Arts Council funding decision day: live coverage

Last modified: 03: 28 PM GMT+0
  • English National Opera sees annual funding cut by 29%
  • 670 arts groups share annual grants totalling £340m a year
  • Only small increase in funding outside London

Closing summary

We are ending this live blog. Thanks for reading and commenting.

  • The English National Opera will see its funds drop 29% from £17.2m to £12.4m each. ENO has drawn heavily on its reserves and both the Arts Council and ENO agreed on the need for radical change to its business model.
  • £339.5m to be invested in the national portfolio each year 2015-2018 (based on 2015/16 figures) for 670 organisations. This compares with 703 organisations receiving £341.4m in 2014/15. Forty six organisations in, 58 out.
  • National Lottery funds make up for shortfall left by government cuts. Slight shift to groups outside London. They will receive 53% of arts compared to 51% in the last round


A lament following cuts to jazz funding.

I'm so upset to hear arts council has cut @jazzservices funding schemes. We need to keep british jazz going & alive #britishjazz #jazzmusic

— Orlando Bolt (@MrOrlandoBolt) July 1, 2014

More Music based in Morecambe, Lancashire, has won NPO status and more than £300,00 for the next three years.

More Music's creative director and founder Pete Moser said: "We are thrilled to have been successful in our NPO bid and what it means, which is to give us a greater ability to provide 'great art and culture for everyone', in line with the Arts Council's overall strategy. This will help support our key aims to use the arts to develop pride and confidence in communities, including our local community of Morecambe."

Helen Pidd on Dove Cottage.

Just had ace tour of Dove Cottage, part of the Wordsworth Trust, which lost £80k of ACE annual funding today #NPO

— Helen Pidd (@helenpidd) July 1, 2014

Tangled Feet, the theatre group which did not make NPO status, has tweeted the Arts Council, which sent back a direct message.

@tangledfeet Hi - we've just sent you a DM on this

— ACE National (@ace_national) July 1, 2014


Northern Ballet received £3.1m from the Arts Council from 2015-16, an increase of £550,000 a year on its core grant. The council said the company manages extraordinarily well with low levels of funding. However, it suggests that Northern Ballet work with Phoenix, Leeds city council, Yorkshire Dance and others to explore how they might work together to build a broad dance culture in Leeds.

The Ridiculusmus theatre group has lost its NPO status.

Having been regularly funding for the last ten years, we are now beginning a dialogue with ACE regarding a Grant for the Arts application that will allow us to deliver our planned projects. These include the Wellcome Trust supported mainhouse works through which we’ll continue our investigation into Mental Health: THE IDIOT AT WAR, examining identity through the lens of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and BILL & AGNES, Part 3 of our mental health trilogy focusing on ageing & dementia and celebrating elderly people. As a company we have been making seriously funny theatre for the last 22 years and, whilst disheartened, we will continue to be “one of [the] most refreshingly provocative theatre companies”.

The Arts Council says the ENO should cut down on big productions.

We suggested to the company that it should explore moving to a reduced number of performances at the large scale, with maintenance of its occasional and valuable programme of smaller-scale work in other venues. We also suggested that the company explore ways to make the Coliseum into a more viable operation, recognising the important national role the Coliseum plays as a venue for both opera and ballet.

In the course of further discussions, ENO expressed a wish to develop an approach and plan which would incorporate the lower planning figure while maintaining a full season at the Coliseum. In its National Portfolio application, ENO has embraced the need for a new business model based on reduced funding and has committed to working with the Arts Council to achieve that end. ENO has already established new partnerships and are exploring further ideas.

A bit more on the ENO. Arts Council England said:

In spite of the indisputably ambitious quality of work and the important role this company plays in developing talent, ENO has struggled to reach box office targets and to achieve long-term stability, despite receiving stabilisation funding between 2003 and 2006 and other significant interventions in the preceding years. Whilst noting recent improved performance, ENO has drawn heavily on its reserves and both the Arts Council and ENO agree there is now a need for radical change to its business model.

