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Art attack: Film director Mike Leigh, who has compared culture cuts to "abolishing the NHS" 

When the scrapping of the UK Film Council was announced last year, Britain's pre-eminent miserablist film director Mike Leigh claimed it was like "abolishing the NHS". Since then, various figures have kept up this line of hyperbole and have been in overdrive since the funding cuts to the arts were made public in April. Carol Ann Duffy, the Poet Laureate, has claimed that the withdrawal of the Arts Council grant from the Poetry Society "touches the realms of the disgusting". In similar vein, Alan Bennett has commented that the closure of libraries is a form of "child abuse". 

For all their claims to be "cutting edge", challenging and provocative, telling it like it is, etc, etc, these spokesmen for our arts "community" must have led sheltered lives if they really believe their own overwrought claims. Either that, or their estimation of their own importance far outstrips that of the average spoilt Hollywood movie star.

The truth is that the Arts Council England cuts were at the very most moderate, a drop in an ocean of waste and pointlessness. Not that that matters; the narrative of "savage cuts" by nasty and predictably philistine Tories has already been established. There was, however, one satisfying statistic among all the cherry-picking: the Institute of Contemporary Art, which sits at the other end of the Mall from Buckingham Palace, had its funding cut by 40 per cent. It had hitherto received £1.3 million a year from the Arts Council, a quarter of its income. Two years ago, the ICA was bailed out by the Arts Council to the tune of another £1.2 million. Its high-profile director, Ekow Eshun, resigned last year after presiding over the increasingly beleaguered institute for five years, during which time he blamed its financial woes on (guess what?) the recession and sponsors going bust. But there was much criticism of the way the place was run, and at one point staff held a no-confidence vote. For a while it was facing closure.
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