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Arts Council England announces additional £3.8 million boost for 2015/18 National portfolio of organisations and Major partner museums

  • Date: 1 July 2014
  • Area: South West

Arts Council England has announced that 83 organisations in the south west will be in the National portfolio for 2015/18, receiving around £60million in funding over the three years.

A further nine south west museums in three consortia covering Bristol, Exeter & Plymouth and Cornwall will achieve Major partner museum status, receiving almost £9.3million grant in aid funding for their combined programmes of activities that make a major contribution to the Arts Council's goals.

The awards are one strand of Arts Council England's total investment in arts and culture during 2015/18, which also includes the National Lottery funded Grants for the arts scheme and strategic funds used to support targeted programmes of work that deliver the ambitions set out in Great art and culture for everyone, Arts Council England's 10-year strategic framework for the arts and culture.

National portfolio organisations

A total of 122 organisations from the south west applied to join the 2015/18 National portfolio and the 83* successful applicants reflect the high performance of south west organisations during the current three year funding agreement as well as recognising the excellent work of 11 organisations joining the portfolio for the first time.  The increased budget for south west NPOs has meant that 65 organisations will be funded at the same level as their 2014/15 award, consolidating the core of a high achieving sector.

The 11 organisations joining the portfolio in the south west are:

  • acta Community Theatre Ltd
  • Black Bird/Red Rose Productions (The Mark Bruce Company)
  • Bournemouth Borough Council (Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival)
  • A consortium comprising: Bristol Music Trust and St George's Bristol
  • Exeter Northcott Theatre Company Ltd
  • Kaleider
  • MAYK Theatre Ltd
  • Situations
  • Tangle
  • The Bike Shed Theatre
  • The Point

Some organisations joining the portfolio have developed as a result of strong partnership working with the Local Authority and Higher Education partners, where joint planning and investment has seen culture flourish and be recognised as a driving force in building the community, both economically and socially.  Bournemouth Borough Council have worked closely with Arts Council England to develop the successful Bournemouth Arts by the Sea Festival, growing from an annual event to year-round engagement and participation across all communities.

The portfolio also reflects where Arts Council England has invested in developing and strengthening the local ecology In Exeter, for example, strategic funds were invested to develop the theatre ecology and this has resulted in a strong, vibrant theatre community and three organisations joining the portfolio - Exeter Northcott Theatre, Kaleider and The Bike Shed Theatre

Many of the National portfolio organisations in the south west are doing strong work in developing new talent and in working with people from communities where there is traditionally less opportunity to access arts opportunities.  Amongst the organisations joining the portfolio are acta Community Theatre in Bristol, who actively engage local communities in the creation and delivery of their work; Tangle based in Somerset, a diversity-led organisation with strong artistic ambition that reflects their role as a think tank for racial equality in theatre; and The Point in Eastleigh, a combined arts venue with an exceptional approach to developing talent, engaging thousands of people in participation every year.

Excellence is strongly represented in the south west portfolio with new organisations including The Mark Bruce Company, an award-winning dance company with a strong education programme, whose ambition and exceptional talent push boundaries; and MAYK, a theatre producing organisation that collaborates with extraordinary artists and audiences to make exciting things happen in unusual ways, including through the internationally acclaimed Mayfest in Bristol.

Three organisations will also receive additional investment from 2015, to support a significant extension to their programme and ambitions:

  • Asian Arts Agency is an arts development agency that develops, promotes and supports international, contemporary and traditional South Asian arts in the south west and beyond.  They have received significant additional investment to support an extension to their area-wide touring programme and allow them to develop international opportunities. 
  • Partnership working has been vital to ensure that where there has been major capital investment such as in Southampton's New Arts Complex, organisations can be supported to a level where they will be resilient but also encourages them to increase their earned income and look for other funding sources, such as philanthropic giving.
  • Spike Island is a major arts organisation in Bristol providing workspace and facilities for hundreds of artists, creative individuals, businesses and students.  The additional funding reflects the range and depth of its expanding exhibition programme as well as the exemplary work it has done in developing new and emerging talent.

The impact of the work done by Asian Arts Agency, Spike Island and other organisations such as Pavilion Dance South West, Situations and Bristol Music Trust and St George's Bristol benefits communities far beyond their immediate neighbourhood and contributes strongly to Arts Council England's mission of making great arts available to everyone.

Major partner museums

Awarded Major partner museum status for the first time is the For Cornwall Museums Partnership of six leading museums in Cornwall: Falmouth Art Gallery, National Maritime Museum Cornwall, Penlee House Gallery & Museum, Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Royal Cornwall Museum, Wheal Martyn.

The partnership is unique, bringing together two museums run by Town Councils and four independent charitable organisation to create a 'dispersed model of excellence' in mainly rural locations.  The museums' collections are of regional and national significance and, working together, they are committing to building visitor numbers in imaginative ways and showing strong leadership for the whole museum sector in Cornwall.  This partnership demonstrates that excellence can thrive in museums at the heart of their communities and in rural areas.

The award-winning Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery and Bristol's Museums Galleries & Archives are also named as Major partner museums for 2015/18, remaining in the portfolio.

Sheila Healy, Chair of the South West Area Council, said: 'Culture throughout the South West is vibrant and exciting with organisations and artists doing exceptional work and engaging their whole community in inspirational and enjoyable activities.  Sadly, the level of ambition demonstrated in the applications is not matched by our financial resources so we have had to make extremely difficult choices.  But funding for National portfolio organisations or Major partner museums is only one part of Arts Council England's investment programme and hopefully we may be able to support some of these organisations in other ways, such as through our Grants for the arts programme.'

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England said: 'This is an extremely strong portfolio of organisations delivering high quality arts and cultural experiences to audiences throughout the south west. 

'Due to budget restraints we were not able to fund a number of very good applications, including some organisations which have been part of our National Portfolio in the last three years.  However, we are delighted that we have maintained or increased our level of support to so many of our core organisations through this process and will continue to work to ensure that ambition, artistic adventure and entrepreneurial spirit are kept alive so that a strong countrywide cultural ecology is nurtured and maintained.'

A full list of all the south west national portfolio organisations and major partner museums for 2015/18 can be found here.


* The 83 organisations in the south west in the National Portfolio include Shademakers Carnival Club, a current NPO that has re-located to the Isle of Wight from London; their funding award is not included in the south west budget figures quoted.

Hall for Cornwall and The Works! merged during 2012/15; Hall for Cornwall's 2015/18 award is based on their combined 2014/15 grant.