Local authority funding survey 2024: preliminary findings

11 Apr 2024

Initial findings from Arts Professional's latest Pulse survey on local authority funding reveal councils are selling off venues and 'spinning out' arts and culture to independent entities to save money.

West London arts centre to close

An exterior view of Watermans Arts Centre
20 Mar 2024

Watermans Art Centre will close next month to 'protect the organisation's financial viability' ahead of planned moved to a new site.

Will the restoration of Stormont benefit the arts in Northern Ireland?

Production shot from Agreement by Owen McCafferty
20 Feb 2024

With the return of devolved government to Northern Ireland, Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of Arts Council Northern Ireland, reflects on what it might mean for the arts and cultural sector. 

We are all philanthropists

Graphic showing aerial view of people holding hands in concentric circles
01 Feb 2024

The Secretary of State for Culture, Lucy Frazer, has called for an attitude shift towards philanthropy to boost arts funding. But that view, writes Caroline McCormick, fails to recognise the huge contribution of the 99%.

UKRI awards £70m to university museums and collections

12 Apr 2024

University museums and collections from 21 higher education institutes will receive a share of £14m of Higher Education Museums, Galleries, and Collections funding each year until 2029/2030.

The funding from Research England - part of United Kingdom Research and Innovation - has been raised from £11.7m and will go to 40 higher education museums, galleries, and collections, compared to 33 in previous rounds.

Among those receiving the multi-year grants are nine museums and collections at Cambridge University, which will share more than £2.9m, and four at Oxford, splitting more than £4m.

Three Birmingham University collections will share £400,000, while the Royal College of Music Museum and The Courtauld Institute of Art will get over £221,000 and £696,000, respectively.

Dr Liz Hide, Director of the Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences at Cambridge University, which has been awarded £210,000 a year, said the funding would go toward “[ensuring] researchers can fully utilise our new Collections Research Centre, and enabling our outstanding collections to inspire many new avenues of research across both the sciences and the humanities.”

Community arts groups share in £480k of Windrush funding

11 Apr 2024

Several art groups are among 28 community projects to share in more than £480,000 of government funding as part of the Windrush Day Grant Scheme.

Administered by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Community, the fund, established six years ago, supports community-led arts, educational, and sporting events across England that highlight the legacy of the Windrush generation.

Funded organisations include Sudden Productions, which will provide a platform for the Windrush Generation and their descendants to share their experiences through a stage production and drama workshops, and Island Movements, which will create a 30-minute ballet telling the story of a Caribbean family whose parents came over on the Windrush.

The Brixton Project, which promotes community cohesion through a carnival of art, theatre and music, will also receive a grant, as will Voyage, a project bringing young people and community elders together to produce a book and exhibition. 

The full list of recipients includes Northampton Theatres Trust, BLACK* artists on the move, Oxygen Arts CIC, Royal Pavilion and Brighton Museums, the London Borough of Newham, and Oxford City Council.

Orchestra leader says classical music cuts “not acceptable”

10 Apr 2024

Funding cuts are destroying Britain’s “top-notch” classical music organisations, according to the new chief conductor at the London Symphony Orchestra, Sir Antonio Pappano.

Speaking at the launch of LSO’s new season, Pappano said: “Do you want to see them die little by little? Look at the struggles, look at the ENO, the WNO. These places are in trouble, and it is not acceptable.”

He said that concerns around whether classical music was “specialist, elitist”, distracted organisations “when they should be concentrating on making good work and quality performances”.

Pappano also criticised Arts Council England, saying the funding body “did not seem to be supporting" classical music organisations and only held “discussions focused on community, diversity, and all those social aspects."

“It is not the LSO or Royal Philharmonic or London Philharmonic’s ­responsibility to educate children. It is the government’s job to start educating children and creating not only talent for the future but also audiences," said Pappano.

“The amount of responsibility given to organisations to correct something that should be done by the government is unfair, frankly.”

LSO, an ACE National Portfolio Organisation, has seen its annual investment from the funding body drop from £2,246,641 to £1,977,044. Pappano joins the orchestra from the Royal Opera House, which has seen its own annual investment from ACE - the largest grant awarded to any single organisation - fall from £25,211,186 to £22,268,584.

Historic windmill closes after council ends funding

10 Apr 2024

A 19th-Century Hampshire windmill that houses a display of historic farming artefacts has closed following the withdrawal of council funding from its operator.

Eastleigh Borough Council terminated its funding agreement with Hampshire Culture Trust (HCT) in February last year.

The trust then requested that Hampshire County Council (HCC) allow it to end operations at the Grade II-listed Bursledon Windmill.