Tim Farron, the Lib Dem MP for South Lakes, has welcomed the news that three major projects based in the north will be funded by nearly £2m, but says the arts in the region are still underfunded.

“This is fantastic news for them and is a testament to the leadership of their individual organisations... However I believe that these funding awards hide the issue of the inequality of arts and culture funding throughout England. The amount ‘the North’ has won in this funding round includes the whole of the North West, the North East and Yorkshire & the Humber. We need to continue to press for fairer arts funding for the North and especially Cumbria.”

The north saw its funding increase by £2.4m (3.1%) to £79.6m. This compares to London which will receive £162.6m. The Brewery Arts Centre will receive £965,563 over three years, the Lakeland Arts Trust will receive £362,088 and Grizedale Arts secured £593,079.

Oxford Playhouse has been awarded national portfolio organisation (NPO) status for the second time. It will get a £379,474 grant from 2015 to 2018 as well as £483,764 for the refurbishment of the theatre’s auditorium, foyer and circle bar areas.

“We’re absolutely delighted to remain part of Arts Council England’s national portfolio and to receive funding for our capital project," said Polly Cole, Playhouse interim director. "Not only does it recognise the strength of the artistic work on our stage and its impact on the community, but it allows us to continue bringing world class theatre to Oxford and ensure as many people as possible enjoy it in amazing facilities .”

Music has fared the worst but some sections have done well. There is increased funding to the English Folk Dance and Song Society for the creation of a new National Youth Folk Music Ensemble, and more money to Brass Bands England. The increase in funding to Oxford Contemporary Music is part of a substantial overall commitment to new music, says the Arts Council.

This useful Arts Council interactive map allows you to see funding by area and activity.

Alistair Smith, acting editor of the website, writes that on the whole there was no big change in what was a brutal, Darwinian process

These decisions will have implications across the arts world, as it is trimmed into a new shape, but we should not forget it was also have huge ramifications for individuals, as jobs are made and lost and lives are changed. Spare a thought in particular for Paul Miller, who – on his first day in his new job as artistic director of the Orange Tree in Richmond – discovered that the theatre had lost all its funding.

That said, taken as a whole, this was not a radical shake-up. Much of the talk – mostly in whispers – before the funding round was of a rebalancing of funding away from London. Whether you believe that to have been necessary or not, it hasn’t happened, at least not in any significant way.

Of the big national companies, the only one to take a major hit was English National Opera, while there was also a big cut for the Lowry, and complete cuts for Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds and touring companies including the long-standing Red Ladder. And, while there were a few uplifts scattered around – and in particular in the south west – for most people this was a standstill funding round in cash terms.

Lyn Gardner, one of the Guardian's theatre critics, is sceptical about the arts council's claims of geographical spread.

58 arts orgs lose #npo funding of which 43 outside of London. How does that help geographical spread?

— lyngardner (@lyngardner) July 1, 2014

Kettle's Yard, an art gallery in Cambridge, keeps its national portfolio grant and gets a large capital investment grant of £3.5m. The money will go towards a new education wing and major improvements to the exhibition galleries, alongside better services for visitors including a small cafe.

Andrew Nairne, Director of Kettle's Yard, said: ‘We are immensely grateful to Arts Council England for this major grant towards our plans, alongside generous existing support from the Heritage Lottery Fund. Our aim is to ensure that Kettle's Yard has state of the art facilities, so that our programme of exhibitions, concerts and learning activities can continue to be outstanding, inspired by the ambition and innovation that characterises the Kettle’s Yard house which Jim Ede created.’

Circus companies are happy with today's announcements. Eleven organisations are being pledged a total of £5,2m - a new record for the UK circus. The National Centre for Circus Arts, received £1m.

The centre's joint chief executives, Jane Rice-Bowen and Kate White: “We are tremendously grateful to the Arts Council for their continued support for the National Centre for Circus Arts and Circus in the UK more widely. This is yet another reflection of the hard work and determination of the sector and it is fantastic to see our art form moving from strength to strength. We are seeing more people around the country watching circus than ever before and the work that is being produced by British companies is truly rivalling our international counterparts.”

