The body which allocates grants to venues hit hard by the pandemic has given £215,000 to a drag queen called Le Gateau Chocolat.
While snubbing popular cash-strapped venues applying for a share of its £500 million pot, Arts Council England gave the huge grant to George Ikediashi – who describes himself as ‘fat, black and bearded’.
The sum – which is more than seven times the average national salary – came despite the act never grossing even half that sum in a year. Other acts and venues, such as Manchester’s renowned comedy club, The Frog and Bucket, have had their grant applications rejected.
The Frog and Bucket has helped launch the careers of TV favourites Peter Kay, Johnny Vegas, Sarah Millican and Jack Whitehall.
While snubbing popular cash-strapped venues applying for a share of its £500 million pot, Arts Council England gave the huge grant to George Ikediashi – aka Le Gateau Chocolat – who describes himself as ‘fat, black and bearded’.
It said a grant would have meant ‘everything’ to its survival plans, but it was deemed not to be ‘culturally significant’. The annual Towersey folk festival’s application for funding was also rejected.
A spokesman said: ‘We guess a 56-year-old festival (the oldest independent in the country) that has never needed funding, handouts or grants, always paid wages and bills and been financially viable every single year, is not worth saving.’
Brighton-based Mr Ikediashi, 38, was given the cash as part of a second round of bailouts worth £76 million announced by the council last week.
On his website he describes himself as a ‘British-born, Nigerian boy with a law degree, unsuspecting mother and a big heart, who against all odds discovered opera, Lycra, drag and just the right amount of ass-holism.’
Brighton-based Mr Ikediashi, 38, was given the cash as part of a second round of bailouts worth £76 million announced by the council last week
He has performed at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and was named by Time Out London magazine as among the top ten cabaret stars in the country.
The last recorded turnover of his business, which has two employees, was submitted to Companies House in 2018 and was for £107,739.
Defending the size of the grant, an arts council spokesman said: ‘Awards of all scales and sizes have been made, but in all cases the awards are proportionate to the needs of the organisation.
‘Le Gateau Chocolat is a leading black and LGBTQ+ performer whose work spans across multiple art forms, including drag, cabaret, opera, musical theatre, and live art.
‘With this funding, Le Gateau Chocolat Ltd will put on a number of planned shows, which would involve employing a range of freelancers to produce and deliver work.’
Michael Kill, of the Night Time Industries Association, said: ‘We are keen, alongside hundreds of unsuccessful businesses, to understand the criteria with which some of these decisions have been made.’
The last recorded turnover of his business, which has two employees, was submitted to Companies House in 2018 and was for £107,739
Jessica Toomey, director of The Frog and Bucket, said she was ‘absolutely devastated’ the comedy club – which has been losing money since reopening – had been rejected, saying it felt like ‘two fingers up’ to the northern comedy scene.
She said the funding ‘would have meant we could retain jobs into next year’, adding: ‘I don’t know what it means now. It was everything. That’s the end of the road, there’s no appeal process, there’s nothing else we can apply for.’
Arts Council England has announced £334 million in grants to nearly 2,000 cultural organisations. Other recipients have included museums and theatres, many of whom received a fraction of the amount awarded to Mr Ikediashi.
The council spokesman added: ‘The criteria to be awarded a grant are rigorous and we are confident we have applied them in all our decision making.
‘Organisations offered funding had to demonstrate that their operations were sustainable prior to the pandemic, and that they are at risk of no longer trading viably by March 2021.
‘They also had to demonstrate that they are culturally significant.’ Mr Ikediashi was contacted for comment.
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