HCT has been responsible for providing the council’s museum and heritage services since 2014, the same year that the windmill had its wind shaft and sails replaced following a £94,000 Heritage Lottery Fund grant.

A report found that the trust had made efforts to keep the windmill open by diversifying revenue through grants, donations or commercial opportunities but said it would not be "sufficient to support the financial viability of the venue".

The historic items displayed at the windmill may now be transferred to the authority or a new operator.

Earlier this year, HCT warned that five more venues, out of the 24 it operates, face closure after HCC, its primary funder, proposed reducing its annual funding from £2.5m to £1.9m by 2027.

The trust, an ACE National Portfolio Organisation, said Ashcroft Arts Centre in Fareham, Westbury Manor Museum and Eastleigh Museum are expected to shut early next year, while Curtis Museum in Alton and Andover Museum and the Museum of the Iron Age are facing withdrawal by 2026.

Study finds arts underinvestment across Derby and Nottingham

09 Apr 2024

Historic levels of funding from local authorities, Arts Council England and National Lottery across Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire found to be below average.

Birmingham launches library cuts consultation

09 Apr 2024

Plans to switch library provision in Birmingham to a mixture of council and community-run hubs to save money have been put out for consultation.

Launching the exercise, Birmingham City Council said that, based on current information on community interest and co-location opportunities, it estimates this combination of provision could allow for 25 building-based library services. 

"For more than a decade, tightening budgets for maintenance, staffing and technology have made Birmingham Libraries’ current delivery model inefficient and not effective," a statement accompanying the consultation said.

"The current budget challenges mean that library budgets have been further reduced. 

"In that time we have also seen the way people use libraries has changed with a reduction in people accessing library buildings, yet the need for free and facilitated access to information, culture, and advice is high in the city. 

"Public libraries in Birmingham have a long and strong track record of adapting to new demands and changed circumstances, therefore, an essential review and redesign of the way we provide information and library services in Birmingham offers the best route towards a long-term, effective and sustainable solution."

The consultation on the plans is open until 17 July.

Industrial heritage projects share £15m

A blacksmith at the National Slate Museum
09 Apr 2024

Funding will deliver hundreds of apprenticeships, traineeships, volunteer and employment opportunities,

Universities urged to resist 'government assault on arts'

Education Secretary Gillian Keegan speaking at the Conservative party conference
08 Apr 2024

An 'assault on the arts' by the government is having a devastating impact on creative courses around England, education union warns.

Museum warns of closure risk over energy costs

08 Apr 2024

A museum in Wales has launched a public appeal to help it remain open in the face of soaring energy bills.

Llandudno Museum says its costs have quadrupled, and the grant funding it receives does not cover the rise.

"It is definitely a threat because at the moment our energy bills are in the region of £35,000 a year, which is astronomic," Director Dawn Lancaster told ITV News

"We can't turn everything off because we have to have stable conditions to maintain the artefacts in the building."

The museum reopened in 2022 after a £1.6m redevelopment scheme partly funded by a Heritage Lottery Fund grant, with the remainder of the money coming mostly in grants from other charitable bodies, and an annual grant from Llandudno Town Council.

It says it needs to raise £80,000 by October.

Sadiq Khan makes pre-election creative industries pledge 

Sadiq Khan speaking at an event wearing a white collared shirt and dark suit jacket
08 Apr 2024

London Mayor claims his Conservative rival for the forthcoming election, Susan Hall, plans to cut culture spending, while she says cultural industries 'will collapse' unless action on crime is taken.

Edinburgh Fringe artists' funding scheme extended

04 Apr 2024

An initiative which financially supports UK-based artists and companies taking work to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival has been extended by two years as a result of £1m capital funding to the Fringe Society from the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the funding would "protect this talent pipeline and nurture the next generation of British artists [by] improving the festival’s accessibility". 

Launched last year, the Keep it Fringe fund saw more than 670 artists apply for 50 bursaries. 

Across 2024 and 2025, the extended programme will offer 360 bursaries -180 each year - of £2,500 each. Of this, £ 2,000 will be paid upfront, with the remaining £500 to support admin and reporting to be paid after the festival.

Applicants will be assessed by "external specialists" to identify those that demonstrate "the greatest need and the boldest ideas".

The Fringe Society says £900,000 of the £1m from DCMS will go directly to support artists over the two years, with £50,000 per year used to support administration and payment to freelance assessors involved in the process, as well as accessibility and event support for funded artists at during the Fringe.

The announcement comes after the Fringe Society revealed it has been turned down for support twice in the space of a month by national funding body Creative Scotland.

Shona McCarthy, Chief Executive of the Fringe Society, said: “We recognise that for many, the financial challenges of putting on a show can prevent some artists from coming to the festival. This funding will enable the Edinburgh Fringe to be more accessible than ever to artists from across the UK.”

