Areas outside London to receive £75m to level up access to arts | Culture

Communities outside London have been placed on a priority list for cultural funding as part of a £75m government plan to level up access to the arts.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) announced on Wednesday that it would redistribute new Arts Council England (ACE) funding to more than 100 locations outside the capital over the next three years.

In addition to the culture recovery fund’s £2bn Covid-19 rescue plan, there will be a 6% increase, or extra £43.5m, in funding to ACE, which the culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, has said must be invested outside London.

Arts Council England has also been instructed to reallocate at least £24m of investment a year from London to areas outside the capital, and a further £8m will be moved out of London through supporting organisations to relocate or expand.

“I have said from day one in this role my priority is to increase access to arts and culture across the whole country,” Dorries said.

“Today marks a big step in achieving this aim as we shift new cultural investment into places previously at the back of the queue. Culture enriches people’s lives. It entertains us, brings us together and can be a catalyst for regeneration. Everyone should have access to it no matter where they live or what their background.”

In an article for the Yorkshire Post, Dorries called it “one of the biggest ever redistributions of arts funding in our history”.

The move comes after the government set out a commitment to raise cultural spending outside London in its levelling up white paper. ACE currently spends £21 a head in London and an average of £6 a head in the rest of England.

Organisations in more than 109 areas with historically low investment in arts and culture have been encouraged to bid for funding.

These areas, referred to as “levelling up for culture places” have been identified based on levels of cultural engagement and spending

The ACE chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, said the increase in funding would “enable more people in more places to reap the benefits of arts and culture and will accelerate our commitment to parts of the country that deserve more investment”.

He added: “We will be able to do more to nurture new creative talent, support work that makes us healthier and happier, renew our high streets and, above all, ensure that everyone, everywhere has the opportunity of a rich cultural and creative life.”

ACE said it had already been working to move money to other regions. Grant-in-aid investments outside London had risen from 40% to 60%, and national lottery investment had increased from 60% to 75%, it said.

The announcement was welcomed by leaders of regional arts institutions. Chris Stafford, the chief executive of Leicester’s Curve theatre, said: “We believe everyone, irrespective of their circumstances, should have equal opportunity to engage with world-class culture and fulfil their creative potential.

“We welcome the new Arts Council investment programme, which will see a greater balance of public investment across the country, ensuring no one is left behind.”

Tony Butler, the executive director of Derby Museums, said being a national portfolio organisation (one that receives public funding) had “ensured that cultural heritage frames the future ambition of our city as a place of innovation and creativity”.

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