The great North Museum Hancock will be one of the main hubs for the Great Exhibition of the North

DCMS announces £15m cultural regeneration fund for northern England

Jonathan Knott, 08.08.2017
But thinktank report highlights continuing regional funding imbalance
A £15m fund for cultural regeneration projects in northern England was announced by the government last week.

The scheme will make three or four grants of up to £4m to support major cultural and tech capital projects.

It is intended to amplify the impact of the Great Exhibition of the North, a two-month exhibition that will showcase the region’s art, culture and design, to be held in Newcastle and Gateshead in 2018.

Culture secretary Karen Bradley said: “This £15m fund is a fantastic chance for towns and cities to develop inspirational projects that could have a transformative local effect – particularly in communities that have seen less cultural or creative investment in the past.

“We want as many people as possible to benefit from the Great Exhibition of the North, and this fund will boost the Northern Powerhouse and help build a lasting legacy across the whole region.”

The grants will be made to local enterprise partnerships, which can apply either individually or in collaboration with each other. The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport is looking for bids that encourage sustainable cultural and creative regeneration in areas that have historically had low levels of investment.

The deadline for bids is 30 November and awards will be announced by the end of March 2018. There may be a further round of funding if all the money has not been committed after this.

Jake Berry, the minister for the Northern Powerhouse, said: “The north is a cultural powerhouse, as well an economic one, and this £15m fund will give a boost to the region’s vibrant culture and tech sectors.

“We’ve already invested over £3.4bn in the Northern Powerhouse through the Local Growth Fund for projects to boost local economies and this latest funding will help make a contribution to the cultural life of the Northern Powerhouse for years to come.”

But following the announcement, analysis released by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) North thinktank highlighted the continuing regional imbalance of arts funding in England.

The research found that the north of the country would need £691m more in Arts Council England's (ACE) 2018-2022 National Portfolio funding round to see the same amount of per capita spending as London.

The thinktank said that the £15m fund paled in comparison to this disparity and called for “fresh billions” to be pledged to the region.

Luke Raikes, a senior research fellow at IPPR North, said that the key tests for the Northern Powerhouse initiative were whether it received enough money to make a difference, and whether power to lead the project was devolved to the region from Whitehall.

“Culture is more than a nice-to-have, it’s a key driver of economic prosperity, attracting and retaining high skilled workers and providing jobs for many thousands,” said Raikes.

A spokeswoman for ACE said that the organisation was actively addressing the “important challenge” of increasing investment outside London. She said that 70% of lottery money would be spent beyond the capital between 2015 and 2018 and that ACE will invest an additional £170m outside London for its 2018-2022 national portfolio, including grants to 51 new organisations in the north of England.

“We want to build capacity outside the capital – enabling more artists and organisations to do exciting work across our cities, towns and villages,” said the spokeswoman. “We must do this without damaging London’s cultural offer, recognising everything is connected in a cultural ecology that spreads across England and internationally.”