Arts Coucil finds sexual orientation controversy “ironic”

Adam Lake April 2, 2008
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Artists seeking funding for their work are being asked to reveal their sexuality.

Any individual or group who apply for Arts Council funding will be asked whether they or any of their management committee are bisexual, gay, heterosexual or lesbian.

The Arts Council is compiling the information so that they can report to the government the success rate of different applications.

Applicants are asked to describe their race, gender, sexuality and if they consider themselves disabled. They are then asked to give this information about the applicants management committee.

Despite being told that the information will not be used in making any decision on funding, a number of high profile actors have spoken out.

“It sounds extraordinary, It shouldn’t be on a form. It’s quite inappropriate,” Gay actor Sir Ian McKellan told the Daily Mail.

Nicholas Kent, artistic director of the Tricycle theatre in London, told the paper:

“This is ridiculous, it has no relevance. The Arts Council is prone to huge over-regulation, as seems to be the case with the whole of society.”

However, Arts Council spokesperson Louise Wylie says that the questions are a cost effective way of making sure the money is well spent. She told PinkNews.co.uk:

“Asking applicants to voluntarily give Us information about their race, disability status and sexuality is a very low cost way of ensuring that the money we have reaches the broadest audience.”

The question concerning sexual orientation has been on the application forms since October 2006.

Though it is common for public bodies that give out public funds to ask a person’s age, sex and race to ensure fair distribution, it is not common practice to ask a person their sexuality.

Louise Wylie told PinkNews.co.uk:

“We have decided to put that question on the form as a way of supporting that particular minority.

“I find it quite ironic that something that we have done to support the LGBT community has received such a hostile reaction.

“All elements of diversity can be a barrier for people who want to be involved in the arts, age, gender, disability status or sexuality.

“We never use this information to make a decision about whether an individual or company get Arts Council funding. Our decision is always based on artistic merit.

“It is important that all members of society get access to the arts, it is not just a question of the diversity of the artists but also the diversity of the audience.”

The Arts Council of Great Britain was divided in 1994 to form the Arts Council of England, Scottish Arts Council and Arts Council of Wales.

At the same time the National Lottery was established and the Arts Council of England became one of the distribution bodies.

The Arts Council received much criticism last year when it cut funding to a number long-running organisations, many of whom have had to close down.

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