The Black Country Living Museum

Bazalgette highlights arts funding imbalance

Simon Stephens, 24.06.2014
ACE chairman wants more resources for regions but without damaging London
Arts Council England (ACE) wants more of its funding to be spent outside London, according to the organisation's chairman Peter Bazalgette.

Bazalgette was speaking last week at the Association of Independent Museums' annual conference at the Black Country Living Museum in Dudley, and was responding to a question about the funding inequity between London and the English regions.

“This is a historic phenomenon that relates to the number of national institutions that were placed in our capital,” Bazalgette said. “It is something that I was concerned about when I arrived at the arts council. I asked about it and found that Alan Davey [the chief executive of ACE] and his colleagues were also concerned.”

The controversy about funding imbalances follows the recent publication of two reports, Rebalancing Our Capital Culture and the Policy for the Lottery, the Arts and Community in England report, which exposed the extent to which arts funding in England is skewed towards London.

“Not every suggestion in those reports would be ones that the arts council agrees with but, nevertheless, the reports were extremely valuable as they raised an extremely important issue and it got a much wider currency than it ever had,” Bazalgette said.

“When we tackle this, and I believe that there is an imbalance, we need to do it in way that does not damage London, which is now the world’s capital of arts and culture.”

Bazalagette said the arts council would channel more resources to the regions by gradually shifting lottery and grant-in-aid funding outside London – a process that he said was already happening. He also said that national museums could “perform more of a national role than they have in the past”.

Bazalgette said that ACE initiatives such as the £37m Creative People and Places fund, which is for parts of the country where people's involvement in the arts is significantly below the national average, could also help.

The Museums Association has argued that the current system for distributing museum and arts funding is broken and needs to be addressed. The organisation has said that this longstanding imbalance is being made worse by cuts in local government funding and the difficulty of raising philanthropic funding outside the capital.

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