The English National Opera, which has seen its funding cut by 29%, has responded by drawing attention to its new business plan.

We have been working for some time with the Arts Council to develop a new business plan which recognises the challenging funding climate and reduces the cost to the public purse, while also enabling us to create an exciting and sustainable future for ENO and maintain our artistic quality, ambition and reach, nationally and internationally." said its artistic director, John Berry. “We announced a number of key elements in that new business plan in April – specifically our approach to balancing commercial and public investment – and we are delighted that the Arts Council is supporting our application with the funding announced today.”

ENO said that in addition to the £12.38m a year in core funding awarded today, Arts Council England has set aside transition funding of up to £7.6m to support ENO’s change to its new business model. The total sum of £44.8m available funding over three years is equivalent to the amount applied for by ENO in its NPO funding application.

Lunchtime summary

  • English National Opera sees annual funding cut by 29%.
  • Arts groups in England share annual grants totalling £340m a year, 2015-18.
  • Overall funding levels remain the same with National Lottery funds making up shortfall left by government cuts.
  • The national portfolio will be made up of 670 arts organisations, down from 703. Forty six organisations in, 58 out.


The Koestler Trust, a prison arts charity that awards, exhibits and sells artwork by offenders, secure patients and detainees has gained national portfolio status.

Thank you to all who have helped @KoestlerTrust's transformation in recent years - now recognised by Arts Council National Portfolio status

— Koestler Trust (@KoestlerTrust) July 1, 2014


The Theatre Royal in Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, which describes itself as the only surviving Regency playhouse has lost its funding. It has issued this response.

We are really disappointed to hear that from April 2015 the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds will no longer be funded by Arts Council England as a National Portfolio Organisation. Art’s Council England’s current NPO funding represents 36% of our revenue grant funding and some 8% of our total income which effectively funds 20% of our running costs. This highlights the importance of the ACE contribution, and they have said that they will continue discussions with us to explore new ways to generate resources for our work.

The past six months have seen a renewed connection with our audiences and real interest in our creative programme. We know that the Arts Council has had to make some tough decisions, but loss of this funding is very important to the Theatre Royal’s stability and most importantly to people in this region’s entitlement to high quality performing arts.

The Little Angel Theatre in Islington has lost its funding at a bad time as it needs to raise £60,000 for restoration work.

The Orange Tree Theatre in Richmond lost its national portfolio organisation status. Paul Miller, who recently took over as artistic director following the retirement of Sam Walters, told the What's On Stage website: "We will set about the hard work of hitting ambitious new targets for private fundraising. As we reshape our financial model we will continue to diversify our range of work and continue with plans to refresh the building, making a better offer to audiences old and new."

Red Ladder, based in Leeds, has seen its funding cut by 100% - a reduction in funding from £162,000 in financial year 2014/2015 to zero. The company’s only other current source of core grant in aid is £5,000 per annum from Leeds City Council.

Red Ladder’s artistic director, Rod Dixon, said: We are bitterly, bitterly disappointed – but this is not the end for Red Ladder. We put in what we believed was a hugely exciting programme of work to 2018, and it is disappointing to know that those plans will not now come to fruition, at least not in the form we envisaged. What we do know is that we cannot and will not see this decision as a vote of no confidence, and that we will find a way to continue through our own passion and dedication to making theatre that represents the dispossessed, tells stories of the injustices of our world and changes lives. We have an army of twitter followers, friends, supporters and fans and we will survive this.”

The Unicorn Theatre in London, aimed at young audiences, received a 30% increase in funding, taking its annual grant to £1,3m from April 2015.

Purni Morell, its artistic director, said “Children’s theatre has come a long way since the Unicorn was founded in 1947.. We’re absolutely committed to making this vital public investment count, not just for the Unicorn but for the whole of children’s theatre in the UK, as we embark on an ambitious programme of commissions, productions, tours and talent development, as ever, working with some of the best artists around, and continuing to push expectations of what can be achieved in children’s arts ever higher.”

