Arts Council England (ACE) has awarded National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status to 82 museums and museum sector organisations in its long-awaited 2023-26 investment round – but a number of major institutions are no longer in the portfolio.
The arm’s-length body announced the recipients at an online press conference this morning. The museum organisations together received £37.6m out of a total pot of £446m distributed across 990 arts and culture organisations across England.
The arts council has significantly increased investment in places outside of London as part of the UK Government’s levelling up agenda. Areas designated as Levelling Up for Culture Places have seen a 95% uplift in funding – but investment in London's arts and cultural organisations has dropped by more than £50m.
Twenty-eight museum-led organisations have been newly added to the portfolio, including Bradford Museums & Galleries, Rotherham Museums, Arts & Heritage and Kirklees Museums in Yorkshire, the National Football Museum in Manchester, St Albans Museums in Hertfordshire, Blackburn Museum & Gallery in Lancashire and Jarrow Hall in Tyne and Wear.
London’s Postal Museum, Garden Museum and Gunnersbury Park Museum were also among the new additions, along with Creswell Crags prehistoric heritage site in Derbyshire and museum services run by North Devon Council and West Northamptonshire Council.
Some existing NPOs had their funding pots increased. Derby Museums saw its annual grant rise from £400,000 to £550,000, and Manchester City Galleries was awarded £1.63m compared to £1.59m in the previous round.
A number of museum sector bodies have been designated as Investment Principles Support Organisations (Ipso), which will support NPOs to deliver against the aims of the arts council’s 10-year strategy, Let’s Create.
These include the Collections Trust, the Association of Independent Museums, Kids in Museums, the Touring Exhibitions Group, the Group for Education in Museums (GEM) and Culture&, the charity that promotes diversity in the arts and heritage workforce.
The arts council had warned of difficult decisions after its most oversubscribed investment round to date.
A number of institutions that were NPOs in the previous round are no longer in the portfolio, including the National Horseracing Museum in Suffolk and the Tank Museum in Dorset.
The Horniman Museum & Gardens and the Museum of the Home in London which were previously NPOs, will both now receive all of their funding directly from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS).
ACE is providing transitional funding up to October 2023 to former NPOs that lost out in the current round.
“As well as continuing our commitment to our many established and renowned cultural organisations, I am deeply proud of the support we will be giving to those new organisations which will help ignite creativity across the country,” said ACE chair Nicholas Serota.
“We are facing economic pressures at present but this funding is about an investment in our future. This portfolio will support the next generation of visionary inventors, makers, performers and artists. In particular, the growth of our funding for organisations that support and develop work for children represents a profoundly important long-term investment in our country’s talent.”
“Thanks to this new government funding package, spreading more money to more communities than ever before, people living in areas from Wolverhampton to Wigan and Crawley to Chesterfield will now get to benefit from the deep economic and social rewards culture can bring,” said culture secretary Michelle Donelan.
“We continue to support our icons such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Shakespeare Company, but today's announcement will see organisations in places all too often overlooked get the support they need to transform access to the arts for everyone – no matter where they live.”
But the mayor of London, Sadiq Khan, warned that the cuts to London institutions would be devastating for the city’s cultural scene.
He said: “Many of our world-leading cultural organisations will be left devastated by this announcement of over £50m worth of Government cuts to London’s arts funding.
“These cuts could not have come at a worse time as arts organisations already face a triple whammy of spiralling operating costs, soaring energy bills, and the impact of both the pandemic and the cost of living crisis on audience figures.
“London’s cultural organisations contribute billions and power our capital’s economic comeback as well as the wider UK economy every year which is why they need continued investment. A strong London equals a strong UK that’s why I am urging the government to think again and reconsider the consequences of these detrimental cuts.”
Correction: We originally reported that funding for Ironbridge Gorge had been cut by 30%. However the 2018-22 figure included funding for the delivery of the Museum Development Programme. Ironbridge has received roughly the same level for 2023-26 as it did in the previous round.
Clarification: The Horniman Museum & Gardens and the Museum of the Home in London have not been removed from NPO funding. Following agreement between Arts Council England, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, and the two museums, their NPO funding will now be solely replaced with funds directly from DCMS.