Arts Council UK and the Freedom of Information Act

Posted by Ivan Pope | Thu Feb 10th 2005 5:06 a.m.

I have made a request under the UK's new Freedom of Information Act to
get full details of the failure of the LUX new media arts centre in
London in 2001. I set out the reasons for making this request on my
blog, reproduced below.
I would like to encourage anyone who has a specific interest in the
management of the public arts sector in the UK to put in a FoI request
to the Arts Council and let me know how you get on. You could be
incredibly local (details of how funding allocations were made in a fund
you applied for but didn't get - or even that you didn't apply for but
are interested in). I think we can learn a lot more about how the Arts
Council goes about its business, something that has always been shrouded
in secrecy as far as I can see.

This is my blog entry from http://blog.ivanpope.com

Freedom of Arts Information
http://blog.ivanpope.com/awol/2005/02/freedom_of_arts.html
Under our new UK Freedom of Information legislation, you can put in
requests for all sorts of hitherto secret information. The Guardian
provide a good guide
<http://politics.guardian.co.uk/foi/story/0,9061,1380653,00.html> to
doing this, but essentially it's a piece of piss.
After reading a few stories based on FoI requests, I started wondering
what sort of information I would like to prise out of the Arts Council.
One of the scandals of the late nineties was the failure of the LUX
centre in London. The LUX opened in 1997 and went bust in 2001. It
started with a large lottery grant, and brought together the London
Filmmakers Co-op and London Electronic Arts to form what should have
been a vital new media resource for London and the UK. However, after
four short years, the LUX went bust and closed down. It transpired that
the purpose built building was actually owned by a local landlord and
large rent rises were rumoured to have added to the woes of LUX. My
cousin Greg came from the Filmmakers Co-op to be projectionist in the
LUX cinema, and I was party to plenty of insider stories of chaos,
greed, bad management and abdication of duty.
The LUX went quietly into history and took the historic Filmmakers Co-op
and the London Electronic Arts with it (though the Filmmakers
distribution arm was salvaged and continues to trade as LUX
<http://www.lux.org.uk/>, a not for profit company) . The real story was
never told, but the failure still casts a shadow over attempts to set up
new media organisations in London. London has been bereft of useful
resources ever since.
So I have put in a request for full information under the Freedom of
Information act. Here is the full request, more details as I get them.
I suggest that anyone with an interest in how the Arts Council (or any
other government related organisation) manages their relationships with
artists should put in requests under the FoI and let me know how they
get on. You can request information about funding allocations that you
have put in for but not got, funds withdrawn, dodgy projects, jobs
applied for, strange goings on etc. Ask for minutes, briefing notes,
strategic reviews, assessments etc. Be imaginative!

*Michael Clarke*

*Freedom of Information Officer*

*Open government section*

*Arts Council England*

*14 Great Peter St*

*London***

*SW1P 3NQ*

*Thursday, 10 February 2005*

Dear *Michael*,

I am writing to make an open government request for all the information
to which I am entitled under the freedom of information act. In order to
assist you with this request, I am outlining my query as specifically as
possible. If however this request is too wide or too unclear, I would be
grateful if you could contact me as I understand that under the act, you
are required to advise and assist requesters.

*I request all information relating to the establishment and subsequent
failure of the LUX Centre in Hoxton Square, London.*

*I am interested in the following classes of documentation:*

* Planning documents*

* Strategic reviews*

* Minutes of meetings*

* Financial documents*

* Documents relating to the design and build of the LUX Centre*

* Relationship between the Arts Council, LUX Centre and landlords*

* Specific documents relating to the anticipation of failure of
the LUX*

* Documentation of events surrounding the failure of the LUX Centre*

* Strategic or other reviews after the failure of the LUX*

* *

I am aware that I do not have knowledge of the working procedures of the
relevant Arts Council departments at the time and therefore I cannot
request specific types or classes of documents. I look forward to your
assistance in this matter.

I understand that under the act, I should be entitled to a response
within 20 working days. I would be grateful if you could confirm in
writing that you have received this request. I look forward to hearing
from you in the near future.

Yours,

*Ivan Pope*
  • bruno martelli | Sun Feb 13th 2005 8:37 a.m.
    The ACE also do a thing where applications that fail to be funded are kept on file for 3 years and people can get access to them. I wonder who looks at them and why - there seems to be a lack of understanding of intellectual property on ACE's part. I had an issue with them about this about 2 years ago but got nowhere.
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