Honorary Fringe Society President Phoebe Waller-Bridge added: “To have the government support this fund is to feel the sun come out from behind a cloud. Thank you to the Fringe Society for endlessly campaigning for artists, and thank you to those in government for recognising the cultural importance of the Fringe and the artistic freedom that defines it.”

Irish arts councils award €400k for theatre in the Irish language

04 Apr 2024

The Irish Arts Council and Arts Council Northern Ireland have announced a one-off €400,000 (£342,500) award for “an exceptional theatre production” in the Irish language, the single largest grant from either funding body. 

The successful applicant will work closely with an evaluator which will assess the scheme's outcomes to "refine the approach in the long term". 

Applications will open on 7 May and close on 6 June 2024. The award will run for at least three years and applications will be invited again in 2025 and 2026.

Roisín McDonough, Chief Executive of Arts Council of Northern Ireland, said the "ground-breaking initiative" demonstrated the two councils' commitment to "supporting artistic endeavours that transcend borders, uniting communities through the universal language of the arts".

Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Irish Arts Council, added: "This initiative underscores our firm commitment to nurturing artistic expression in the Irish language, fostering creativity and providing rich cultural experiences for all.”

Theatres Trust awards £57k to ‘theatres at risk’

04 Apr 2024

Theatres Trust has announced the second round of grant recipients for its Resilient Theatres: Resilient Communities programme. 

The grants, funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, the Pilgrim Trust and the Swire Charitable Trust, can be used to help restore, reopen or revitalise venues on the Theatres at Risk Register, published by Theatres Trust.

Seven venues will share the £57,850 fund, including Amulet Theatre in Shepton Mallet, The Groundlings Theatre Trust in Portsmouth, Hulme Hippodrome, Leith Theatre, Netherton Arts Centre in Dudley, Ramsbottom Co-op Hall and Spilsby Sessions House.

Recipients of this round have pledged to put the money toward fundraising and business planning strategies, community engagement and outreach, conditions surveys and an oral history project.

City of Culture: Bradford nears £42m funding target

Street poster advertising Bradford 2025
04 Apr 2024

Corporate sponsorship deal sees amount raised by Bradford City of Culture 2025 reach 90% of predicted costs of year-long programme.

Reading theatre upgrade plans rubberstamped

04 Apr 2024

A Reading theatre will benefit from a £13.7m upgrade after the project's plans were given the green light.

The Hexagon Theatre will get a new 300-capacity studio auditorium and rehearsal space, with work on the site set to begin as early as this summer.

The BBC reports that the project can proceed after Reading Borough Council secured £19.1m of government Levelling Up funding to upgrade The Hexagon and bring the Central Library into the council's civic offices in Bridge Street.

Jackie Yates, Chief Executive of the council, said: "We want the Hexagon to continue to remain a pivotal venue for Reading residents and the wider area in the future, and this important project will secure that.

"Access to the arts and culture plays an important part in people's lives. Having such a versatile and accessible venue will enable even more residents to enjoy it."

RAAC closure causes £400k loss for museum

03 Apr 2024

York Museums Trust (YMT) has revealed it lost £400,000 in revenue because one of its sites was closed for three months following the discovery of reinforced autoclaved concrete (RAAC).

The Castle Museum, housed in the former York County Gaol, was shut between September and December while undergoing remedial works to deal with RAAC from a roof installed in the 1980s.

In a report due to be presented to councillors on 9 April, Kathryn Blacker, Chief Executive of York Museums Trust, said that despite reopening on 8 December, the museum suffered losses over the Christmas period as it was not able to fully market its intended programme of events.

Blacker added: "We had to drop our prices in this period, and we had much lower visitor numbers, which impacted our retail and catering on-site".

The closure cost York Museums Trust around £400,000 in addition to the £80,0000 paid from its reserves to cover the remedial works. 

“Unfortunately, we have still not been able to reopen the upper half of the female prison because of the need to mitigate remaining RAAC issues," Blacker wrote.

Predicting a drop in visitor numbers from 2023 to 2024, Blacker continued: “We remain loss-making given our reliance on visitor income and trading through our Enterprise subsidiary for 70% our funding."

She said the organisation has £0.8m in its reserves, amounting to less than two months of operating costs.

YMT currently receives an annual grant of £300,000 from City of York Council, which Blacker notes was reduced from £600k in 2015-16 and £1.1m in 2014-15. 

The organisation hopes to secure a £5m grant from Arts Council England's Museum Estate and Development Fund in 2024-25 to help with re-roofing costs and recoup losses.


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