Arts Council ineffectually redistributes wealth

Arts Council England has lopped £2.5 million off the annual funding of four national companies – the National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company – in order to boost arts spending on smaller companies.

The ACE has increased the number of organisations it funds from 700 to 831.

So far, so good.

But the big-beast cuts amount to a pathetic lapse of responsibility. If the ACE needed £2.5 million – or £10 million – it should have taken the entire amount from the pointless, misdirected Southbank Centre, which has long been ripe for privatisation. Unfortunately, the ACE is simply unable to make a single, bold strategic decision.

The money taken from the Big Four will be invested in 22 new, small organisations in London and give 21 increases to existing London orgs. London funding as a whole is on standstill.

London’s £3m for the 22 new orgs plus 21 uplifts comes from ROH, Southbank and National, plus seven NPOs that have left the portfolio.


From the press release:

Today, (27 June 2017) Arts Council England has announced the 253 arts and culture organisations in London that will be part of its National Portfolio between 2018 and 2022.

Due to its commitment to move more funds outside of the capital, London received a standstill budget: the same amount per year as the current 2015-2018 funding period.

Despite this, we have been able to bring in 24 new organisations into the London National Portfolio for the first time, and award additional investment to 21 current National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs), reaching more people and places in the capital with great art and culture than ever before.

• A total budget of £161 million Grant in Aid and National Lottery will be invested in London for 253 organisations per year.

• Increased investment in 15 boroughs.

• An increase of more than £727,000 per year to six Outer London boroughs: Barking & Dagenham (£212,500, 169%), Brent (£138,355, 15%), Hounslow (£20,116, 20%), Haringey (£147,916, 25%), Newham (£127,000, 6%) and NPO investment in Bromley for the first time (£81,957). This totals more than £2.9 million over the full funding period (2018-22)

• The three boroughs with the lowest levels of engagement (Newham, Hounslow and Barking & Dagenham) will all benefit from increased investment.

• More than £64.9 million will be invested in diverse-led organisations per year.

• 20% of the London portfolio is committed to touring nationally or internationally

• Three museums and one library service will join the 72 museums and seven libraries across the country being integrated into the National Portfolio for the first time.

New entrants and additional investments were prioritised for new, small and/or diverse organisations which reflect and serve the community of modern London.

Shubbak Festival, the UK’s largest (biennial) festival of contemporary art and culture from across the Arab world will receive £85,000 per year. The 2019 festival will feature at least 50 events across 30 venues, at least 100 artists from both UK and Arab countries.

Three hip-hop organisations, ZooNation, Boy Blue Entertainment and Avant Garde Dance Company, will receive over £671,000 per year in recognition of hip-hop as an important contemporary artform with capacity to reach new audiences and combine cultures.

Three diverse-led theatre organisations, the Tricycle in Brent, the Bush in Hammersmith, and Talawa in Hackney will receive additional funding of £268,161 per year (a total investment of £7,460,420 over 2018-22). This significant and strategic boost to touring as well as produce theatres, will help overcome the barriers and challenges Black and minority ethnic theatre-makers encounter across the country, and have a substantial impact on the diversity of the whole sector.


share this

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on linkedin
Share on google
      • If you ask me, the big scandal is that all the Youth Bands/Choirs/Orchestra have had their funding virtually halved. It beggars belief that they’d seek to make the cuts there.

        • They cut, as ever, where they meet least resistance. Young musicians don’t have unions, professional associations, lobbyists, PRs…

        • That’s misleading – whilst their NPO grants have halved, this is simply because the other half is now being funded directly by the Department of Education.

  • The real problem is not the Southbank Centre (which as a for-profit would probably become a conference centre rather than an arts centre, leaving its resident orchestras homeless), but the fact that ACE insists on funding 4 London Orchestras. At least one of these should be cut, and at least one should be persuaded to do at least half of their work outside of London in return for their grant.

  • The Southbank Centre may or may not be misdirected, but I cannot agree that it is pointless. When it is fully restored it will provide three concert venues of very different sizes allowing performance of a wide variety of music. The Royal Festival Hall is admittedly not the world’s finest concert hall, but it serves its purpose just well enough. If the Southbank Centre serves no purpose, where else will we hear the LPO, PO, OAE, London Sinfonietta, and occasionally the RPO, various international orchestras, piano recitals, chamber music, and organ recitals? The latter is particularly pertinent as the Royal Festival Hall is the only full-time London concert hall which actually has an organ (I do not count the Royal Albert Hall as a full-time concert hall, as its serious classical music programming is restricted to the Proms). I have also seen excellent circus and mime events at the Southbank Centre in all three performances spaces. As already pointed out, there is no way that private management would want to use a prime central London location such as this as a classical music venue. It would be turned over to more profitable activities such as conferences, pop gigs, comedy, etc.

  • But the wider point is that ACE clearly see classical music as less relevant.

    Over all there are 12 new music orgs of all genres in the portfolio. In comparison with 25 new theatre orgs and 39 new visual arts orgs.

    Of those 12 new NPO music orgs, there are only 2 classical music new orgs & both are disability music orgs (which is wonderful and long-overdue) but otherwise the focus is on pop, folk and world music. What about all the amazing small classical music orgs that support emerging artists & power inclusive imaginative disability and digital projects. Where are they?

  • Oh, do shut up Norman! London centric as ever and ignoring the great regional stories.
    A refreshed and diverse national portfolio has been announced today with 183 new companies, that is surely good news? That the opera and orchestral sector hasn’t done so well is perhaps entirely due to their inability to adapt to the times we are in. This is a serious wake up call to them.

  • I think the ROH is being penalised because it is so successful, Nightflighttovenus – the opposite of what you maintain. ACE think they can stand on their own feet, like RSC, also popular and successful.

  • >