New funding landscape for the arts

East London youth dance company
30 Nov 2023

Impact investment is an ideal partner for the arts sector where taking creative risks, experimentation and imagination are second nature, writes Fran Sanderson

Weathering the cost-of-living storm across the UK

Storm clouds and lightning
08 Dec 2022

Research rings warning bells about the potential effects of the cost-of-living clouds rolling in across all four nations. Anne Torreggiani asks how we can brace for impact and support communities? 

A brighter future for entrepreneurs and opportunity-seekers

Abstract image of signal and noise
08 Apr 2024

Now more than ever it’s important to focus on the things that really matter, to free ourselves of distractions and to identify earned income opportunities, says Robin Cantrill-Fenwick.

Vault Festival closes after funding for new venue falls through

14 Mar 2024

London's Vault Festival of theatre and performance has announced its closure after funding for its new venue fell through.

Nederlander Theatres buys Dominion freehold

26 Feb 2024

The owner and operator of the Dominion Theatre in London's West End has purchased the Grade-II listed building's freehold with the support of a "multi-million-pound" loan from Lloyds Bank.

Nederlander Theatres, which also owns and operates the Aldwych Theatre and co-owns the Adelphi Theatre, said the acquisition of the freehold was the "culmination of a decades-long effort" by the family-run business to invest in and restore the art deco Tottenham Court Road theatre.

Jerry Katzman, CEO of the Dominion Theatre, said: “Our landlords were very understanding and have supported our efforts to invest in the Dominion, but owning it outright means we can continue to invest and operate in the way that will create the very best shows and experiences for our visitors. 
“The Nederlander family has been in the theatre business continuously since 1912. It’s their passion to keep theatres in the industry and restore them to their iconic magnificent grandeur. We now have the base to press on with that ambition, and the Dominion’s ready to deliver unmissable shows for generations to come.” 

“London’s West End is a huge draw for culture vultures from not just the UK, but across the whole world. The Dominion is at the heart of that, and the purchase helps protect a vital cultural asset in London," added Delcan Mulcahy, Technology, Media, and Telecoms sector head – mid-corporate at Lloyds Bank.

“The team behind the theatre have a clear vision, and owning the freehold has been a major strategic objective for decades. We’re proud to have helped the Dominion achieve that, and we remain by the side of creative businesses across London to dream big and be ambitious."

Majority of heritage organisations planning cuts 

Front of Chiswick House in West London, UK.
26 Feb 2024

Survey commissioned by the National Lottery Heritage Fund highlights action being taken by heritage organisations in the face of budget pressures.

Financial pressure taking 'physical and mental' toll on museum leaders

A mannequin in armour sitting on a fake horse at the Royal Armouries Museum, Leeds
07 Feb 2024

Study finds declining public investment levels have resulted in museum trusts using reserves to plug gaps, running the risk of contravening their legal obligations as charities.

PPL reports record high payments to performers

07 Feb 2024

Collective management organisation PPL paid out £279.6m to 165,000 performers and recording rights holders in 2023.

This marks an increase of £34.9m (14.3%) on the previous year and is the highest annual total ever paid out in PPL’s 90-year history.

The £279.6m includes a payment of £7.7m by VPL, PPL’s sister company, which licences music videos when they are played in public or broadcast on TV. The £7.7m was a £1.6m increase on the previous year.

PPL cited the continued recovery from the Covid pandemic, as more businesses re-opened in the UK and globally, as a key factor in achieving the record total.

Its members receiving payouts range from independent and major record companies, to grassroots artists, session musicians and globally renowned artists. 

“We understand these payments are critical for many and we pride ourselves on our ability to deliver them consistently and on time,” said PPL CEO Peter Leathem.

“As neighbouring rights continue to develop around the world, we see a huge opportunity ahead to grow our market share and maximise revenues for performers and recording rights holders.”

Trustee matchmaking

A RIAC matchmaking event
15 Jan 2024

Many arts organisations struggle to find high-quality trustees, particularly ones with digital or business expertise. A new matchmaking service is responding to this challenge, as Anna Rowe and Matthew Swann explain. 

Jobs go at Crafts Council as revenue shrinks

Exterior of Crafts Council Gallery, Pentonville Road, Islington. May 2021.
10 Jan 2024

National Portfolio Organisation says cultural sector 'faces one of its most testing moments in recent history'.

Scottish arts organisations facing financial distress

High Street Edinburgh during the Fringe festival
10 Jan 2024

Fiona McKerrellCarissa Najafian and Kirsty Fryer are lawyers with extensive experience of working with organisations facing financial challenges. Here they share top tips for weathering the current storm.

ENO still seeking buyer for £11m rehearsal space

Exterior of Lilian Baylis House
15 Nov 2023

Continuing efforts to sell building come amid proposed staff cuts to deal with reduced income.

