Arts Development UK will wind down in April after attempts to increase membership were unsuccessful, but services may be taken up by other bodies.
The membership body supporting local authority arts services, Arts Development UK (ADUK), has announced that it will close as dwindling finances mean it can no longer “provide effective support and remain sustainable”.
A resolution for closure will be put before the organisation’s Annual General Meeting in March, and it is expected that ADUK’s network and training resources will cease to exist in their current form from April.
The decision follows an increasingly difficult period for local authority arts services and officers, who made up the bulk of ADUK’s members. A 2016 report by Arts Council England estimated that local authority arts investment had declined by £236m since 2010 – equivalent to 17% – and ADUK’s latest research found that 38% of local authorities in England and Wales have no dedicated arts officer or service.
“The landscape for Arts Development UK has become more and more challenging over the past few years,” explained Jane Wilson, Chair of ADUK.
“Significant numbers of local authorities have lost their arts development services and officers, or have had to operate with greatly reduced budgets, and our ability to raise income through subscriptions has reduced year on year.”
She continued: “This has been an incredibly difficult decision, but the board decided that rather than spending our time trying to keep ADUK going, there may be a better way of doing what we wanted for our members.”
ADUK has been in operation for 35 years and has almost 400 members. Its aim is to offer practical advice, networking and support to the sector, and advocate for the contribution that the arts and creative industries make to society.
One of its most valued initiatives was an annual investment survey, which tracked arts spend by councils across England and Wales.
Wilson believes many smaller districts lost their arts officer “quite early on”, impacting negatively on rural arts support, and many arts officers’ roles broadened. This became a particular challenge for ADUK, Wilson explained, as it became harder for councils to justify membership to an arts-focused body.
Despite the challenging environment, Wilson is optimistic about the future as ADUK members remain “innovative, hard-working, and always able to rise to a challenge”.
She said the online magazine and professional development services, including the conference and seminar programme, may be taken on by other membership services. ADUK is in discussions with the Chief Culture and Leisure Officers Association (cCLOA) and the Artsworks Alliance.
“Above all else, I hope that you can find a new home with either one of the organisations we have been talking to, or with another, so that you are able to contribute to and benefit from the networks, professional development, and national advocacy that can only be achieved through collaboration.”
Speaking about potential for legacy, Chair of cCLOA Ian Brooke said: “Our vision is that every locality has a thriving, high quality and distinctive cultural and leisure offer. Our Executive is made up of senior local authority officers and we would very much welcome some of the trustees form ADUK to join and further strengthen our Executive.
“I believe this will help to cement a legacy from the positive initiatives ADUK have implemented.”