The 2012-15 portfolio has been shaped by a set of five shared goals, developed through a major consultation with all those working in the arts, and detailed in the Arts Council's 10-year strategic framework Achieving great art for everyone

Please note that this publication has now been updated to Great art and culture for everyone to include our work with museums and libraries. 

The portfolio consists of a rich variety of organisations across the country, reflecting the real quality and excellence of the arts in England. Strenuous efforts have been made to ensure that ambition, artistic exploration and pioneering spirit are kept alive, that great work can continue, that inspirational leadership is developed and supported, and that a vibrant countrywide ecology is, as far as possible, maintained.

Find out about how the portfolio affects key areas of work in depth.

Artform overviews

Find out about the national picture across dance, music, theatre, visual arts, literature and multi-artform organisations (combined arts).

Children and young people

Find out about children and young people and our National portfolio of organisations.


Find out more about digital and out National portfolio of organisations.

Local government

Local government is very much our partner in supporting the arts - in 2009/10, local authorities invested £102 million in our regularly funded portfolio of organisations, and they continue to be a major player in supporting arts development and provision.

Find out about local government and our National portfolio of organisations.


Find out about touring and our National portfolio of organisations.

The National portfolio consists of a rich variety of organisations across the country, reflecting the real quality and excellence of the arts in England. Find out about the national picture across dance, music, theatre, visual arts, literature and multi-artform organisations (combined arts).

Children and young people

We want all children and young people* in England to have contact with the arts – as participants and audience members. When children and young people experience high-quality arts, it helps them to develop not only their own artistic skills and cultural understanding, but also encourages the development of their talents in other aspects of their lives.

Our vision complements the Government’s aspiration that, by 2015, all children and young people in schools will be entitled to five hours of cultural activity every week. The future of the creative economy depends on opportunities for children and young people to participate in arts and creativity being provided today.

Our work includes:

  • establishing the board and creating 25 regional area delivery organisations prior to the transition of Creative Partnerships into our biggest regularly funded organisation, Creativity, Culture and Education
  • selecting 10 areas to pilot Find Your Talent. They will test local delivery models and inform development of a wider cultural offer
  • we are a key delivery partner for Creative Britain, responsible for delivering commitments relating to talent development through Find Your Talent and apprentices
  • we saw continued success with Artsmark, our national award scheme that recognises schools commited to the arts. Over 4,000 schools in England have an Artsmark and in 2008/09 we received 1,672 applications, a record number

* The Arts Council includes young people up to 25 years old in its definition of children and young people.

There are many opportunities for children and young people to take part in exciting activities across the visual arts. These range from acting as gallery guides and giving their own talks on works of art to learning about art history, making films, and experimenting with a range of art and crafts techniques.

New technologies are also encouraging new interactive forms of participation, with young art lovers enthusiastically uploading and sharing their photographs, creating their own podcasts, curating their own online exhibitions and playing games exploring virtual reality.

We are one of the key funders of Engage, the national association for gallery education. Engage has made vital contributions to gallery-based learning for young people in ways that have enhanced the school curriculum and provided children with an in-depth understanding of contemporary art.

Since 2004, Engage has run Enquire, a national programme developed in association with the Arts Council. Enquire delivers exciting projects that introduce children and young people to contemporary art, artists and galleries. The current phase runs from 2009 to 2011 and supports galleries and local authorities to develop joint projects in partnership with schools and youth groups and artists.

£10 million Lottery a year will be allocated to a group of Bridge delivery organisations, who will provide a direct connection between the work produced by arts organisations and schools and communities in their area.

Find out more about these organisations and children and young people and the National portfolio.

We will fund a network of 10 'Bridge' organisations that will focus on connecting schools and communities with National portfolio organisations and the cultural sector, including museum and libraries.

The Bridge organisations will aim to increase the amount of art, cultural and commissioning opportunities for cultural organisations and artists, building on the legacy of Creative Partnerships and Find Your Talent and maximising the impact of the Artsmark and Arts Award schemes.

We will also utilise our Bridge network to support the work of the new Music Hubs and National Music Plan.

We will also connect other key national providers of work for children and young people including Youth Music, the dance agencies and the National Youth Theatre.