Wildcard Theatre Company closes due to financial climate

27 Sep 2023

Wildcard Theatre Company has announced its closure after eight years of operation, citing financial difficulties. 

“Having taken this time to consider our options after the closure of our Wildcard Studios at the end of last year, we feel as a collective we’re not in a position to achieve our aims as effectively and dynamically as we previously have in the current financial climate,” the company said in a statement.

“This has led to the difficult decision to close this wonderful chapter in our lives. It will take us a few months to complete this process.”

Wildcard Studios, the company’s four-storey West End venue offering subsided rehearsal space and free study space, was launched in 2019 and closed at the end of last year.

During its three years of operation, the space engaged with over 1,200 individual companies and artists and had more than 4,000 booking, despite restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, the company said.

Wildcard Theatre Company was formed in 2015 by a group of graduates from the Oxford School of Drama with a mission to champion unknown talent.

It eventually evolved into a charity that “aimed to engage new audiences and provide a home for emerging artists”, the statement said, as well as developing “stories that promoted positive social change”.

The company “will no longer be creatively contributing to the theatre landscape” but will be working with the Pleasance Theatre to set up a Wildcard grant in support of their Associate Artist scheme.

More information about the grant is expected to be released in the coming months.


AHRC cuts funded PhDs by 30% after loss of income

26 Sep 2023

The Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) has announced that it will cut the number of PhD students it funds by almost a third amid cost pressures caused by reduced funding and higher doctoral stipends.

The number of funded students supported via doctoral training partnerships will be reduced from 425 to 300 a year by 2029/30 to enable “strategic investments” in other areas, the council announced.

The AHRC, which has a budget of £82m this year, will funnel funding into maintaining PhD entry levels in collaborative doctoral partnerships – in which museums, libraries and other organisations work with universities to support around 50 students a year.

It will also reintroduce 'centres for doctoral training', which allow groups of universities to bid for doctoral funding relating to the creative economy or environmental issues.

The new approach means that the council will support fewer studentships, acknowledged Executive Chair Christopher Smith.

“We fully appreciate that this will be a major change for many institutions and it is not a decision that we have taken lightly,” he said.

“However, we believe that our new approach will, crucially, ensure that our doctoral training provision is sustainable, scalable and equitable,” he said.

The PhD stipend was raised by 5% to £18,622 for 2023/24, following a 10% increase by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) in 2022/23.

Smith said that amid rising PhD costs “our funding does not stretch as far as it used to”.

The decision follows a substantial reduction in the council’s operating budget this year, primarily caused by the loss of around £9m in non-core income streams including the government’s Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the Strategic Priorities Fund and the Fund for International Collaboration.

By 2024/25, it will receive only about £3.8m from these cross-UKRI strategic programmes, compared with £20.5m in 2022/23, Times Higher Education reported.

The changes to AHRC’s funding model have been designed with “future sustainability” in mind, Smith said, following a report published in February that highlighted “challenges to our current approach, such as an inequality of participation and lack of diversity”.

The council “will remain the UK’s largest strategic funder of postgraduate research in the arts and humanities, and also continue to have the highest proportionate spend on postgraduate research of UKRI’s councils”, he added.

Conservation costs at National Trust hit record high

21 Sep 2023

The National Trust (NT) has reported spending a record £179m on conserving its historic buildings and collections last year.

In a report published before the NT’s annual general meeting in November, the organisation detailed some of the rising costs it has had to contend with over the past year, including the doubling of its energy bill to £11m. 

Despite the challenging economic landscape in 2022-23, the NT’s workforce increased in contrast to 2020-21, when the closure of its buildings during the pandemic led to the loss of 1,700 jobs.

Last year, the NT funded 13,245 hours of work on delicate historic collections and spent £25.6m on “significant acquisitions”.

The organisation also saw a boost in visitors at pay-for-entry venues. At the same time, membership rose slightly from 5.71m in 2021-22 to 5.73m in 2022-23, with the cost of individual membership increasing by 16.5% to £84 a year.

As well as record spending, the NT received record amounts in bequeathed legacies last year, topping £70m.

Hilary McGrady, the NT’s Director General, said: “The record funds we dedicated in the last financial year reflects the NT’s enduring commitment to the beautiful historic places in its care and the nation’s enthusiasm for this.

“We were able to make this significant investment during a particularly difficult economic environment, with rising costs and continued recovery from the pandemic, thanks to the millions of people who supported our cause.”

Shetland Arts to offer voluntary redundancies 

22 Aug 2023

Shetland Arts has announced it is offering 15 staff voluntary redundancy in an attempt “to avoid the need for compulsory redundancies”.

The redundancies will be offered to staff at office and manager level. 

