Lycett, Acosta and Duran Duran condemn Birmingham’s 100% arts budget cut

<span>(L-R) Nick Rhodes, Actress, Joe Lycett, Carlos Acosta, Marnz Malone, Napalm Death and Roger Taylor criticised the cuts.</span><span>Photograph: John Swannell/Clive Booth/PR</span>
(L-R) Nick Rhodes, Actress, Joe Lycett, Carlos Acosta, Marnz Malone, Napalm Death and Roger Taylor criticised the cuts.Photograph: John Swannell/Clive Booth/PR

Birmingham’s cultural figures from Carlos Acosta and Joe Lycett to Duran Duran and Napalm Death have criticised the 100% cut made by the city council to its arts funding which they say will “devastate” the arts ecosystem in Britain’s second city.

The complete defunding of arts organisations, including Ikon Gallery, Birmingham Royal Ballet and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was announced this week as the council plans £300m worth of cuts over the next two years.

Lycett compared the lack of central government support for local councils with bank bailouts after the financial crash of 2008, calling the culture cuts “horrifying”.

“The people of this city are strong, resourceful, and wildly creative,” the comedian said. “We have a brilliant and unique art scene; thankfully much of it does not rely on council money. But there is no denying that these cuts are a short-termist national disgrace.”

Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran said the decision was “disgraceful” and called for local politicians to “reconsider and rapidly reverse” the cuts, which will leave regularly funded organisations facing a 50% reduction this year and 100% in 2025.

His bandmate Roger Taylor said it was “devastating news” for his home town, which he thinks is under threat of losing its position as a “vibrant, exciting and diverse” place of art and culture.

He said: “It saddens me that future generations could potentially fail to have the same access to music and the arts that I was very fortunate to have during my youth in Birmingham.”

Acosta, the director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, said his adopted city was in a “really difficult moment” where not just the arts but also social care was being hit by the cuts.

The council’s plan to overcome the £300m hole in its budget caused by a large equal pay claim brought by employees and a troubled IT upgrade includes a 10% rise in council tax, which has been called a “tax bombshell on Brummies” by local politicians.

“We’re a resilient organisation so will make it work, but it’s the wider city and other cultural organisations that don’t have the resources of Birmingham Royal Ballet that I’m really worried for,” said Acosta. “Birmingham is a great world city and it’s a serious blow to all areas of Birmingham’s life.”

Many councils have cut funding dramatically in recent months, including Thurrock, Woking and Slough, which have issued section 114 notices, effectively meaning they are bankrupt. Somerset council also voted for £36m of council savings this week.

Pogus Caesar, the visual artist who emerged during the British Black arts movement of the 1980s that flourished in the West Midlands, said things would now be harder for the institutions that helped him as a fledgling artist.

“The arts is the one thing that has always stabilised Birmingham and kept us together,” he said. “[The cuts decision] doesn’t give the organisations time to regroup and think about where they’re going to find that money from.”

Steven Knight, the creator of Peaky Blinders, told the BBC he hoped politicians would not see the arts as a “luxury”, while arguing that the creative industries in the city would continue to flourish despite the setback.

Sabra Khan, the executive director of Sampad, a south Asian arts and heritage institution that will lose all its funding as part of the cuts, said the decision could mean they have to reduce their offering in local communities. “This cut in funding will drastically reduce opportunities for local residents to engage with creativity where they live,” she said.

Actress, the electronic artist whose real name is Darren Cunningham, said the 100% cut was “a dangerous demolition of culture” in his home town.

“Birmingham has such an inspiring history in music and culture that needs to be continually nurtured and developed because art benefits people,” he said. “It makes people happy, it gives people an identity.”

Mark “Barney” Greenway of Napalm Death said the move was “extremely shortsighted” and would have a devastating impact on the arts, especially those who value alternative culture away from the mainstream.

“People in the city perhaps looking for experiences outside the mainstream cultural touchstones have therefore been poorly served,” he said. “This is an area where funds definitely need to be channelled if such ‘underground’ experiences aren’t to be entirely decimated.”

The Birmingham rapper Marnz Malone said the cuts would affect the lives of young people from less privileged backgrounds.

Malone grew up attending events at the Drum arts centre in Newtown, which he said was part of a network of cultural institutions that “was one of the things that kept us off the streets in an area known for gang violence and activity”.