Arts and cultural bodies across the North East could receive a fairer share of funding in future years, the people responsible for distributing cash have pledged.
Leaders of Arts Council England, which shares out lottery cash for the arts as well as funding directly from the Treasury, said they accepted there was an “imbalance” with London getting the lion’s share while the rest of the country loses out.
But they insisted the situation was improving, with more money going to regions outside London in recent years – and pledged that the trend would continue.
However, giving evidence to a Commons inquiry, the Arts Council also insisted that London organisations had to receive enough money to allow the city to maintain its position as the world’s cultural capital.
And MPs were also told by Culture Minister Ed Vaizey that the arts are “generously funded outside London”.
The Commons Culture, Media and Sport Committee is holding an inquiry into the work of the Arts Council.
That was in part prompted by a hard-hitting report called Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital which warned that London receives £563.9m a year in culture funding from the Government and the Arts Council – or £68.98 per person – while the rest of the country gets £205.1m or just £4.57 per person.
The study also found that the North East had received £86.22 per head in arts lottery funding since 1995, while Londoners received £165.
The inquiry previously heard evidence from leaders of the North East Culture Partnership, who warned that cash-strapped arts organisations in the North East are spending time filling in grant applications instead of actually taking part in arts and cultural activities.
Speaking to the committee, Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette said: “You are quite right point to an imbalance.”
He said it should not be surprising that London received the most funding, but added: “We are addressing years of imbalance but we are addressing it carefully.”
London used to get 51% of funding while the rest of the country got 49% – but this had changed so that London now received 49%, he said.
“That trend should continue this summer.
“Those are very important parts of the work we are doing.”
One committee member, Yorkshire MP Philip Davies, accused the Arts Council of indulging “London luvvies” by spending £347.4m on opera over five years and just £1.8m on brass bands.
> Oh lord, another regional sterotype – brass bands, whippits and flat caps !
Arts Council chief executive Alan Davey told him: “I do want us to increase the amount of money we are giving to brass bands because I think it’s a wonderful pastime”.
But Mr Vaizey played down suggestions of a funding gap, saying: “I think it is nuanced. I don’t want a headline saying it is unbalanced because as I say it is a more subtle picture.
“A lot of the organisations with London postcodes have national profiles and do national work.
“The picture is by no means as bleak as some people would wish to paint it. A great deal of funding has gone to arts organisations outside London and a lot of funding that is supposedly ‘London funding’ is in fact national funding.”
Mr Vaizey praised Gateshead Council for backing the Sage Gateshead concert venue and musical education centre as well as the Baltic Centre for Contemporary Art, and said he wanted other councils to follow suit.
Source – Newcastle Journal, 14 June 2014
The Arts Council has distributed more lottery funding to just five London institutions than the entire North East, a funding report today reveals.
Academics behind a new look at how lottery cash is spent on arts say that despite more households in the North of England playing the lottery than in London, regions outside the capital and the South East see nowhere near the same level of investment.
The report comes from the same team who last year revealed how London was soaking up Government arts cash.
Their latest study calls for a new model in how lottery cash is handed out.
In the North East, where some 56% of households play the lottery, the region has received £221m in lottery cash since 1995.
In London, where 32% of households play the lottery every week, some five groups alone – the Royal Opera House, the Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler’s Wells and the South Bank Centre – have received £315m.
Overall London has contributed £386m to Arts Council lottery cash, but has received back £1.1bn.
The report’s author’s last night said there was “no evidence supporting the claim that ‘lottery funding has traditionally been used to fund projects in areas of the country that lack established arts and culture infrastructure’. The evidence seems to point substantially in the opposite direction.”
The local authority area with the poorest return is County Durham, where lottery players have contributed £34m since 1995 while arts organisations there have received just £12m.
Former director of Northern Arts Peter Stark helped write the PLACE report.
Mr Stark, a chief adviser to Gateshead during its regeneration plans around the Baltic and the Sage, said that while it was clear that Tyneside had benefited from lottery cash, overall there was a need for a fairer funding model.
He said: “There is something fundamentally wrong in the use of lottery funding to prioritise existing organisation, in particular the largest ones when the point of the lottery was that it helps a much wider spread.”
He said that all areas could benefit if, as money taken away for the Olympics returns, there is a new funding model that reflects deprivation, availability of art and distance from London.
“London should have a larger share, but not to this extent,” Mr Stark said. “The Arts Council likes to say that if its fund was increased it could solve this problem, but it can’t just continue with this funding model.
“We are getting to a point where the money being redirected to organisations already receiving pretty substantial funds from the tax payer must lead to a pretty serious look at how we deal with lottery funding and the way in which we fund the arts in this country.”
Last night Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman said there was overwhelming evidence that the region’s were getting a bad deal. The shadow culture minister said: “The Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report revealed the deeply unfair distribution of funding between London and the regions.
“This second report confirms that many citizens, particularly in the North East, aren’t getting access to what they have already paid for through taxation and Lottery tickets.
“Culture and the arts are a vital source of wellbeing and Labour is committed to achieving fair access for all, regardless of where people live or how wealthy they are.”
Source – Newcastle Journal 25 April 2014