Newcastle cultural funding struggling - Museums Association

Newcastle cultural funding struggling

Newcastle Cultural Investment Fund attracts one donation in four months. By Patrick Steel
Patrick Steel
The Community Foundation, which administers the Newcastle Cultural Investment Fund (NCIF), is sanguine about reports that the NCIF has yet to attract any funding, despite being open since September.

The NCIF was set up amid concern over the council’s plans to axe its arts budget last year. Arts Council England (ACE) warned that it would not be the sole funder in a city or local authority, leading to an announcement that Newcastle would give £600,000 a year raised from business rates to the NCIF from 2015-16.

Adam Lopardo, head of cultural partnerships at the Community Foundation, says the fund has received nothing apart from a “regular, small donation” from one member of the public, but that it was still in development and would be officially launched later this year alongside what Newcastle City Council is calling its “new vision” for culture.

The Community Foundation is carrying out a closed test application process, which the council is funding with about £100,000, to fine-tune the criteria and guidelines for the fund. Successful applications will be awarded from April this year.

The five organisations, including the Great North Museum, asked to bid for the pot will all lose their revenue funding from Newcastle City Council at the end of this financial year.

The Great North Museum has applied to the fund for £75,000 to fund its core learning programme for schools, the same amount that it received from the council in 2013-14.

At the time of the funding crisis, Alison Clark-Jenkins, then ACE’s regional director, described the fund as “a significant step forward in developing a new model of joint funding of arts and culture in a city”.

Jane Tarr, ACE’s north area director, says ACE recognises that local authorities are “in a difficult place”.

Informal interest

She adds that it is perhaps not surprising that several other local authorities have informally approached Newcastle City Council and ACE to enquire about the fund, although there have not yet been “detailed conversations”.

ACE and the city council are leaving the publicity for the fund to the Community Foundation as, Tarr says, “they are the experts in encouraging donations”.

But a council spokesman says it would continue to have funding conversations and will look to direct the Community Foundation to potential sources of investment.
A source close to the council says it is a worrying that the NCIF has yet to attract funding, but adds that perhaps people will come in when it gets going.

No plan B

But a spokesman for the council adds: “There is no ‘plan B’. This new way of funding is a risk, but we believe it will be a success. In future, we may provide only statutory services and very little else.

“This is the new reality for local government arts funding, working in partnership with others and awarding funding in line with the council’s own priorities.”

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