In case you missed it, the Arts Council announced its 2018-22 National Portfolio on 27 June. This included a strategic redistribution of money inside London, to protect, support and stimulate one of the greatest cultural ecologies in the world.
Here’s what happened
At the Arts Council we have stated our commitment to redistributing funds more evenly across the country, whilst not weakening London’s status as a global cultural capital.
Through our negotiations and incredible hard work from the sector, we were able to secure a positive settlement in the government’s 2016 spending review. We also decided invest more National Lottery funding in the 2018-22 portfolio than we did in the 2015-18 portfolio.
This meant that when we chose organisations for the new portfolio, there was more money to go around. True to our commitment, all of this extra money will be invested outside London - that's £170 million over four years.
Faced with a standstill budget, our main priority in London was to make a portfolio which served and reflected London’s communities in all their beautiful diversity – rich, poor, white, Black, straight, gay, disabled, non-disabled, young, old and everything in-between, from zone 1 to zone 6.
We also had a responsibility to protect the national cultural jewels which this city houses and which account for a huge amount of our country's international tourism and ‘soft power’.
We had to stimulate the creative sector in London (and, as a result, the country) and provide for the many independent artists and creators who come to this city because of the opportunities it offers.
We received 337 applications to the 2018-22 National Portfolio from London (including 19 SSOs). Of these, 93 were from new organisations.
The final London portfolio counts 253 NPOs (including 3 SSOs) - 24 of these are new and 21 received increased funding.
So, how did we do it?
This is where the big ones come in: the National Theatre, Royal Opera House and Southbank Centre. We spoke with these three organisations, well ahead of the application and assessment period, and suggested they apply for the 2018-22 portfolio at a 3% reduction to their current funding. All three responded positively and applied for the reduced amount.
These national organisations are producing excellent and exciting work. They are at the forefront of reaching audiences for their distinctive programmes and developing their artforms. Absorbing such a reduction will not be easy for them in the current climate. But we are confident that, with their robust business models and other alternative funding streams, the reduction of our funding will not adversely affect the work they do, nor impact the wider cultural provision for audiences in London or indeed across the country.
Between them, this freed up £1,836,160 per year for us to invest in new, diverse organisations in the London portfolio. These new organisations are exciting and different. They work across London and for their own specific communities. We’ve funded a museum of the home, three hip-hop dance companies and the largest festival of Arab culture in the UK.
We are proud of our new portfolio, and proud of how we got here. Proud that our investment in great cultural organisations has helped them reach a place where they are now less dependent on public investment, and proud of how resilient and progressive the London cultural sector is.