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Arts Council England outlines new approach to Renaissance museums funding programme

  • Date: 4 August 2011
  • Area: National

Arts Council England today announced further details of how we will deliver the Renaissance in the Regions funding programme for museums, after we take over this function from the Museums Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) on 1 October 2011.  Briefing events on the programme will take place across the UK in mid September.

£300m has been invested since Renaissance in the Regions started in 2002, which has helped transform the regional museum sector across the country and boost visitor figures.

The programme was reviewed in 2009 and MLA had well developed plans for its next generation, to be implemented from 1 April 2012. Arts Council England’s brief was to carry these plans forward in the most appropriate way, allowing for the 15 per cent reduction in the Renaissance budget between 2012 and 2015. 

The new programme aims to build on the success of Renaissance by encouraging excellence, leadership and change in regional museums and enhancing the important cultural, social and economic contribution that they make to our communities.

Alan Davey, Chief Executive, Arts Council England said: ‘We’re excited about our new responsibilities and determined to create the conditions for our museums to thrive.  

‘Our new approach to Renaissance will strike a balance between continuity and change, building on the considerable achievements of the past. We’ve looked carefully at each area of the programme to try and achieve the greatest possible alignment with the Arts Council’s work, making sure Renaissance helps museums across the country to fulfil their aims and ambitions.

‘We recognise there is still work to do in taking on these functions and we’ll continue to talk to the museums and libraries sector as we look to adjust the Arts Council’s goals to reflect their needs and priorities.’

The Renaissance programme

There were four strands to the MLA Renaissance proposals, one of which will stay the same and three of which will change.

The National Programmes strand will transfer on 1 October, continuing as before. This includes the programmes MLA delivered to support standards within the museum sector, such as Accreditation, Designation, the provision of national security advice and initiatives including Kids in Museums and Museums at Night. In addition, the Arts Council will maintain the commitment to the V&A Purchase Grant Funds and the Fund for Preservation of Industrial and Scientific Material (PRISM). 

However, the Arts Council will take a new approach to the other three areas of the MLA’s proposals. These three strands will be:

  • A programme of major grants
    This grant programme will begin with an open application process, similar to the Arts Council’s National Portfolio programme, and is a revision of the MLA core museums concept. The programme will look for a group of museums with the appetite and capacity to play a wider leadership role in the sector in delivering on the Arts Council’s strategic goals.

    Full details of the funding criteria and application process for Renaissance will be made available in early September, and the application process will conclude early in 2012.
  • A strategic support fund 
    The Arts Council will also run a funding programme similar to MLA’s proposed challenge fund. The details of this fund are still under discussion, and further announcements will be made in the coming months. 
  • Museum development
    A strong commitment to museum development will be maintained, with a £3m investment. The Arts Council will also complete the new approach the MLA was developing to strengthen the infrastructure for this important area. 

Next steps

In September we will also publish a companion document to Achieving Great Art for Everyone, our 10-year framework for the arts, on how we will interpret our strategic goals for museums and libraries between 2012 and 2015. The document will also outline the benefits and opportunities the Arts Council believes exist for all its stakeholders as a result of its wider cultural role. This follows the publication of Estelle Morris’ review on how the Arts Council could best approach its extended remit.

An informal consultation on the longer term focus beyond 2015 will be launched in the autumn to ensure a wide range of views are heard about how best to reflect the long term ambitions of all the sectors that the Arts Council now represents.

The MLA will continue to manage existing 2011/12 Renaissance funding agreements and make payments to museums currently funded through the scheme until 31 March 2012. 

Museums briefing event

Arts Council England will be hosting a series of events at six different venues across the UK commencing 12 September 2011. One focus of the briefings will be to explain the application process for the major grant strand of Renaissance, discuss the programme in detail and provide applicants with guidance on how to apply for funding. Furthermore, we will be discussing the companion document to Achieving great art for everyone; revisiting Arts Council England's strategic goals and setting out how museums and libraries can be reflected in our mission between 2012 and 1015. These events are for senior level staff and are available by invite only, if you feel your organisation would benefit from attending and has not received an invitation please email As there is a limit on delegate numbers we can only accept one request per organisation.

Find out more about the Arts Council's work with museums.