Jude Law, Unicorn ambassador, said ‘The Unicorn is one of the most important theatres in the UK today. Children’s theatre has long been sidelined, but the work going on at the Unicorn is vibrant, with shows there to rival the best European theatre, and a bold belief in children’s ability to understand and respond to complex questions and ideas. I’m delighted to continue to work with the Unicorn team in the next thrilling stage of the theatre’s evolution.”


Two well-loved puppet theatres have lost their funding.

Sad to hear that @norwich_puppet and @LittleATheatre have both lost #NPO funding. Both beautiful wonderful Puppet Theatres.

— Samantha Arends (@SamanthaArends1) July 1, 2014

Our colleagues at the Guardian Culture Professional Network have tweeted the following.

In terms of artform funding, music worst hit with -4.8% change between 12/15 & 15/18; dance up by 9.4% #npo #acefunding

— Gdn Culture Pros (@GdnCulturePros) July 1, 2014

ROH, Southbank, National Theatre, ENO and RSC remain top five NPO orgs for 15/18, but guided to ask for less cash to support smaller orgs

— Gdn Culture Pros (@GdnCulturePros) July 1, 2014

#acefunding conf: NPO spending outside capital = 49% in 2008; in 2015/16 this will be 53%

— Gdn Culture Pros (@GdnCulturePros) July 1, 2014

Mind the Gap, one of the UK's largest theatre companies working with learning disabled artists succeeded in its bid to receive national portfolio funding.

Its artistic director, Tim Wheeler said: "Mind the Gap is delighted to remain part of the ACE national portfolio of organisations. This will enable the company to continue to create exciting theatre experiences for audiences, and remain at the forefront of nurturing the talents of learning disabled artists. These remain economically difficult times for the arts sector. We are committed to supporting emerging artists and other organisations through partnerships and access to the facilities at Mind the Gap Studios in Bradford".

Its administrative director, Julia Skelton said: "We are delighted that ACE have also agreed to invest £120,000 in Mind the Gap Studios through the capital small grants programme. This will enable us to make some key infrastructure improvements and equipment purchases to further enhance our fantastic artists' workspace."

The full list of organisations in new national portfolio can be found on this Arts Council England page.

Arts Council England has a handy fact sheet on the numbers for 2015-18. The three largest new national portfolio organisations are: Derby Theatre, Tyne & Wear Museums, New Adventures & Re:Bourne, Brighton.

Some details on the southwest.

Eighty three organisations in the region will be in the national portfolio for 2015/18, receiving around £60m in funding over the three years. Up from 79 in the 2012/15 portfolio.

  • 11 organisations joining the portfolio for the first time.
  • 3 organisations receiving additional funding that reflects a significant extension to their programme.
  • 65 organisations receiving funding at the same level as their 2014/15 award.
  • A total of 122 applications to join the 2015/18 National portfolio received in the southwest.
  • 3 major partner museums in the south west

My colleague in Manchester, Helen Pidd, has sent this on Keswick's Theatre in the Lake District and its successful application.

If the Arts Council handed out money for views, then Keswick's Theatre by the Lake would surely be the richest playhouse in the land. Derwentwater is at the bottom of the garden, Skiddaw rises up to the rear and what Alfred Wainwright described as Catbell's "shapely topknot" dominates the western vista. And where else can you enjoy an interval drink in the company of a flock of Herdwick sheep?

But grants are not given for panoramas alone, and Cumbria's premiere producing theatre has had to work furiously to retain its £604,067 funding this time around. Patric Gilchrist, TBTL's executive director, declared himself "neither sick as a parrot nor over the moon" at the news. "There's certainly nothing to celebrate but we had no expectations and therefore we are not disappointed."

It had been made abundantly clear to all bidding organisations that "the very best we could hope for is cash standstill", he said. "We were asked to prove that we could survive on the same money. The suggestion seemed to be that those who said they needed more may be told, 'Well, if you're not viable as you are, there's no point us giving you more.'"

Arts funding highlights

Some highlights from today's announcements from Arts Council England. It will invest:

• £339.5m to be invested in the national portfolio each year 2015-2018 (based on 2015/16 figures) for 670 organisations. This compares with £341.4m in 2014/15.

