As many as 900 arts organisations and museums could be admitted into the national portfolio in the next funding round.

Photo of dancers
Shobana Jeyasingh perform at The Lowry, Salford

Arts Council England (ACE) is preparing to fund as many as 900 National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) from 2018.

An ACE spokesperson told AP that 216 organisations could potentially be added to the portfolio, which contained 663 NPOs and 21 separately funded Major Partner Museums (MPMs) for the 2015-18 funding period.

“Our aim is to expand the reach of the Portfolio in 2018-22 to new, small and diverse organisations, and to increase the proportion of our NPO funding outside London,” they said.

Budget boost

ACE has ring-fenced a record £409m per annum for the expanded portfolio for 2018-22, £83m more than has been allocated for NPOs in 2017/18. ACE described £37m of this as ‘additional’ money, with the rest transferred from the MPM fund and various strategic grant budgets that will now fit within the portfolio.

Despite the increase, ACE warned last month that funding uplifts will only be given in “exceptional circumstances”. A spokesperson said the £37m is not necessarily earmarked solely for new organisations but confirmed £9m would be going to Factory, the new flagship arts centre in Manchester.

“Decisions will be based on the strength of the applications we get,” the spokesperson said, “but with this additional funding we are planning for an increase in successful NPO applicants for this investment round.”

Museum integration

From 2018, sweeping changes to the portfolio will see the funding period extended to four years and the integration of both the MPMs and museum and library activities.

Although not all of the additions to the portfolio will be necessarily museums, the plan to significantly increase the number of NPOs may allay fears of increased competition between arts organisations and new museum entrants. 

The Museums Association (MA) told AP it had encouraged museums that “wouldn’t previously have thought about applying for NPO funding” to do so, and pointed out the particular opportunities for museums applying for lower bands of NPO funding.