For more than 20 years Animate! in London has been the top address in the United Kingdom, if not all of Europe, for artistic animated film. Founded by legendary producer Dick Arnall, the organisation was carried on after his death by Jacqui Davies and Gary Thomas under the name Animate Projects. Animate Projects promotes and supports the production and distribution of high-quality artistic animation. The small organisation’s portfolio reads like a Who’s Who of British film artists. Outside the UK, films produced with the help of Animate Projects have received accolades at all major international film festivals.
Since 2007 the new team has continuously, lastingly and innovatively developed and expanded its activities. It not only stepped up its cooperation with galleries, cinemas, universities and other institutions, but also sought new options for the online sale of animation films. Recent endeavours include the launch of AP Engine (http://www.apengine.org/), an Internet blog that addresses the latest developments on the crossroads between art, film and media in an earnest and well-grounded manner.
In late January Animate Projects announced that the Arts Council England would discontinue funding for the organisation in 2011. Without this support, Animate Projects cannot continue its work.
If alternative financing is not found, the Arts Council England will have caused with the stroke of a pen the closing down of a unique film culture organisation.
As is well known, in the wake of the financial crisis and new political priorities the United Kingdom no longer has sufficient funds available for cultural promotion. The Arts Council itself has been a victim of this crisis, and of a change in cultural policy that has taken hold not just since the new government came into office. Under the new government the budget for the Arts Council England has been slashed by nearly 30%. And cutbacks will continue to be made.
Even if one presumes good will in these decisions and has sympathy with the financial plight, it is still incomprehensible that such measures must lead, so to speak, to a total write-off. Evidently, the cuts were to be pushed through with lightning speed and without in-depth consultation with experts and those affected. After all, in the case of Animate Projects the Arts Council contradicts its own – at least sensible-sounding – strategic and cultural policy considerations on dealing with the crisis.
Small and effective, Animate Projects is in fact an exemplary enterprise in the face of such financial constraints. With only three or four staff members, it does outstanding work that makes a difference both nationally and internationally. But the very fact that the organisation disposes over neither a large apparatus nor sufficient resources makes it especially vulnerable now.
One might expect that, despite the necessary restrictions, a sensible solution could be found to enable the survival of such an enterprise and to help it weather the crisis. Because the closing of an organisation like Animate Projects destroys far more, namely a complete, functioning structure that can no longer be recreated, or only at much higher expense in terms of both money and personal effort.
Reinhard W. Wolf
Animate Projects: http://www.animateprojects.org/
Announcement of funding cuts: http://www.animateprojects.org/news/arts_council_england_axes_animate_projects
AP Engine: http://www.apengine.org/
Blog “Arts Council England axes Animate Projects”: http://animateprojects.blogspot.com/2011/01/arts-council-axes-animate.html
Arts Council strategic framework: http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/about-us/a-strategic-framework-for-the-arts/
For feedback on the Arts Council (“A complaint about our services”): http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/about-us/contact-us/
Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England on the cuts in cultural promotion
“This cut will inevitably have a significant impact on the cultural life of the country.”