• Over £22m will be invested in major partner museums, with an additional £13m set aside to support museums in England.

• £6m of additional strategic funding allocated to focus on diversity.


Davey says only smaller organisations have been dropped from national portfolio, none were funded at more than £1m. Balzagette says arts outside London was an early priority, but found that Davey was already on the case. Cites regional ambition fund as an example of looking outside London.

Balzagette is now taking questions. He says there is no shortage of ambition in national portfolio. Davey is asked about the ENO, which has seen a cut in funding. There will be discussions on a new business model as the current one is under strain, he says. On museums, Davey makes the point that museums outside London receive 90% of funding.


Alan Davey, chief executive of the arts council, says some of the largest organisations such as Royal Opera House are seeing a cut in funding so smaller groups can get more cash. Over the next three years, there is a small shift to outside London, £16m more. "Purposeful steps without damaging London's contribution to global excellence," he says. Derby Theatre is back in the portfolio, as an example of funding for the regions. The English Folk Dance and Song Society will get money. Davey says it's one of his favourites. Strategic funding goes down to £104m this year from £153m last year to keep up national portolio funding.


Peter Bazalgette, chair of the arts council says today's funding decision is a "balancing act with a purpose". He says 53% of arts funding will be going outside London compared to 51% in the last round. He makes a nod to George Osborne, the chancellor, for generous funding for the arts.

My colleague Mark Brown has just provided some background and context to today's funding decisions. He says total national portfolio arts funding is £339.5m down from £341.1m. Seventy five percent of groups receive standstill funding. Forty six organisations join the portfolio, while 58 including the Orange Tree in Richmond are out. Some headlines: The English National Opera gets a 32.7% cut. The Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre get a 6.7% cut. New entrants include the National Youth Jazz Orchestra, Jazz north, Corn Exchange Exchange in Newbury and Matthew Bourne's New Adventures with £1.3m.


The southwest seems to have done OK.

Another early observation - south west appears to have done well this funding round. Although historically under-funded. #NPO

— Alistair Smith (@smithalistair) July 1, 2014

Reaction is coming in thick and fast on #NPO from groups all over the country, but we should get some overall sense and context once the press conference starts at 10, livestreamed here.

Max Humpries sums up today's fraught experience.

Twitter feed is a horror show this morning. Like we're under fire from an unseen sniper. Some friends are safe & some are getting shot. #NPO

— Max Humphries (@MaxHumphries) July 1, 2014

Tangled Feet is an experimental theatre group based in London but which spends most of the time touring.

Gutted.Will post full response later but gutted not to be #npo Will endure due to our ensemble but why are artists funded last? #acefunding

— Tangled Feet (@tangledfeet) July 1, 2014


The northeast seems to be missing out.

Seeing lots of poor news for the North East in my #npo stream. Really feel for my colleagues in the arts sector.

— Dr Minx Marple (@MinxMarple) July 1, 2014

Stoicism in the face of adversity. Unfolding Theatre is based in Newcastle upon Tyne, founded by artistic director Annie Rigby.

It's a no for us. Ah well. Gonna get on with as many of our fantastic plans as possible without the headache of KPIs & annual returns! #NPO

— Unfolding Theatre (@unfoldingtheatr) July 1, 2014


An empathetic tweet.

Gosh - watching the fallout from #NPO #ACEfunding is quite heartbreaking. Makes you want to reach out and give everyone hugs

— Jack Haynes (@jackjhaynes) July 1, 2014

Ali Robertson sees little evidence in the early decisions of a shift of funding away from London.

Early indications looks like there might be little addressing of regional/London imbalance? #npo

— Ali Robertson (@ARobertson1972) July 1, 2014

Disappointment for some. Dark Horse is a national touring theatre company which premieres new writing for theatre. Based in Huddersfield.

Dark Horse dropped from #npo. Shocked and disappointed. More later.

— Vanessa Brooks (@brooksvanessa8) July 1, 2014


The first reactions are coming in as groups receive news.

