(Keep ’em) hungry for success:
Sadly, it looks like Birmingham’s National Academy of Writing is quitting the city and may have to fold. John Alden, the Council’s ‘cabinet member for leisure, sport and culture’ is reported as saying…

“I am not quite sure what the National Academy for Writing want to achieve in having its headquarters set up in Birmingham. It seems to me that if people want to become a writer if they have an aptitude for it they will go far anyway.”

//cough// – that’s a somewhat more cynical line than the one spouted by the Council during the bid for European Capital of Culture 2008. Yes, they will “go far”, John – far away from Birmingham. Nurturing writers is surely a long-term bid to put a place ‘on the map’ for cultural tourism, and if you get it right (a Shakespeare/Bronte/Austen) then you can dine off it for centuries. But it seems Alden is only looking at the short-term balance sheet. As Jonathan Church, director of the Birmingham Rep theatre, said this week at a conference… “the city council has showed itself to be uninterested in theatre or fiction of any kind”. Freezing the NAW out of the city no doubt fits in with Alden’s draconian new arts inspections regime – already rumoured to be threatening the survival of the MAC arts centre (funded by the Council to the tune of £692k). Worryingly, what’s happening in Birmingham is just part of an emerging pattern: national government’s growing indifference to the arts; weak local arts bureaucrats; increasing ‘hands-on’ meddling by cash-strapped local councils and/or regional assemblies.

[Update: the Academy weathered the storm and launched in June 2006. A revivified MAC looks set for extra funding in 2008.]