Arts Council chief fears over for funding cuts for region's arts

The mima in Middlesbrough

The mima in Middlesbrough

First published in News

THE head of the Arts Council says he fears for the future of the arts outside London, ahead of £25m of fresh funding cuts.

Sir Peter Bazalgette said decisions loomed on which of 696 ‘National Portfolio Organisations’ - including more than 20 in this region - will continue to receive cash from next year.

Overall funding will plunge by £25m, despite the Arts Council switching cash from the national lottery to ease some of the pain of steep Government cuts.

Meanwhile, local authorities, the main funder of arts organisations and projects, faced many more years of their own cuts, Sir Peter said.

Giving evidence to an inquiry by MPs, he warned: “The area I’m most concerned about is outside London

“It’s more difficult to raise money philanthropically and many arts institutions are co-funded with local authorities. Those authorities are, in parallel, under great spending pressure.

“Reductions to local authority funding will go on for another three or four years. There’s a possibility that we will lose a very large slug of arts funding – it’s a great concern.”

A total of 696 organisations are receiving £1bn from the Arts Council between 2012 and 2015, including:

* Theatre Hullabaloo – a Darlington theatre company for young audiences.

* Tin Arts – offering arts and culture programmes in Durham City.

* The Forge - specialising in developing arts projects with young people and artists throughout County Durham.

* ARC - a venue in Stockton offering music, comedy, drama, dance and film.

* Mima - Middlesbrough art gallery “presenting a programme of visual art".

* The National Glass Centre – an art and design for artists working in glass in Sunderland.

* Rural Arts - an organisation based in Thirsk, which works across North Yorkshire to “bring arts experiences to isolated communities, young people and marginalised groups”.

Groups have been told they must show they are “distinct and complementary” to avoid being struck off the funding list, on July 1.

But Sir Peter added: “We are confident that, when we come out of where we are, we will have preserved most of that portfolio. That will be quite an achievement.”

The inquiry, by the Commons culture, media and sport select committee, has been set up to explore growing protests that London grabs too much of the shrinking pot.

In earlier evidence, the North-East Culture Partnership warned many organisations were “very close to the edge”, after years of funding cuts that had forced them to slash staff, hours and activities.

But Sir Peter told MPs he was shifting cash to the regions, which now received 70 per cent of funds – up from 60 per cent over most of the period since 1995.

However, Ed Vaizey, the arts minister, said nothing was gained from “hammering London”. Asked if there was a funding unfairness, he replied: “I don't want to give a straightforward answer - it's nuanced.”

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