The culture houses, theater, dance and music companies have known since Monday whether they will receive subsidies again from 2023. In Brussels, that was mostly good news. But for big stars such as theater collective Needcompany and music ensemble Ictus, it is a dark day: they receive negative advice. Their survival is threatened.
These are so-called preliminary recommendations for the subsidy round of the Arts Decree. These subsidies are intended to ensure the functioning of culture houses and theatre, dance and music companies in Flanders and Brussels from 2023 to 2027.
The advice, issued by various committees, can be positive, negative, or ‘positive outside budget’. The latter means that the subsidy application is too high, but does not rule out a final subsidy. Those organizations are on the waiting list.
In Brussels there is usually good news for the big houses: KVS, Beursschouwburg, Rosas, Ultima Vez and Bronks get the green light. They can continue with the requested budget. The Kaaitheater received a ‘positive advice outside budget’. Kaaitheater expects that after the major renovation works, the operation will also grow significantly. It remains to be seen whether the additional subsidy will also be given.
Many little ones have also received positive advice outside of budget. It is uncertain for them whether they will eventually receive subsidies.
Close your books
Already two big clappers received a negative advice. It concerns the Molenbeek theater company Needcompany of Jan Lauwers and Grace Ellen Barkey. Ictus, an internationally renowned music company specializing in contemporary music, also received a negative recommendation.
At Ictus they react with disappointment. “This is a bolt from the blue,” says business manager Gerd Van Looy, who does not want to say anything more about it for the time being. Ictus prepares a response.
Jan Lauwers of Needcompany had not foreseen this coming either. He finds the advice incomprehensible. “In the advice we get a lot of appreciation for the business management, for our international reputation, but we are still set at zero. This is an ideological statement.”
According to the committee, Needcompany would give young theater makers too much free rein without supervising them. “But art should be a sanctuary for thinking,” says Lauwers. “Of course we have to let those young people do their thing.”
According to the advice, Needcompany is also too internationally oriented and therefore too little of its image in Flanders. “But we can argue with that. We have reached 72,000 people in Flanders in the past three years,” says Lauwers.
Lauwers sees a bleak future. If the advice remains unchanged, the books must be closed.
A total of 85 Brussels organizations submitted a subsidy application, accounting for one third of all subsidy applications in Flanders and Brussels.
At the Brussels Kunstenoverleg (BKO), the umbrella organization of the Brussels cultural organizations, they would not say how many ultimately received a positive recommendation. Quinten Wyns: “We are fully analyzing the advice.” However, BKO was immediately approached by VGC board member Pascal Smet (One.brussels-Vooruit) with the request to represent Brussels interests.
“We are the capital of the country, of Flanders. The cultural sector functions here as a real showcase function. So that can be appreciated,” says Wyns.
BKO also hopes that the smaller organizations will not be left out. “They are the fertile humus layer from which a lot can arise. Pruning that could damage the fragile ecosystem in the capital,” Wyns says.
The organizations now have two weeks to respond to the advice. For the organizations that received a negative advice, it is hoped that the committee will still revise the advice.
For the organizations that received a ‘positive advice outside budget’, a Landscape Committee decide to fish up those organizations again, within a strict budgetary framework.
Ultimately, it is up to the Flemish Minister of Culture Jan Jambon (N-VA) to decide on the definitive subsidy allocation within the framework of the Flemish government. That should happen before the summer.