Our extended work with museums and libraries will embrace our major schools schemes, Artsmark and the young people's Arts Award, ensuring the wealth of opportunities and expertise within these areas is harnessed to help increase the richness of cultural experiences for children and young people. 

Digital and the 2012-15 portfolio

We want to support artists and arts organisations across the artforms to present and promote the arts in new and inspiring ways.

Digital technologies enable artists to connect with audiences in new ways, bringing them into a closer relationship with the arts and creating new ways for them to take part. They also support the development of new business models, new networks and new forms of creativity.

Included within the National portfolio are organisations that are active in the digital sphere, either through creating digital art or using digital technologies to support audience engagement work, which will help to deliver our goals and priorities.

In terms of supporting digital arts practice, the Arts Council has a long and continuing tradition of supporting organisations and work within our visual arts investment, including digital arts, moving image and artists' film and video. National portfolio organisations with a role promoting digital innovation include: Furtherfield, B3, Blast Theory, Redeye, Axis, Impressions Gallery, Phoenix Arts, Somerset Film and Video, Knowle West Media Centre, Threshold Studios, Nottingham Media Centre (Broadway) and Berwick Film and Media Festival.

In addition, media or cross-artform organisations are a key part of the infrastructure for the development, production and distribution of this kind of practice and these include FACT, Lighthouse, Cornerhouse, and Watershed. The latter has received a major increase in funding, with a remit to work with artists and organisations across a broader base expanding its nationally significant role.

Across all of the Arts Council's funding programmes; the National portfolio, Grants for the arts and the new strategic lottery funds, we will respond to this digital opportunity. Other activities to encourage digital innovation to broaden reach will be supported through our work with NESTA, examining the interface between arts and technology, and we will build on the our partnership with the BBC Academy.

Touring, and why we fund it

Touring is one of the most flexible and creative ways of bringing live performance to people. Art, artists and audiences are all developed through touring. New ideas are tested, successful shows are given a longer life and audiences can experience a wide range of work.

Touring activity is where the same artistic programme or event is taking place in two or more places. It might involve performances or exhibitions, artistic residencies, artistic work involving people from particular communities, or possibly all of these things.

We fund touring work so that people across the country have the opportunity to see and experience great art. Locally created work varies enormously, and touring has a vital role to play in addressing inequalities of access to arts experiences within particular areas and communities. It is not only performances that can be innovative, touring can be too - revealing new places and ways in which to present work, and new ways of attracting audiences. 

How we work with artists, companies and programmers

Artform specialists in all regional offices have an overview of artists and companies that produce touring work. Since April 2010, the new combined arts and touring specialists have begun to develop an overview of organisations that programme the work we fund to tour.

We will work together with the sector to help ensure that the work we fund to tour is of high quality and is successfully reaching a wide range of people across the country.

Artists and companies wishing to apply to Grants for the arts for touring projects should read the information on our website, and contact the Grants for the arts centre. We have written an information sheet to help people applying to Grants for the arts for touring projects.

Our publication Marketing and touring. A practical guide to marketing an event on tour is aimed at touring companies and host venues of all scales to help them get the best out of their partnerships. Based on research from over 100 practitioners, the guide takes readers through the whole process of touring from planning the tour to campaign evaluation.

National portfolio funding

Find out more about touring and the National portfolio.

Touring and the new National portfolio

Touring remains a real priority for the Arts Council and we have increased our investment in a wide range of organisations that tour high quality, ambitious work to audiences across the country including Hofesh Shechter, Crying Out Loud, English Touring Opera and Rasa Productions.

A key activity for many National portfolio touring organisations

For a wide range of National portfolio organisations including the Southbank Centre's Hayward Touring, New Perspectives, Akram Khan and Britten Sinfonia, touring remains a key activity. Furthermore, we will expect to work with all national portfolio touring organisations to help us ensure that more people experience and are inspired by the arts.

New organisations receive funding for touring

We have also introduced some new exciting organisations which tour work into the portfolio, including the Children's Bookshow, the Opera Group, Company Chameleon, Propellor and Protein Dance.

