It is quite possible that the Flanders government will still decide to subsidize from the arts sector until 2027. Both Toneelhuis in Antwerp and Troubleyn, a company in Jan Fabre, have already received negative advice, so they have to wait. In total, a quarter of the Flemish and Brussels culture houses are at risk of losing subsidies.
Next Thursday (June 30th) will be the final day to decide on grants to the arts sector for the next five years. But the Flanders government may have already made a decision today. It’s about a lot of money. To be exact, it is 89,969,251 euros, less than 90 million euros. And it was submitted by a total of 282 organizations, not just Toneelhuis and Troubleyn.
Haven’t made that decision yet, or do you already have recommendations?
It’s not just about grants. As an arts organization, I had to submit a solid file in December. This file was first evaluated by a committee of experts. Each art form has its own committee. For example, there is a committee that deals only with files related to classical music.
Each committee manages a specific budget and has three options: positively evaluate the file within the budget, negatively evaluate the file, or positively evaluate it outside the budget. The choice was made in the first few months of the year.
A positive out-of-budget rating means that the file will be passed to the next committee. In May, the Landscape Committee compiled the submitted files and created a memorandum with additional advice. It is the Flemish government that ultimately decides who will get what, based on the advice of Minister of Culture Yang Jang-Bong (N-VA). Even files that are negatively rated can be recovered by the government.
Minister is at risk for the organization to go to the State Council
Nonetheless, the work of these committees is important, says Lean Laconte, director of oKo, an organization under the arts department. Law. Otherwise, he runs the risk of going to the State Council, feeling that the organization is at a disadvantage. From a legal point of view, the minister can be far away, but he may be politically liable for it later. ”
A theater but the tip of the iceberg
Toneelhuis is by no means the only organization that has received negative nominations. Files from young and expanding manufacturers seem to expect more approval. As a result, some famous names fell on the roadside.
For example, the Commission advises not to subsidize the Hasselt Z33 Art House. Established companies such as Needcompany and Troubleyn, such as Ictus Ensemble, also received negative advice. There is a problem with a quarter of the cultural institutions in Brussels and Flanders, and there is a threat of cultural desert.
If there is no subsidy, it means immediate bankruptcy
In some cases, I’ve heard from experts that the advice is very appropriate. Other opinions are seriously questioned. For example, the negative paperwork of the Brussels company Needcompany around Jan Lauwers seems to be a strategic choice by the Commission. The reason is that you can find solutions for large organizations such as Toneelhuis and Needcompany.
Jan Lauwers condemns this way of working. We call him in Vienna, where he works with the Need Company. Some people are wondering. Do you have any work after June 30th? If you don’t get the subsidy, you’ll go bankrupt soon. “
After the initial advice, a support campaign was set up, a letter was sent, and a meeting with politicians took place. “We wrote a counter-argument, but I’ve heard that the advice remains negative,” says Lauwers. “I’m sure mistakes have been made and politicians will understand, but you don’t know. The uncertainty is gnawing. It’s a tough system,” he said.
We are waiting for foreign organizations to program us next year, which has already had a huge impact.
“In the meantime, we continue. We have good projects, but this negative advice has stagnated our overseas business. Next year we are waiting for foreign organizations to program us. Co-producers I’m hesitant. This has already had a very serious impact. “
Plan B of Toneelhuis?
If the minister wants to save Toneelhuis, he needs to look for artistic standards to motivate that decision. Artistic quality is, after all, one of the criteria for subsidizing files. Still, legal action from other organizations is threatened.
There is also a second option in which the minister allocates additional budget in a different way, with explicit conditions. A separate budget from the current legislation so as not to break the bond between Flanders and the city theater. It’s unclear if that will happen. There are a lot of whispers.
Is it possible without a subsidy? No, oKo’s Leen Laconte said: “Most of these Flanders grants go to labor costs. Without them, you can’t specialize and find your own income. In the arts sector, that number decreases every year. , These subsidies are a means of guaranteeing your own income and can keep you hiring artists and keep your ticket prices acceptable. “
The “worst case” for the arts sector
Although 75% of the 282 organizations have received positive advice from the Commission, it is already clear that all these files are not well funded. In total, all organizations are demanding more than € 151 million, but less than € 90 million is available.
In addition, these budgets are only partially indexed. Therefore, the sector has already claimed an increase of € 38 million. That number is also outdated, but oKo’s Leen Laconto explains:
This is true in times of crisis. While building maintenance and heating costs are rising, so are the wages of workers. At the same time, many seem hesitant to buy tickets and subscriptions. Sponsorship contracts are also difficult, and after the pandemic, international tours have not yet resumed 100%. It disrupts your own income. It seems like the "worst case" for the arts department.
Unfortunately, there are needs in many parts of our society
Lean Laconte wants to continue improving. "The minister has already said he wants to do his best in January. He knew well that purchasing power was an issue, and the issue only increased. But of course Minister Jumbon is not. With Jumbon in his hand. Let's put it in. He's willing to search and know that something is likely to be added, but I don't know how much or what it's for. "
Olivier van Remdonk, spokesman for Prime Minister Jumbon, said: "The Minister has a warm heart for our important cultural institutions and, if possible, he will do everything to accommodate it. But the tree grows, everyone in heaven No, you need to understand that. The minister will announce his decision at the end of June. "
This month's Flanders government decision is not the end. After that, the policy plan will be adjusted and negotiations on the management agreement will start until mid-October. The new grant period is from January 2023 to 2027.