The organisation's trust said the measures were necessary due to its current financial situation, after commercial income failed to return to pre-Covid levels and emergency funding had ended, with costs “continuing to escalate”.

“This reduction in commercial income and increasing costs means the organisation needs to make savings,” a spokesperson for the trust said.

According to local press, total savings of around £318,000 need to be made, with around half of those savings found already.

Belfast arts centre at risk amid funding uncertainty

21 Aug 2023

The future of the Metropolitan Arts Centre (MAC) in Belfast is in doubt over concerns that Arts Council of Northern Ireland (ANCI) might cut its funding.

ANCI is the centre’s main funder, granting it more than £1m annually for the past three years. But an ongoing review risks jeopardising this funding in future, BBC News NI reported.

During the review period, which was scheduled to finish at the end of July, the MAC has been funded by ACNI on a quarterly basis.

Two external audits of financial management at the centre have also been conducted.

In the most recent accounts for the MAC, filed on 1 January 2023, an independent auditor said there was “a material uncertainty which may cast significant doubt about the group and the parent charitable company's ability to continue as a going concern”, the BBC found.

The accounts also said the MAC board was forecasting a deficit of £150,028 for the year ending 31 March 2023.

The MAC said it was “engaged in ongoing discussions with funders” about “the most efficient way to ensure the long-term financial sustainability of the MAC”.

“We are confident of a positive outcome in the very near future,” a spokesperson said. “In the meantime our shows, exhibitions and events all continue as usual.” 

SDLP councillor Séamas de Faoite said Belfast City Council wants to ensure the MAC’s long-term future, adding that it is “worth saving”.

He said sustained budget cuts in the arts risk a “devastating impact” that will “take years to rebuild”.

“We have a lot of concerns about making sure we protect Belfast's cultural and arts spaces and the MAC is one of those,” he said.

“We want to make sure it has long-term viability to keep the doors open. I think it's really, really important that we don't lose any of those types of spaces.”

He added that the centre has a positive impact on the local economy in terms of returns on spending and job creation.

Fringe operator ‘facing collapse’ over £1.5m debt

People standing near the Assembly box office at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival
09 Aug 2023

Assembly Festival, which operates a major venue at Edinburgh Fringe and delivers around a fifth of the annual festival, is set to run out of money by the end of the year.

County Durham theatre to close due to repair costs

01 Aug 2023

The Alun Armstrong Theatre in County Durham is set to close this week due to repair costs that outstrip the town council’s budget.

Stanley Town Council, which leases the premises from Durham County Council, said the theatre no longer meets health and safety requirements due to problems including broken boilers, a leaking roof and damp.

The council said it was told that it would cost more than £100,000 to replace the boiler system, which would be “outside the realms of [its] financial capabilities”, the BBC reported.

“In addition to this, the roof in areas needs replacing, there is flooding in the cellar, damp throughout and the sewage blocks up regularly,” it said.

“Unfortunately, the building is not as it was in its heyday. However, the town council has endeavoured to keep the building open to the public and service users for as long as possible.”

It said it had given notice on the lease in February and would “look forward to investing into the community more without the burden of paying for a large, aged building”.

The theatre has been operating at the venue within Stanley Civic Hall since 1961. 

Local amateur dramatics groups expressed fears that members would be left with nowhere to perform once the venue closes. Chair of Oxhill Youth Club Gale Wilson called the closing of the theatre “the death knell for the town”.

Building owner Durham County Council said that it was assessing options. 

“Until the lease ends, any operational decisions regarding the building, including its use by community groups, are made by the town council,” said the council’s Asset Strategy and Property Manager Anna Wills

“We know the building is used and valued by the community and any feedback from the public will be carefully considered in determining the site's future.

“We are currently working with the town council to carry out surveys of the building to identify any repairs or investment that may be needed to make it suitable for future community use and we will not be making any formal decisions until these assessments are complete.”

Worcester theatre plans cut back due to increased costs

19 Jul 2023

Plans for a new 500-seat theatre in Worcester are to be scaled back due to a £3.5m funding gap.

Worcester City Council said the decision to revise the plans for the Scala Theatre, which is being paid for with a share of nearly £18m from the Future High Streets Fund, was due to a "dramatic increase in construction costs". 

The new plans for the listed building will reduce capacity to 300.

Other cost-cutting revisions include scrapping a planned flexible stage along with proposed taller rooms and balconies.

David Blake, the city council's managing director, said: "Rising costs are having an impact on every aspect of our lives and unfortunately the council's ambitions for the Scala are no exception.

"We have had to reconsider our plans and work out how we can still provide Worcester with a popular and attractive new arts venue, one that will become a popular hub for live entertainment and the arts in the very heart of our city."

If councillors back the revised plans, the council intends to ask the Department for Levelling-Up, Housing and Communities for permission to spend its funding beyond the March 2024 deadline.


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