Support for rural touring

We are continuing to fund a number of rural and community touring agencies to ensure people across England access to high quality art, with increased investment for Black Country Touring, Villages in Action and Arts in rural Gloucestershire. A new entry to the portfolio is the Pound Arts Trust in Wiltshire. The National Rural Touring Forum, based in Yorkshire, has increased investment in order to support the development of rural touring nationally.

Consolidated support for touring work for children and young people

Investment in organisations including Company of Angels, Travelling Light, Fevered Sleep, balletLORENT and Oily Cart will help us achieve our goal for every child and young person to experience the arts.

Support for a range of touring organisations which exemplify the creative case for diversity

We are also continuing to support a range of touring organisations which exemplify the creative case for diversity, with increased investment for a number including Deafinitely Theatre, Rifco arts, Punch Music, Candoco, Milap and StopGap Dance. Diverse organisations joining the touring portfolio include: Yaram Pursuits, Eclipse Theatre, Sonia Sabri Dance, Zendeh, Red Earth and Open Clasp Theatre.

Support for touring across the Arts Council's funding programmes

In addition to touring activities within the national portfolio, we will continue to support touring work through Grants for the arts and through a new strategic lottery fund, details of which will be announced shortly.

Touring will help us achieve our goal of more people in England experiencing and be inspired by the arts.

Our national approach will cover all of our development work and investment in touring, in particular through National portfolio organisations and our new strategic touring programme.

On 1 November 2011 we launched our strategic touring programme with a budget of £45 million between 2012 and 2015.  You can find out more about the programme here.

Touring activity will also continue to be funded through Grants for the arts.

Our definition of Touring

Touring activity is defined as ‘where the same artistic programme or event is taking place in two or more venues’. This covers all artforms, scales of work, and kinds of places, from outdoors to indoors, local to national. The artistic programme or event may involve live performers and/or exhibition artworks; it would be fundamentally the same event offered to all, but may involve some adaptation to suit the different spaces and contexts in which it was being presented.


Touring activity also relates to artistic programmes or events which take place at a geographic location, with some live element in terms of being close to performers or artworks and/or experiencing something with a group of people.  We recognise the growing interrelationships between touring and digital distribution and anticipate that this may be reflected within some applications to the programme.

Development areas 2012-15

We want people across England to experience high quality art touring to their locales.  In order to help achieve this, we have identified the following development areas for 2012-15. We will focus on the following areas:

Improving local access to high quality art

  • strengthen access to high quality work for people in places that rely on touring for much of their arts provision.  This will involve supporting venue managers, promoters and curators to increase their influence on the work which tours to their communities; and supporting artists, companies, agencies and producers to develop work which is appropriate to tour to these places
  • develop arts opportunities for people and places with the least engagement, by enabling more quality work to reach people in these areas.  We will have a joined-up approach to our development work within this priority   

Partnership working

  • work in partnership with those on the demand (promoters, curators, audiences) and supply (artists, producers) side of touring 
  • encourage stronger collaborative working among all of our partners, including umbrella bodies, local authorities and commercial organisations
  • support and develop the community, schools and outdoor infrastructure so that quality work can have the widest possible reach, both in terms of organisations that programme work and artists and companies and agencies that tour work 
  • support and develop networks and consortia, to help widen the reach and diversity of work that tours

National portfolio

  • work more strategically with the Arts Council National portfolio and other key organisations which tour, with equal importance given to how and where they tour and the work they produce.  We will ensure that the work of London-based National portfolio organisations funded to tour has a wide geographic reach
  • work in partnership with National portfolio organisations and the wider sector to ensure the best return for our investment in large scale work that tours, in terms of quality and range of work, geographic reach and audience numbers 

Children and young people

  • support more high quality work for children and young people to tour across a wider network, including schools, with a greater tie-in between this work and our other strategic children and young people activity 


  • ensure that artists and companies from diverse backgrounds have the skills and opportunities to tour their work, so that people across England are able to experience work by the widest range of artists 

Guidance framework

  • develop guidance for where we would like work to tour to.  This would give a basic framework to be followed by National portfolio or project-funded organisations as well as Arts Council England staff.