Great news! We’ve secured 3-years #NPO funding. Thanks to @ace_national for continued support. Exciting times ahead! #artsfunding

— City Arts Nottingham (@CityArtsNotts) July 1, 2014

Congratulations to all @RuralArts staff on our successful #NPO funding decision!

— Angela Hall (@artfarmpilmoor) July 1, 2014

Hurrah. Keswick's wonderful Theatre by the Lake has secured the same funding it currently enjoys - £604,000 per year. #NPO

— Helen Pidd (@helenpidd) July 1, 2014


More nervous anticipation.

So, plugged into twitter & email, awaiting #NPO results.Thank goodness this particular result won't go to extra time, I can't take the pace.

— Shonagh Manson (@shonaghm) July 1, 2014

There's waiting and there's waiting #npo

— Vanessa Brooks (@brooksvanessa8) July 1, 2014

Arts Organisations across England waiting for the email from #ace #npo #future

— Hannah (@crossy_h) July 1, 2014


John Tusa, former managing director of the BBC World Service and author of Pain in the Arts, argues that arts funding should be ringfenced, just like the aid budget. He writes on Comment is Free:

A wise government would not worry about a minimal part of the national budget. Total spending on the arts accounts for just 0.5% of government spending. Why does it attract such excessive scrutiny? The usual response is that the arts, "known" to be inefficient, self-indulgent and profligate, require intense questioning and supervision. Yet the evidence is that arts organisations run themselves and use their resources efficiently, effectively and for the wider benefit of society...

Ministers should ringfence the arts budget. If it is right for overseas aid, it is surely right for the arts at home. This is not just being "nice" to the "luvvies". It would be to recognise and understand that the arts at their widest benefit people, places, ideas, curiosity and wellbeing. Nitpicking around the edges of a tiny budget is not an arts policy. It is bad politics too.

Arts groups are on tenderhooks pending today's announcements.

Good luck to all awaiting #npo flavoured decisions from Arts Council England this morning. #60minutesandcounting #artsed

— C&T: Theatre (@c_and_t) July 1, 2014

This is from the chief executive of Voluntary Arts – the UK & Ireland development agency for the voluntary arts and crafts

On my way to London for the Arts Council England briefing on its National Portfolio Organisations funding decisions

— robinsimpson (@robinsimpson) July 1, 2014


Today is D-day for England's arts organisations. This morning they will hear if they are getting national portfolio money from Arts Council England for 2015-18. Will they get any? Will they get a cut? Or might they be deemed worthy of an increase? Around 900 arts organisations are thought to have applied but while more lottery money is being directed at the arts, there's still not enough money to go round and there is pressure to spread the largesse away from London. We'll have full coverage of the decisions on and be liveblogging the day's dramatic events so please do let us know how you fare and how you see things. Email and You can follow the arts council press conference at 10 here.

The background

The Arts Council has seen reductions to grant in aid of 36% since 2010. The current national portfolio includes 696 organisations. At this current level of grant in aid, Arts Council England says it can only support a national portfolio of between 250- 300 organisations in the next investment round. But National Lottery money will allow many more organisations to be included in the portfolio. For some organisations this will be the first time that their total grant will be wholly comprised of lottery funding.

The big five recipients of public money are the Royal Opera House, the Southbank Centre, English National Opera, the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre.

The arts budget for 2015-18 includes three main funding streams:

  • National portfolio for arts organisations programme budget of £271m of grant in aid and approximately £60m a year of National Lottery funding. This is more than double the £28.3m a year in lottery money in 2014/15.
  • An increase to the grants for the arts budget to £70m lottery funding to support individual artists, community and cultural organisations.
  • A strategic fund budget of £127m lottery funding to support the wider development of arts organisations, participants and audiences across England.

The museums budget for 2015/16 will also include three main grant in aid funding streams:

  • Major partner museums (MPM) will increase to £21.5m a year in 2015/16 to encourage a greater geographical spread
  • In keeping with arts funding, the museums strategic budget will work alongside MPM funding to target particular challenges, opportunities or gaps.
  • For the first time a new open access grants fund will invite applications from museums to support diversity and the development of resilience at a time of change.



Mark Tran and Mark Brown

The GuardianTramp

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