Arts funding: winners and losers

Arts Council England announces its new funding plans after cuts to its budget.

Arts Council England yesterday revealed the effects of a 29.6 per cent government cut to arts funding. 638 organisations were denied any funding by the Council, with 206 of those having previously received funding from them. However, 110 organisations were granted funding by the Council for the first time.

Small theatres received a little extra funding: FUEL is up by 203.9 per cent, Ockham's Raxor by 173.2 per cent, Punchdrunk by 141 per cent, Arcola by 100 per cent, the Barbican by 108 per cent and Theatre by the Lake in Keswick by 22 per cent. However, the Riverside Trust Hammersmith, lost almost half a million pounds, both the RSC and the National Theatre lost 15 per cent funding, and Shared Experience Theatre, Trestle Theatre Company and Northumberland Tourinc Company all suffered cuts. HighTide Festival Theatre, Birmingham's live art Fierce festival and Manchester International Festival are all new recipients of Council funding, whilst both Northcott Theatre, Exeter and Forkbeard Fantasy, Bristol lost all of their funding.

British poetry suffered mixed fortunes. Salt Publishing, an independent poetry publishing house based in Cambridge, lost all funding while the Poetry Book Society, founded by TS Eliot in 1953, suffered a £111,000 loss. Poetry London, the literary magazine, was given a grant, as was English PEN, which works to "promote literature and human rights". The Poetry Society was awarded £360,000 - up from £261,664.

Winners amongst art galleries included: South London Gallery, with funding up 107 per cent, and three galleries that are yet to open: FirstSite in Colchester (up 16.8 per cent), the Hepworth in Wakefield (up 7.7 per cent) and Turner Contemporary in Margate (up 9.8 per cent). A Middlesbrough gallery, Mima, had its funding increased by 143.8 per cent. Both Castlefield Gallery in Manchester, and Phoenix Arts in Leicester had funding totally withdrawn.

Dance suffered significant cuts, though with increased funding going to a collection of small, regional operations. Dance Umbrella, based in central London, took a 43 per cent reduction, and the Cholmondeleys & Featherstonehaughs dance companies saw their funding completely cut.

Although the fledgling Tête à Tête opera gained funding for the first time, the Royal Opera House took a 15 per cent cut to their money.

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The Negroni fools no one – it’s easy to make and contains nothing but booze

It is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

The cocktail is designed to lie about its origins; no wonder it reached its apogee during Prohibition, which forced everyone with an unrepentant thirst to lie about their cravings. Even today, when only extreme youth, religious belief or personal inclination prevents a person from draining the bar dry, the cocktail continues its career of dishonesty. It hides ingredients or methods. It provides a front for poor-quality booze. And it often dissolves, within its inscrutable depths, mountains of sugar, enabling drinkers to pose as sophisticates while downing something that tastes like a soft drink – to get drunk without leaving the playpen.

This is why I love the Negroni, which fools no one. It is easy to make and contains nothing but pure booze. Despite being a third sweet vermouth, it isn’t saccharine: the other two thirds, equal measures of gin and Campari, may have something to do with this. And it is the colour of danger, a red rag to anyone jaded by cocktail-world bull.

They say it was invented in Florence at the request of a Count Negroni, who wanted a drink unsullied by club soda – a drink stiff enough to get a man back on a bucking horse, perhaps, since this Count may have been a rodeo rider. I prefer to believe that the Count, if Count he was, came in, tossed down enough strong liquor to start telling stories about his American adventures, and, when he finally staggered out into the night, the exasperated bartender poured three straight shots into a single glass and baptised this wondrous reviver in grateful homage to the fabulist who had inspired it.

In a former glue factory a very long way from Florence or America, the East London Liquor Company now makes very good gin – Batches One and Two, the former tannic with Darjeeling as well as cassia bark, pink grapefruit peel, and coriander seeds; the latter redolent of savoury, bay, thyme and lavender. Transforming these plants into excellent alcohol seems an improvement on boiling down horses for adhesive, and the company also makes superb Negronis from Batch Two.

We sit outside, in a carpark made marginally more glamorous by border boxes of Batch Two botanicals, and marvel at the transformation of this grimy part of East London, next door to a park intended to give Victorian working men brief respite from lives all too lacking in myth or fantasy. It is a reincarnation at least as miraculous as the transformation of three strong and entirely unalike spirits into the delectable harmony of the Negroni. The sun shines; a fountain plashes. Nuts and charcuterie arrive. All is right with the world.

I leave my herbaceous bower and dangerously pleasing drink for a peek at the large copper distillery behind the bar, walking in past the fountain, a whimsical stone construction that pours vermilion liquid into two, tiered basins topped by a chubby putto clutching a rather reluctant fish.

And then I stop. And double back. Vermilion liquid? It is, indeed, a Negroni fountain. There are even slices of orange floating in the basin. I dip a finger: the taste is slightly metallic but still undeniably that potent mixture of booze, botanicals, bitterness, and just a hint of sweetness. A streak of citrus from the orange slices. It turns out that the world’s most straightforward cocktail lends itself to a decadent neo-Renaissance fantasy. There’s a message here, one forthright as a temperance tract: without imagination, we would have no lies – but no Negronis, either.

Nina Caplan is the 2014 Fortnum & Mason Drink Writer of the Year and 2014 Louis Roederer International Wine Columnist of the Year for her columns on drink in the New Statesman. She tweets as @NinaCaplan.

This article first appeared in the 20 July 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The new world disorder