Issue 114/05, p15, 01.05.2014
Is it right for arts funding to be concentrated on urban centres?
Gordon Watson chief executive, Lakeland Arts

“Arts funding must support creativity and great work, regardless of location. Arts in rural areas can be a powerful driver for change. Communities may be smaller, but they value the arts as much, if not more, than in urban areas.

Rural arts organisations create new work and are a strong voice – tours from cities and national partnerships are only part of the rural mix.

The real danger is that if arts funding is concentrated on urban areas it will reinforce the pull of cities, drive more young people to leave the countryside and take away the vitality of rural areas.”

Mike Benson, director, Bede’s World

“I would need convincing that cities are the focus and engine of art renewal – and we might talk more about revisioning and re-engineering than renewal.

That aside Arts Council England is right to shift the arguments from binary conversations to a richer understanding of where support will have greatest impact.

A localised understanding of how organisations work in different ways in different places, and how they might connect to the regional and national picture in creating excellence, will enable the right people to make the right decisions at the right time in the right places.” 
Richard Pailthorpe, director, Weald & Downland Open Air Museum

“Many independent museums are in rural areas. ACE funding has, for example, enabled the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum to be part of a partnership project with the South Downs National Park Authority to celebrate the heritage of the South Downs.

The project encouraged collaboration between creative and cultural organisations, artists, museums and galleries, and attracted new audiences.

It is essential that arts funding does not concentrate solely on urban centres, and encompasses museums from all areas, where it can stimulate  benefits and sustainability.”

Chris Shepheard, director, Rural Life Centre, Farnham

“I think it is wrong that financial support for museums is seemingly so heavily skewed towards urban centres.

There are thousands of small and medium-sized museums around the country, jointly preserving the nation’s heritage, which receive precious little support from local or national authorities.

When area museums councils existed, small museums could bid for grants. Now those funds disappear at regional level in ‘leadership’ and ‘guidance’. While both of these are useful, we don’t just need the leadership – we need the finance too.”