Museums, libraries, artforms and the National Portfolio

Posted By Arts Council England on 03 July 2017

We support a broad range of arts and culture: dance, theatre and opera; orchestras, pop music and jazz; sculpture, photography and visual arts; festivals, carnivals and outdoor events; literature and libraries; collections, museums and many more individual artforms than we could possibly name here.

A recreation of a Victorian street at night, lit with strings of Christmas lights
The Black Country Living Museum, a new portfolio member. Photo © Black Country Living Museum

Everyone has their favourite and we want to make sure that as many people as possible are able to experience and take part in a variety of art and culture, all across the country.

We received applications to our National Portfolio from hundreds of organisations up and down the country, covering every artform we support – including some who are combining artforms in exciting and unexpected ways.

When we decided which organisations would be part of the portfolio for 2018-22, we made sure to spread our investment across a variety of artforms in different areas.


Number of funding agreements*

Total investment



£146.5 million



£6.2 million

Combined arts


£266.9 million



£168.7 million



£30.5 million



£367.8 million



£417.3 million

Visual arts


£178 million

*An organisation may have more than one funding agreement for different areas of work.


A dinosaur skeleton in a museum gallery
Lapworth Museum of Geology, a new portfolio member. Photo © Lee Allen

For the first time, 66 museum organisations (which run over 200 individual museums) are joining the portfolio. Many have deep roots in their communities, are supported by passionate volunteers and have a long history of sharing their collections, expertise and creative ideas.

The museums joining the portfolio house collections from dinosaurs to tanks, horse racing to LGBT history, the Pre Raphaelites to insects. Many tackle difficult issues or moments in history, like the National Holocaust Centre and Museum and the National Justice Museum.


Libraries are trusted spaces – free to enter and open to all. For the first time they’re joining the portfolio, with investment to help them develop arts and cultural activities for their communities.

The portfolio includes seven library services in Devon, Nottinghamshire, Suffolk and others. We’re also funding the Society of Chief Librarians, which brings together heads of library services to work collectively on developing libraries.

Combined arts

A parade of masked performers at night
Transe Express perform at the Out There Out There International Festival of Circus & Street Arts – produced by SeaChange Arts, a new portfolio member. Photo © David Street – Streetview Marketing

These organisation work across multiple artforms, in the form of outdoor events, festivals, carnivals and more. Many of these organisations, such as SeaChange Arts and Heart of Glass, work very closely to create art by, with and for their local communities.

The 30 new combined arts portfolio members include the only new Band 3 organisation, Without Walls, which will work collaboratively with festivals and artists to create excellent and large scale outdoor arts.


A group of dancers perform on stage
Stopgap Dance, Artificial Things. Photo © Chris Parkes

This is an incredibly popular artform, with a huge range of styles for people to watch and take part in. The portfolio dance organisations make a diverse group and we’re working to diversify it even further.

New to the portfolio is Ballet Black, a company of Black and Asian dancers, and Corali Dance Company, where artistic collaborators and educators work with performers with learning disabilities. StopGap Dance Company and Candoco will both receive uplifts in investment, so they can expand their work with young disabled dancers.


A man performs poetry on stage in front of a crowd
Poetry with a Punch: Stand Up and Spit at Bradford Literature Festival. Photo © Tim Smith

This occupies a unique position in our culture – it transports us to other worlds without ever leaving our seats. By investing in projects that are artistically valuable but less commercially viable, we help sustain and develop the variety and richness of our literary culture.

We’re increasing our investment in the North, with new portfolio members like Bradford Literature Festival and Grimm & Co. children’s writing centre in Rotherham. We’re also investing in independent publishing, as well as work from Black and minority ethnic writers through organisations like the Children’s Discovery Centre.


A man and baby play the xylophone
Participants making music at Plymouth Music Zone. Photo © Plymouth Music Zone

England’s musical landscape is gloriously diverse, from classical to pop and jazz. We’re investing in developing a new generation of musical talent – alongside our network of Music Education Hubs are organisations like NTS Live, Liverpool’s SoundCity and Plymouth Music Zone.

As well as encouraging high quality artistic work, our organisations are focusing on education and outreach to bring all musical genres to new people. We’re also supporting organisations focused on making music more accessible to everyone, including Paraorchestra’s work with disabled musicians.


A group of people dressed for an Indian wedding
The Deranged Marriage, Rifco Arts. Photo © David Fisher

Theatre organisations are the single largest group in the portfolio. We’re investing significantly in new independent or artist-led companies like 1927, Action Hero and Common Wealth, as well as mid-scale touring theatre from Kneehigh, Talawa, Rifco and new organisation Wise Children (led by Emma Rice).

We’re investing in artist development through the Regional Theatre Young Directors Scheme and the Yard Theatre in Hackney, and strengthening the diversity of the portfolio with increased funding to organisations that work with Black and minority ethnic, Deaf and disabled artists and audiences – like Access All Areas, Deafinitely Theatre, the Tricycle Theatre, Talawa and Yellow Earth.

Visual arts

An old man and a young girl take part in a craft workshop
A workshop at Turner Contemporary, a new portfolio member. Photo © Benedict Johnson

In this portfolio we have strongly focused on supporting more grass roots and artist-led organisations outside London, including Project Space Leeds, Primary Studios and Vivid Projects. We’re also worked hard to diversify, bringing in more organisations that work with Black and minority ethnic artists and curators, as well as those that focus on reaching audiences in new ways.

We’re supporting festivals like Whitstable Biennial and Folkestone Triennial, and investing further in great galleries like the Turner Contemporary and the John Hansard Gallery.

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Image captions
Top left to bottom right: 1. Rifco Arts' production The Deranged Marriage. Photo © David Fisher. 2. King Lear by Talawa. Photo © Jonathan Keenan 3. Joyce Wilson 4. Finding Joy by Vamos Theatre. Photo © Vamos Theatre / alienpen 5. Ballet Black 'To Begin, Begin' by Christopher Marney. Dancers Jacob Wye & Sayaka Ichikawa. Image © Bill Cooper 6. John Orna-Ornstein climbs the main mast of SS Great Britain in Bristol. Photo © John Orna-Ornstein