Photo News: Arts Council cuts Side Gallery but continues support of merger between Photoworks and Brighton Photo Biennial

As the Arts Council announces its funding decisions, two photography arts organisations receive very different news. While the Arts Council has axed Side Gallery in Newcastle as a revenue client in its National Portfolio, which is described in a response by the Amber Film and Photography Collective as “a profoundly stupid, culturally illiterate and illogical decision”, Photoworks and Brighton Photo Biennial announce a merger and will receive continued support. Need to look into this some more and see how Photofusion has fared…

The reasons for the Arts Council decision are:
1. The gallery is part of a collective and therefore doesn’t have a board;
2. The gallery needs Arts Council funding and therefore isn’t sustainable;
3. There are too many galleries dedicated to humanist documentary photography in Side’s geographical location.

“This flies in the face of the fact that the collective has continued to deliver what is unquestionably the strongest cultural legacy created in the North East over the past 40 years. Unlike many Arts organisations, its egalitarian collective governance has meant Side Gallery has never approached the Arts Council or Northern Arts for a bail-out. It is the only gallery in the country dedicated to documentary photography.”

From Amber Film and Photography Collective, ACE response: “In addition to the Arts Council’s unsustainable assessments around Governance and Finance, they make the bizarre argument that there were ‘too many strong/good applications for work in this artform and this geographic location’. Elsewhere, the assessment acknowledges that Side is ‘the only dedicated documentary photography space in the north east.’ There is in fact no other gallery in the country dedicated to the crucial narratives of humanist documentary. This uniqueness and cultural importance in Side Gallery’s work was amply made in a powerful and moving set of testimonies from internationally renowned photographers, which was attached to the National Portfolio application. Audience perception of this uniqueness, importance and value of Side Gallery’s work can always be witnessed in the copious entries in the exhibition comments books. A representative selection was attached to the application.”

“This decision is mystifying. It seems not to have taken account of the Arts Council’s acknowledged understandings or of what was written in the application and the supporting documents. It seems to be rooted in a deeply prejudiced antipathy to the principle of collective organisation that flies in the face of an unparalleled record of achievement. It is a profoundly stupid, culturally illiterate and illogical decision.”

“We are relieved to be receiving continued Arts Council investment under the newly established status of National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) and excited to announce the merger of Photoworks and Brighton Photo Biennial.

“Our NPO bid was as a merged organisation and we are delighted both organisations have secured a future for the next 3 years. The continued ACE investment recognises both organisations’ proven track records in promoting and celebrating excellence in photography. We now look forward to developing and delivering our bold and ambitious vision.

See Arts Council Funding decisions link.

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Amber, Arts Council England, arts cuts, merger, Newcastle, Photoworks, righton Photo Biennial, Side Gallery

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