Arts Council England puts its money into the regions

Regional arts practitioners in England have a lot to smile about this week as Arts Council England (ACE) held true to chief executive Darren Henley’s promise to support National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) operating outside of London.

*All figures are rounded to nearest ‘000

Revealed on 27 June, ACE’s four-year 2018-22 NPO pot will see GBP409m (€463m) a year of Grant in Aid and National Lottery spread across 831 organisations across England – areas to receive a bulk of investment include Plymouth (GBP4m), Tees Valley (GBP2m), Bradford (GBP1.8m), Luton (GBP399,000) and Stoke-on-Trent (GBP255,000). [See the ACE interactive funding map here.]

The significant increase amounts to an ambitious allocation of £170m ring-fenced to ensure that more people, from a greater geographical area in England, experience great art and culture.

New NPO theatre companies in England’s North West to benefit include Manchester-based Regional Theatre Young Director Scheme (RTYDS: a professional artist development programme for new and emerging theatre directors in the UK), which receives GBP740,000 (2018-22).

Sue Emmas, artistic director, RTYDS, said: “Although RTYDS has been around for the last 60 years it has been the phenomenal support of Arts Council in the last seven years that has ensured its continuing longevity. By joining the Arts Council portfolio for the first time we will be able to deepen and extend our work with theatres, companies and directors across the country. We can continue our mission to change the face of theatre, to ensure that it reflects our country’s unique and diverse range of voices.”

Royal Court Liverpool Trust, which will receive a total of GBP900,000 (2018-22), took to Twitter to show its elation at being pulled into the inner-circle of NPOs. Tweeted @RoyalCourtLiv: “NPO status is a massive lift for us. 10 years of being the mouthy outsiders and now we’re part of the gang.”

Fellow Liverpool-based arts organisation, 20 Stories High, saw a whopping 30% increase in their NPO grant, taking them to GBP211,905 per year (a total of GBP847,620 for 2018-22), having previously received GBP162,905 per year in the 2015-18 round.

Meanwhile, Birmingham’s Ace Dance and Music will benefit from a 70% increase taking its 2015-18 grant of GBP221,966 per year to GBP397,996 annually; a total of GBP1.6m for 2018-22.

International independent player, Akram Khan Dance Company, saw no move in its funding which stays put at GBP500,610 per year until 2022. South Gloucestershire’s Academy of Circus Arts and Physical Theatre, Circomedia, also maintains its level of funding at GBP106,552 per annum through to 2022.

Cambridge-based Arts Marketing Association (AMA), another new NPO, receives a total of GBP942,572 for 2018-22 (GBP235,643 per annum). Barbican’s funding, meanwhile, sticks at GBP480,000 per year, bringing its 2018-22 total to GBP1.92m.

Another new big-hitting NPO is charitable outfit, Birmingham LGBT, which will receive GBP91,500 per annum (a total of GBP366,000 for 2018-22). Elsewhere in the East Midlands, Birmingham Opera Company benefits from a 46% rise on its 2015-18 allocation; whilst Birmingham Repertory Theatre and Birmingham Royal Ballet see no percentage increase on their 2018-22 funding at all, receiving a total of GBP7.34m and GBP31.6m respectively.

In the orchestra world, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s funding remains at GBP2.6m per year, a total of GBP10.2m for 2018-22.

Candoco Dance Company © Pedro Machado
Candoco Dance Company © Pedro Machado

Diversity reigns supreme in the ACE strategy with Islington’s Candoco Dance Company’s grant jumping 12%, taking their 2018-22 total to GBP1.8m. Purbeck’s Diverse City, which leads ambitious performances and training schemes for disabled and non-disabled people, from all ages and backgrounds, gets a whopping GBP480,000 per year, bringing its total funding pot for 2018-22 to GBP1.9m.

Singing from the rooftops is Leicester’s Darbar Arts Culture Heritage Trust, who will see their grant pot soar 93% from GBP380,145 for the 2015-18 period to GBP980,000 for 2018-22.

But it’s not just physical diversity that is reflected in ACE’s new priorities as flexibility within practice in the sector also gets a look in: Swindon’s create studios, an inclusivity-driven not-for-profit digital team of collaborators, becomes a new NPO to the tune of GBP95,000 per annum. Another newbie NPO, British Motor Industry Heritage Trust, (aka British Motor Museum) will receive GBP220,000 per year – a 2018-22 total of GBP880,000.

A deep breath is in order for big beneficiary Independent Street Arts Network (ISAN), a national membership and strategic organisation that aims to bring together the many diverse parts of the outdoor arts economy. ISAN has had its funding increased by 93%, taking its 2018-2022 total to GBP681,768, compared to GBP265,326 for 2015-18.

As you’d expect, it’s not all eye-wateringly good news: classical music’s flagship players London Philharmonic Orchestra (GBP2m per annum), London Symphony Orchestra (GBP2.2m per annum), and Philharmonia Limited (GBP2m per annum) saw no increase to their grants for 2018-22.

Some cuts were deeper than others: a sample of those losing out include Hampstead Theatre Ltd (down 14% from GBP874,000 per annum to GBP752,607); National Theatre saw a 3% decrease on its 2015-18 figures, taking its grant to GBP51.5m (GBP16.7m per annum) for 2018-22, down from GBP66.8m (GBP17.2m per annum) in 2015-18 – and London Print Studio Ltd took a 42% hit.

Bedfellows in the capital city, Royal Opera House (ROH), also suffered a 3% blow seeing its ACE funding package reduced from to €74.3m (2018-22) from GBP96.1m (2015-18). Royal Shakespeare Company (RSC) is down 3% on its 2015-18 figure of GBP15.6m per year, to GBP15m per year for 2018-22.

Southbank Centre fared slightly worse, down 4% on its annual grant of GBP19.2m per year (2015-18) to GBP18.4m per year, bringing its total ACE grant for 2018-22 to GBP73.44m.

Leading the way is Manchester International Festival (MIF), whose annual portfolio rose from GBP729,134 per year (2015-18) to GBP8.91m per year – a 1123% increase – though before you get overexcited by this seemingly massive programming and production budget, an enormous chunk of that is earmarked for new GBP110m 7,500-seat venue, The Factory, set to open in 2020.

John McGrath at Manchester International Festival 2017 Launch at Mayfield Depot. Photo © Tarnish Vision
John McGrath at Manchester International Festival 2017 Launch at Mayfield Depot. Photo © Tarnish Vision