Arts Council England’s new national portfolio brings both relief and disappointment. Here's a taste of the sector's online reaction to the decisions.
The arts sector is responding en masse to Arts Council England’s (ACE) new national portfolio.
Decision day has brought an anxious – and extended – wait to an end for a record-breaking number of national portfolio applicants. But it has seen a myriad of emotions shared online, with those receiving good news expressing relief while others receiving bad news now facing a more uncertain future.
Ahead of today’s announcement, social media was alight with comments from arts professionals acknowledging the hard work all prospective National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) have been doing amidst a backdrop of uncertainty.
- NPO decisions: Enlarged portfolio shifts funding away from London
- ACE National Portfolio 2023-26: Transition Programme explained
Yesterday, Acting Artistic Director of the Royal Shakespeare Company Erica Whyman wrote: “Just want to salute EVERYONE who is still standing in the arts.”
“Living through a terrible identity crisis in which none of us knew if we’d be back & lots of us weren’t, gritting our teeth, finding new ways, & filling in the flipping form. The world will always need stories…”
Joy for some
Those receiving good news today have shared their gratitude for a guaranteed three-years of funding.
Among those joining the portfolio for the first time are Southampton-based Opera Up Close. Artistic Director Flora McIntosh said the support means “we are now in a unique position to have both local and national impact, developing and expanding our work as an innovative force in UK opera”.
Leeds-based Book Trust will receive over £5.7m per annum, the highest amount of any new addition to the portfolio.
Writing on Twitter, the reading charity said: “It's a real endorsement of the transformative power of reading and an amazing investment in the creative development of young people. We're really excited that this funding allows us to continue to work with every local authority in the country.”
Disabled-led charity We Are Unlimited Arts is another new addition to the portfolio, with £1m funding per annum.
Unlimited Board Chair Anna Starkey said joining the portfolio is “a crucial and welcome step.”
“This funding comes at a vital time to deepen and nourish the roots of our long-term vision to commission extraordinary work from disabled artists until the rest of the sector does”.
Former ACE Disability Champion Andrew Miller said the new portfolio “represents a step-change for disabled-led practice in the arts sector”.
“Much more work to do to achieve full equity, but I’m proud that the dial is shifting,” he added.
Artistic Director of Icon Theatre Nancy Hirst, who is celebrating NPO status for the first time after two previous rejections, told unsuccessful organisations not to give up: “If today hasn’t been your day, don’t give up. There's so much fantastic work out there that's not NPO or even ACE funded. If you’re making work, keep going, you’re amazing.”
Disappointment for others
Over 700 applicants have missed out on NPO status, with some sharing their dissapointment online.
South-West based theatre company Papatango said their first bid for NPO status was unsuccessful. Their decision letter said they were rated strongly on outcomes but were turned down because they are not located in a Levelling Up For Culture Place.
Leeds-based training company We are IVE were unsuccessful in their bid for NPO status, after managing ACE’s Bridge programme for a decade, which funds a network of organisations that connect the culture and education sectors.
IVE Chair Rashik Parmar and CEO Rosi Lister said the organisation is disappointed by the decision and will now commission an independent impact report to share achievements and learning from the Bridge programme.
Other organisations are sharing news they have lost their NPO status. 2Faced Dance Company said the “hugely disappointing” withdrawal of regular funding will “have a significant impact on the future direction of the company”.
“Our first proritiy will be to support our staff and identify a sustainable way forward that ensures 2Faced remains true to its vision and purpose,” Chair Alex Green said.
Artist-Duo Action Hero said “we’re fucking gutted and really sad” after receiving a call that their bid to remain an NPO was unsuccessful.
“Being an NPO has been so formative for our company. We will regroup and make new plans and go back to being project-funded badassess. We are unstoppable,” they said.
Losses in London
One of the biggest talking points is the redistribution of funding away from London, which has seen high profile organisations lose funding or lose their portfolio status altogether.
Hampstead Theatre's Artistic Director Roxana Silbert and Executive Producer Greg Ripley-Duggan said the theatre is “disappointed and saddened” to lose NPO status.
"We will now consider how best to ensure the future of a company that nurtures and supports so many writers and that has for so long been an essential part of British theatre. In the meantime, our current programme of new plays will continue as announced and we thank all our supporters for their ongoing commitment to our work," they added.
Arts Correspondent for The Times David Sanderson tweeted that funding cuts in the capital were “devastating for London”: “A dark day for arts in the capital,” he added.
Theatre Director and Maker Ian Nicholson said the NPO round “seems more like Levelling places down than Levelling anywhere up”: “London has been gutted, Bristol also hit. Will be a very hard three years.”
Mayor of London Sadiq Khan has urged the government to “think again and reconsider the consequences of these detrimental cuts”.
“Many will be left devastated by this announcement of over £50m worth of Government cuts to London’s arts funding”.
“These cuts could not have come at a worse time as arts organisations already face a triple whammy of spiralling operating costs, soaring energy bills, and the impact of both the pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis on audience figures.”
ACE's decision to remove the English National Opera (ENO) from the portfolio and offer relocation funding to a North England location has also been met with mixed reactions.
Chief Music Critic at The Times Richard Morrison said the move is “hardly helpful when Opera North cover that area very well”.
In a statement released online, ENO said the decision “marks the start of a new chapter”.
“The ENO has vision and purpose and we aim to support the levelling up agenda by reimagining opera for future generations across England.”