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Architecture Week scrapped after Arts Council pulls funding

Next year's Architecture Week has been cancelled after the Arts Council withdrew its quarter of a million pound funding for the national architectural festival.

The revelation comes less than a fortnight after this year's event which was hailed by the Arts Council - which runs the festival alongside the RIBA and Architecture Centre Network - as the most successful to date (the opening night is pictured above).

The government-sponsored organisation confirmed it had suspended its financial support for the 2008 event, and was carrying out an inquiry into whether or not to proceed with the festival in 2009 and beyond.

The Arts Council, which also coughed up only half of the £100,000 expected for the 2006 London Architecture Biennale, said it had made a 'tough, but correct decision'.

Visual-arts strategy director Vivienne Bennett said: 'After 11 years, we decided to review the format and carry out an option appraisal - an appraisal which will take a year. The event has been suspended while it is conducted.

'Everything needs to change and progress and we need to look at the strengths and weaknesses of the current format and what is the best way to engage the public.'

However, the decision has outraged both Peter Murray, the organiser of last year's London Architecture Biennale, and Richard Rogers, who has been involved in a number of Architecture Week and Biennale events, and who labelled the suspension 'ridiculous'.

Rogers added: 'I can't tell you how strongly I feel about this. We must see Architecture Week continue and perhaps we need to see how we can help.'

Murray said: 'It seems architecture is slipping down the Arts Council's list of priorities. It's very sad. I see no reason to cease funding it when it seems to be picking up steam rather than deflating.'

The decision has also saddened other supporters of the festival, including Charles Knevitt, director of the RIBA Trust, who admitted he was disappointed the Arts Council had ditched next year's event in order to carry out the review.

He said: 'We question the need to put Architecture Week on hold in 2008, and we will be meeting with the Arts Council to discuss this.

'We believe there is a valuable role for events such as Architecture Week to raise the profile of architecture and the built environment with a wider public.'

It is understood that the Arts Council is to spend £10,000 on the independent review of the event. Meanwhile, the RIBA has quashed rumours that it would consider running the event without the support of the Arts Council, although a spokesman said the institute will be organising a 'major public-facing event' next year.

With more than 800 events this year, Architecture Week is the only nationwide festival celebrating the built environment, and includes such favourites as the 'Architect in the House' programme.

by Richard Waite

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