I feel the need to break the habit of a lifetime and go serious this week. But then my General Manager said she thought I should break the news about Natural Theatre being completely cut by the Arts Council after thirty-nine years of generous support using my famous gallows humour. Well here goes.
We were told that on what has become known as Cuts Wednesday that news would come through by email between 7am and 9.30am. So I got up horrendously early and booted up. After about an hour something called Dogs do the Funniest Things came through. Mildly amusing but not funny enough to detract from the fact that my entire future could be hanging in the balance. Then nothing.
I turned on Radio 4. John Humphrys was getting very excited. All over the country, he burbled, arts organisations are getting telephone calls from the Arts Council as we speak! Telephone calls? They said emails! Suddenly the phone went. Gosh, I thought, how do they know my home number?
The woman on the phone wanted to know my mother’s name for security reasons. What’s that to do with arts funding I thought? Winnie, I said. Then she rattled off something about payment into the account. Yippee I thought, we’ve got the money! Then I turned John Humphrys off to hear properly and found it was MasterCard chasing me for a non-payment.
So I trudged into work and at exactly 9.27 both a phone call and an email came through. £145,000 per annum gone. Well, it was straight down to the pub for a restorative snifter or three, I can tell you.
It’s made all the more inexplicable by the fact that only a few months ago they granted us an additional £127,000 for developing new projects. Mad! Plenty of groups in the same boat though. Three hundred to be precise. Knowing the Naturals, we’ll just make the best of it. A review of work procedures, more economy drives, targeted marketing, yet another appeal. And no more free Lady Margaret appearances. I’ll make her ladyship retire to Hawaii, just out of spite.
On the bright side, at least I won’t have to fill out any more boring old Arts Council forms. After thirty-nine years of doing that, this could be a godsend.