? Did the council promise this money to them? What is the funding for? How come the organisation doesn’t have sufficient reserves to maintain their office for more than a month? Are they being told to leave for funding reasons or because their contract has come to an end? Are the City Council going to help them relocate?

    The Council have made a number of very positive moves over the years to support the creative industries – Film Birmingham, being a recent good example. I know that there is a strong feeling that they want to continue and grow this support – it would be interesting to hear all sides of this story before jumping to any conclusions.

  5. pamina stewart

    Firstly the grant was an internal transfer from Arts and Leisure to propery services so it was never money that was given to the organisation, or infact left the council’s cofers. This also strictly goes against the quote below taken from the City Council’s masterplan for the City Centre. Secondly one month’s notice is completely impractical to move 27 studios,a print workshop and there is a funded programme of events happening in BA’s project space until the end of September. There is also nowhere in the city centre for the organisation to move to. This is not a question of a business moving. The organisation will be forced to wind up completely.

    Invest in creativity and culture

    6.73 Birmingham has made major strides in this field in the past decade. As our benchmarking shows, it now compares very favourably on some measures with other cities. But again there is no room for complacency. Many argue that there are not enough opportunities for creative and cultural industries to flourish. Much effort has gone into providing and promoting high culture, which has set very high standards. But it is argued that it does not attract enough young people or BME people into the city centre. The local authority should find some premises it owns and reserve it for creative, low income, small firms and give them incentives to go there. This would transform some dead spaces, bring a different order of provider and user in, make the place more animated, raise land values and create a demand for related services.

    Excerpt from ‘The Birmingham City Centre Master Plan’, Professor Michael Parkinson CBE, European Institute for Urban Affairs, Liverpool John Moores University, February 07.

  6. For some reason I can’t stop thinking about this and I think I’ve got it all wrong. I reckon Birmingham Artists are fxxked because its nothing to do with them or what they do. It’s probably to do with some civil servant who is unelected and unaccountable who shows up for work everyday, plays on myspace or msn messenger or facebook for hours, goes for extended lunchbreaks, goes home early and takes too many days off sick each year. The same civil servant that that thinks they know how the art world works, and thinks they know how to administer a funded arts programme and they’ve messed it up and the funding has been cut. They didn’t tick the right number of boxes and now the funding is going to go elsewhere. They probably had no idea what was in the post as they play on the internet all day and do no work. Thats probably why Birmingham Artists have had their funding cut and of course the civil servant won’t be bothered, they can’t come to the phone right now, you’ll have to speak to “nobody” at Birmingham City Council as they’re drinking a coffee in the cafe over the road and texting a mate about meeting up after work. Oh sorry I’m wrong, they’re probably reading the guardian and thinking about looking for a new job becuase they need to earn more money so they can go to Glastonbury next year.

  7. “The first is a betrayal of the commitment the city has given to the creative industries in Birmingham.”

    but, who or what is the city? Does it have a phone number or email address? Is there a person who is responsible for all this or is it another case of “sorry, thats not my job”

    “The second is a blindness to the importance of social infrastructure in the city.” Does anyone know what Social Infrastructure is these days? Perhaps they understand it to mean places for shopping, like the Bullring?!

    “The third is an ignorance of sustainable investment.” Obviously the council think they’re not making enough “profit”

    and of course what about the Cultural Significance of Birmingham Artists? We all know about business plans and shopping opportunities but what about the Cultural Significance of Birmingham Artists, forget the cost, what is their Value?

    Its painful to watch and BA may well have to deal with what has been thrown at them. Another Demonstration of Birmingham The Creative City in action.

  8. Thanks Russ L….I meant public servant NOT civil servant. but then again maybe its just employee..or is it, or what is it?! as if I care anyway….and other sweeping generalisations…..

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