British Council in restructuring U-turn

The British Council will announce later today that it is to abandon its restructuring proposals put forward earlier this year, and almost double its global arts budget.


In what appears to be a complete U-turn regarding its original restructuring proposals set out in January, today’s announcement will also outline the organisation’s intention to retain all of its specialist staff and create a new media function, as part of a new vision in response to its recent consultation period.


‘One of the issues frequently raised during the round-table discussions was that there was a failure to exploit new technologies in the arts fully. With the addition of a new media function, we are addressing this gap in our arts offering,’ says a British Council spokesman.


Additionally, a ‘reinvestment’ in the council’s international network of professional expertise will entail developing ‘closer strategic partnerships with relevant Government departments and agencies, and new organisations’, says the spokesman.


The organisation will also ‘commit’ to re-establishing an external advisory function for the arts.


British Council chief executive Martin Davidson says, ‘Our action plan reaffirms the place of the arts at the centre of our cultural relations work. During the consultation, artists and cultural organisations told us how much they value our work and that they want us to do more. We look forward to working with the sector to implement the plan.’


The three-month long consultation period was prompted by an outcry among the arts community at former British Council director of the arts Venu Dhupa’s proposals to disband the organisation’s arts departments in favour of a single interdisciplinary function earlier this year.


Fears aired at the time suggested that the resulting redundancies would have meant a loss of specialist arts expertise for the organisation, which effectively acts as the cultural arm of the Foreign Office.


Dhupa resigned from the organisation in April, just a month after the consultation period began.


Rebecca Walton, a former member of the British Council senior management team, has picked up Dhupa’s previous responsibilities, and currently oversees the organisation’s arts interests.


The British Council has specialist departments across design, architecture, film, visual arts, literature and music, and provides platforms to promote these UK fields internationally, as well as introducing international designers and artists to the UK.


The findings of the consultation, and the response detailed in the action plan, can be viewed and downloaded at www.britishcouncil.org/arts.htm.


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