Darren Henley on the challenges facing civic museums

Nicola Sullivan, 10.11.2015
ACE chief executive talks about the importance of relationships with partners and audiences
Darren Henley, the chief executive of Arts Council England, said local authorities either see their museums as assets or make short-term decisions that are “outside the spirit of partnership”.
Addressing delegates during the final keynote, which brought the Museums Association’s annual conference and exhibition in Birmingham to a close, Henley said that civic museums are “crucial local assets” and to lose them would leave  “a void at the heart of culture.”

He acknowledged the challenges associated with the changing economic model and reductions in public funding, but said ACE’s recent report on local authority museums showed how hard many were working to bring about change.
During his speech he also said that civic collections in the midlands and the north of England had been the “hardest hit” by reductions in funding, adding that historically the majority of philanthropic support went to institutions in London.
“We must all make resources work harder and be more focused on our relationships with partners and audiences,” he said.
He said that the arts council had taken a number of measures to help the sector, including providing more support for networks, simplifying the Accreditation process, looking at ways to help museums generate new sources of income and working with Major Partner Museums on issues such as workforce diversity.


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24.11.2015, 11:15
I was not at the conference keynote so it maybe that some of this is being lost in translation. My concern is that in one sentence Mr Henley is saying that he knows more philanthropic support goes to London institutions (in all cultural areas) and in the next he is saying we must make resources work harder and focus on partnerships. In ACE speak this seems to be the same old same old. If an organisation gets match funding, ACE supports it but as soon as that other funding is cut ACE funding gets cut too. Yet again it seems ACE will support the popular in London and follow the money, and downgrade or ignore the organisations in the Midlands or North who try as they might can’t attract significant sponsorship and get their LA grants cut too. When Westminster Council has, I believe, a zero budget for culture and yet ACE continues to invest in cultural organisations based and serving that borough we are lost. The spending review will no doubt create more ACE cuts. I hope ACE decision makers will be brave and start to seriously cut the allocations to organisations in London, to invest in organisations outside the capital where the cuts hit hardest. Otherwise ACE will soon start to mean Arts Capital England, not Arts Council England. The work ACE are attempting to do to readdress this imbalance of London/regions funding is so far in words only and somewhat pathetic. Their new policy a making a 5% shift of money from London to the regions over 3 years is appalling. I am fed up of being grateful in the regions for the few crumbs we are thrown. Be grown up, be bold and make a difference. Stop traveling the county on trains. Make bold budget decisions instead that enable all taxpayers to enjoy culture, not just those who live or can easily get to London
Patrick Steel
MA Member
Website Editor, Museums Association
25.11.2015, 10:10
Hi Anonymous. Henley's whole speech is now online, so you can judge for yourself: http://www.museumsassociation.org/video/17112015-darren-henley-birmingham-2015

All best,