Arts Council boss makes funding plea

Arts Council boss makes funding plea

Ballet dancers
The government’s grant to Arts Council England has dropped by 36% since 2010

Arts and culture should be spared further funding cuts as the government seeks to balance the books, the new head of Arts Council England has said.

In his first speech since becoming Arts Council chief executive, Darren Henley said cuts could halt recent progress in cultivating culture around the country.

Speaking in Hull, he argued that the arts made a difference “educationally, socially and economically”.

Arts Council England has had its government grant cut by 36% since 2010.

Chancellor George Osborne is expected to outline £30bn of spending cuts to government departments in his next budget in July.

Mr Henley argued there had been “cultural growth” in cities like Hull, which will be UK City of Culture in 2017, over the last few years.

He also pointed to recent initiatives like music education hubs, tax breaks for theatres and orchestras and investment in venues in Manchester.

Hull train station
Darren Henley said Hull had been a recent ‘success story’

“We appreciate this commitment in the government’s first term,” he said. “But this progress is only sustainable with the long-term commitment of grant in aid.

“To have other success stories like Hull, we need the government to continue to make a significant commitment to arts and culture.

“At the Arts Council, we will make the best possible case to ensure government funding for the arts, for museums, and for libraries – which has already been cut so much since 2010.”

He urged the government to follow the advice of the House of Commons culture select committee, which said last November that it would be “disappointed” if Arts Council England was cut further.

‘Cataclysmic cuts’

Mr Henley added: “We’ll have to impress upon people how we’re in the business of providing opportunity to individuals and communities everywhere – educationally, socially and economically.”

However many in the arts expect the Department for Culture, Media and Sport, which funds the Arts Council and other bodies, to have its budget reduced.

Speaking at a theatre debate on Saturday, Dave Moutrey, chief executive of Manchester’s new venue Home, warned of the prospect of “cataclysmic cuts”.

At the same event, Arts Council England’s north director Alison Clark Jenkins said that “we can second guess that there will be further cuts”.

Opportunities ‘not everywhere’

Meanwhile, Mr Henley has also announced that the Arts Council will give more National Lottery funding to organisations outside London.

The share of Lottery funding going outside London will rise from 70% to 75%.

Lottery money will also fund a new £35.2m “ambition for excellence” scheme to develop talent – of which £31.7m will go outside the capital.

“I believe that creative talent is everywhere,” he said. “But opportunity is not.”

However, he added: “I’m committed to maintaining London’s status as a world capital of the arts.

“A flourishing London, with its arts and cultural organisations that serve the whole nation, is essential.”


Analysis: BBC arts editor Will Gompertz

I’d make two points. The Arts Council is clearly making a strategic shift to spend more money in the regions. However, it’s only Lottery money – not core government funding, which would be a much bigger deal because it would mean removing substantial chunks from London.

But it’s definitely an indication that this is the direction of travel for the Arts Council in England.

The second thing is the plea not to cut the arts. Darren Henley is making it in a city which is likely to benefit from a fairly significant investment in arts and culture.

But I suspect the arts will have to take their share of the burden, as every other sector will across the board.

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