by Julian Ruck
Skint UK? Ed Balls’ scrutinising of every pound? Don’t be daft this is the Arts Council of Wales!
And as if the £400,000 of tax-payers’ money for a Welsh contemporary artist to strut his stuff (no disrespect to said artist) at the Venice Biennale isn’t enough, it took the CEO of the Arts Council of Wales, one Nick Capaldi and six of his ACW cronies to tag along and hold his hand!
But what about the expenses the taxpayer has also forked up for? Following my FoI requests (12,13, 17th June 2013) it turns out we have paid £260.00 per night for hotels and a damn your eyes to LateRooms.com and a brew of Tetley in a Venetian back alley.
Apart from Mr Capaldi’s £1,981.20 (for 4 nights), we have a real beauty: Professor Dai Smith, chair of the ACW not only claimed £1709.49 from the tax-payer for his three day Venetian jolly but his own book “Dream On” (you can say that again!) published last May, was also paid for by the tax-payer. Oh and he doesn’t like “nutters” like me scrutinising his artistic efforts either, I’m told.
Here are the expenses for the rest of ACW’s party-goers:-
David Alston (£1636.77 for his 4 nights) Arts Director ACW; Louise Wright (£1569.85 for 4 nights) ACW Commissioner for the Biennale no less; Eluned Haf (£1638.51 for 4 nights) ACW Director of Wales Arts International; Sian James (£1,964.77 for 4 nights) ACW Press Officer and not forgetting Osi Rhys Osmond (£1687.16 for 4 nights), an Arts Council Member and Chair of Advisory Committee?
Now you may be thinking why all these people are needed for a quick few second turn on BBC Wales’ Today programme. Jobs for the boys time again perhaps? The usual old suspects again? You would also be forgiven for wondering why it needs 7 people to do the same thing and enjoy an expensive city break at tax-payers’ expense, while they are at it?
Classic devolved Welsh replication of jobs maybe?
CEO Nick Capaldi was quoted as saying about the Venetian visual art extravaganza, “It’s the Formula 1 of the visual arts world, in that a Formula 1 racing car has little in common with the family hatchback other than four wheels and a steering wheel”.
Excuse me? Sorry to disabuse you Nick, but right now many people in this country are struggling to keep a four-wheeled pram on the road and you’re also dead right about the exhibition having little in common with the family hatchback man in the street – most of them are out there trying to hold on to a job.
But why should you worry, or your fellow tax-payer gravy train passengers? None of you are personally paying for it all. Wonderful!
I must point out here that the budget for this event was bigger than previous years. Seriously. Where the English Arts Council has taken some serious hair-cutting the Welsh artistic identity is apparently sacrosanct. Apart from the telescopic snoring man, a table covered in clothes pegs, an iron and a desk lamp is more important than let’s say, a good few computers for failing Welsh schools and children.
The arrogance, the unmitigated insensitivity and self-righteous pomposity of the Arts Council of Wales just plain beggars belief, and who funds it? Yes you’ve got it, the Welsh government, which in turn means no scrutiny, no accountability and do what you like.
How these people have the nerve to stand in front of a television camera with their hands in the tax-payer till while they are at it, and spout their elitist delusions is utterly beyond me.
People in this country are struggling, benefits are being cut as are essential services but Welsh Labour seems to think that £400,000 of tax-payers’ bucks for a bit of visual art and some high-brow pontificating is all just dandy.
God help the Welsh, god help Wales.
PS It has just come to my attention that Literature Wales (a sister quango of the Arts Council of Wales and fully funded by it) is staging another book festival at Dinefwr castle next year.
Following Fo I requests, the 2012 book festival received £65,000 from the tax-payer. £15, 321.33 was the net amount received for ticket sales. £54,908.94 went to pay Welsh writers, poets, artists etc for fees and travel. £7,964.94 went on “running costs.”
I make that a £48,000 (near enough) loss to the tax-payer. Nothing like razor sharp business acumen is there? But then, it’s only the tax-payer forking up.
On its website it claims 2500 visitors turned up last year. Well, taking a mean £50 per ticket, that’s 300 odd people showing up by my estimate, rather shy of the 2500 claimed, I think you will agree.
In other words, most of the “visitors” were paid by the tax-payer to attend. Literature Wales has been contacted to explain this discrepancy but at the time of writing no such explanation has been forthcoming.
No doubt next year’s event will receive an increase in funding and yet again to hell with austerity and financial crashes.
This is Wales, and if you ask me it’s about time the two Eds took a serious look at what is really going on here, because all the above is merely an extremely sharp tip of a damned great iceberg.