Funding snub for Lancaster writers is “absurd”

Co-ordinators of Spotlight, Sarah Fiske and Ron Baker.
Co-ordinators of Spotlight, Sarah Fiske and Ron Baker.

Fans of a Lancaster poetry group are lost for words after a decision to cut its funding.

Spotlight has been told by the Arts Council it won’t receive a grant this year.

This is the first time in 15 years the organisation has not received Arts Council cash.

Spotlight, which celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, runs monthly events at the Storey where poets, writers and musicians perform on stage to an audience.

The group also hosts workshops for budding writers all over the district.

Ron Baker, Spotlight co-ordinator, called the decision “absurd”.

“We have had an avalanche of positive comments from people who are absolutely dismayed at this decision,” said Mr Baker.

“It was turned down due to ‘comparatively weaker artistic quality’ in relation to other funding bids.

“There is nothing like Spotlight in the region. When Litfest lost its funding we were led to believe that Spotlight was a priority.

“In recent years we have worked hard - often unpaid - to promote projects targeted at younger and older writers.

“I know the situation is tough due to austerity and cuts, but they have funded us for 15 years.”

Mr Baker reassured Spotlight’s supporters that the organisation would continue, although the monthly Storey event will not happen in August.

“We had planned to have a break anyway and we will be back in September,” he said.

“We have sufficient funds to run as we are up until December and then will reapply.”

Spotlight was founded in December 1995 by Mr Baker and Sarah Fiske.

Other people key to Spotlight include compere Simon Baker, and long time volunteer and supporter Pascal Desmond.

Writers who made their debuts at Spotlight who have since gone on to greater things include Ian Marchant, Jacob Polley, Byron Vincent and Kim Moore

Originally the monthly event was held at the Yorkshire House before moving to the Storey in May 2009.

The group received £26,783 from Arts Council England for the period 2013-15 and extra grants from Awards For All and Morecambe Town Council.

The recent funding bid was to maintain the Spotlight monthly event, run workshops and surgeries, run two projects with younger and older writers and develop a Writing Groups Forum established last year.

Fiona Davidson from Arts Council England said: “The decision panel decided that the artistic outcomes of the activity were less strong than other applications that were received and considered.

“The total Arts Council investment in Lancaster and Morecambe to date from 2013/14 is £2,307,823.

“Since 2013, we have awarded grants totalling £47,605 to literature specific applicants.”