Art and culture in the North: more places and people to benefit from increased investment

Posted on 17 July 2017

From Berwick to Blackpool, Sunderland to Salford (and everywhere in between), the North is home to some of England’s most exciting and ambitious arts and cultural organisations.

Exterior shot of BALTIC mill in Gateshead
Lorna Simpson's artwork on BALTIC north face, 2014. Photo © BALTIC

On 27 June we announced the 230 organisations in the North which will be part of our national portfolio from 2018-22, the group of organisations that form the backbone of our cultural infrastructure. Together they’ll receive just over £414 million over the next four years which represents an extra £21 million per year of investment. This means more places and more people across the whole area will benefit.

As well as developing the world class clusters of cultural organisations in our urban areas – with the likes of BALTIC in Gateshead, Opera North in Leeds and Liverpool Biennial – we’re making sure our investment reaches other cities, towns and rural locations across the North too.

Places like Tees Valley will see new investment of over £700,000; in Bradford we’ve responded to local cultural ambition in one of the North’s most diverse cities; and in Hull we want to ensure a lasting legacy from the UK City of Culture programme.

Girl in carnival procession wearing face paint with orange wings
Freedom Festival in Hull, 2016. Photo © Thomas Arran

In rural areas, we have organisations joining our portfolio in Cumbria, rural North Yorkshire, County Durham and Northumberland. This includes the beautiful Bowes Museum in Barnard Castle and the Lakes International Comic Art Festival which celebrates the best in comic artists, creators and writers, and is the only event of its kind in the UK.

Our new portfolio in the North will reach more people in more places. Culture has a role to play in all our communities from the major cities to the North’s most rural areas – it brings us together, provides joy and solace, and builds a sense of identity – and contributes to our economy too.​ Sarah Maxfield, North Area Director, Arts Council England

Mannequins wearing YSL designer clothing
Yves Saint Laurent exhibition, The Bowes Museum. Photo © Claire Collinson

There will be 230 national portfolio organisations of all sizes and types across the North East, North West and Yorkshire, 51 of which are new to our portfolio, and 32 of which will receive increased investment. Our additional funding indicates the depth and breadth of arts and culture in the North and illustrates how the Arts Council is spending more money than ever before outside London.

Museums and libraries join the portfolio for the first time. We will support a broad range of museums in the North - from major municipal services to voluntary run rural museums, including very specialist subjects (such as the Chantry Bagpipe Museum, part of the Woodhorn consortium) and nationally significant collections (like the People’s History Museum).

We will also support St Helens Libraries, praised nationally for its cultural programme, and Loud in Libraries which puts gigs on in local libraries.

Frontwoman of band playing in library
Josefin Öhrn + The Liberation at Liverpool Central Library. Photo © Andy Von Pipp

We’re making sure that more people in the North can benefit from our investment. This means audiences being able to enjoy and take part in cultural activities close to home – through organisations such as Mikron Theatre Company in Kirklees, which takes work into the heart of communities – as well as ensuring our investment better reflects the diversity of contemporary society in the North. To do this, we’re bringing organisations such as Venture Arts, which works with learning disabled visual artists in Manchester into the portfolio, and continuing to fund organisations such as leading Black-led theatre production company Eclipse Theatre in Sheffield.

Man and woman looking at script in rehearsal room
Eclipse Theatre's Dawn Walton and Revolution Mix writer Shamser Sinha. Photo © Richard Davenport

And of course, we want children and young people to have access to high quality cultural experiences too. We invest in a number of leading specialist companies that produce work by and for children and young people, including M6 in Rochdale and Theatre Hullabaloo in Darlington. We’re giving more money to bodies like Seven Stories, the National Centre for Children’s Books, and Blackpool Grand, so they can do more work with children in their early years. And by bringing organisations into the portfolio, such as Grimm and Co in Rotherham and Z Arts in Manchester, children and young people right across the North will benefit.

Women and children reading books together
Seven Stories, The National Centre for Children's Books. Photo © Damien Wootten

So what happens when those young people want to go on to make a career in the arts? One of our priorities is for the North to be a place where it is possible to train, live and make a career in culture without having to go to the capital. This can be seen in our support to organisations such as Sound City who support young bands and musicians to progress, the NewBridge project in Newcastle which supports artists and curators, and The Writing Squad with its ‘hothouse’ mentoring of talented young writers.

I’m delighted that we have the opportunity to support such a range of excellent cultural organisations across the North. Our increased investment will mean that these organisations will be able to deliver great arts and cultural experiences for audiences and participants across the whole area. Sarah Maxfield, North Area Director, Arts Council England

This new and increased investment in arts and culture over the next four years will help to make the North a better place to live and work. It will attract more visitors, will play a pivotal part in the future growth of our local economies and will be at the centre of our vibrant communities.

Woman in headscarf speaking in microphone
Bradford Literature Festival 2016 with Sufiana Kalam with Hina Nasrullah. Photo © Tim Smith

More information

These are just some examples of the specific organisations, places and people that will benefit from our new national portfolio. For a full list, check out this section of our website.

Keep up to date with arts and culture across the North by following us on Twitter.

And take a look at some of the other ways we support artists, and arts and cultural organisations.

We think #culturematters. Do you?