Image of young people dressed in Blue carnival costumes smiling at the camera

People across the South West to benefit from great art and culture in their back yards

Posted on 17 July 2017

From Penzance to Portsmouth, Basingstoke to Bristol, Torbay to Torridge and the Isle of Wight to St Ives, people across the South West will feel the benefit of our major new investment in arts and cultural organisations in their communities.

The Arts Council recently announced the 103 organisations - spanning theatre, music and dance companies; galleries; museums; libraries; and grass roots and artist-led groups, to name a few – that will make up the South West’s National Portfolio for 2018-22.

Plymouth Music Zone participants making music. Photograph © Kevin Clifford.

National Portfolio organisations are the collection of leading arts and cultural organisations that receive regular funding from the Arts Council and form the backbone of our work.

adding innovation and rewarding artistic boldness

The 103 organisations, spread across the rural, urban, coastal and market town communities of the South West will create the infrastructure for arts and cultural life to flourish over the next four years and beyond.  

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: "We are delighted to have increased our investment across the South West, building on a successful and established portfolio by adding innovation and rewarding artistic boldness and to be able to continue to put culture at the very heart of the South West’s social and economic ambitions. We look forward to working with all the organisations to help them to take art and culture to more people, in more places, than ever before." 

The South West at a glance:

  • 103 National Portfolio organisations for 2018-22, compared to 86 in the 2015-18 portfolio
  • 29 organisations joining the portfolio
  • 7 organisations receiving additional funding that reflects a significant extension to their programme and ambitions
  • 66 organisations receiving funding at the same level as their 2017-18 award, consolidating the core of a high-achieving sector

Engaging new communities and broadening reach

The South West portfolio sees significant new investment in major urban centres such as Plymouth and Southampton, as well as giving audiences in areas who historically have had less chance to enjoy arts and cultural experiences more opportunities to do so in their communities, with National Portfolio organisations working primarily in Torbay, Weston-Super-Mare and Gloucester for the first time.

a tremendous privilege and an exciting responsibility 

Chapel Arts Studios in Andover is one of the new entrants to the portfolio and will be working across North Hampshire where traditionally there are fewer opportunities for residents to engage with the arts.

David Dixon, Lead Artist & Programme Coordinator, Chapel Arts Studios, said: "Joining the South West Portfolio is a tremendous privilege and an exciting responsibility for Chapel Arts Studios. Using this new investment we aim to provide the area with a larger studio, a gallery and greater support for artists across North Hampshire: In short, there will be more for people to see, and we’ll be able to help more people see it!"

Audiences in Gloucester will feel the benefits too as we welcome the city’s first National Portfolio organisation. Lise Noakes, City Councillor Barnwood Ward and Cabinet Member for Culture & Leisure, said: “I am absolutely delighted that Arts Council England has selected Strike A Light to be part of the National Portfolio. Strike A Light are the first Gloucester based organisation to be an NPO which is a testament to the fantastic work they are doing to further the provision of Culture for all in Gloucester.  Their success helps with the delivery of our Cultural Strategy and our ambition to put Culture at the heart of an ambitious future for Gloucester.”

We want to show our society as it actually is - diverse, interesting and full of talent

Other new comers to the South West portfolio include organisations of genuine national significance. Artistic Director of Shakespeare’s Globe, Emma Rice, will base her inspirational new company Wise Children in the South West. Diverse City who bring together disabled and non-disabled people, older and younger people and people from all backgrounds through an ambitious programme of performance and training will work from their base in Dorset. Plymouth History Centre, the city’s new flagship museum and centre for the contemporary visual arts will enjoy significant investment to support Plymouth’s reputation as one of England’s most ambitious cultural destinations.

Claire Hodgson, Co-Artistic Director, Diverse City, said: "This investment from the Arts Council means that more people will get to take part in performance work of the highest standard - more people from different backgrounds and with different identities. We want to show our society as it actually is - diverse, interesting and full of talent." 

Come Dance With Me, Diverse City performance in Dublin. Image © Tom Swift

The portfolio also makes a nationally significant contribution to music, technology and disability with Paraorchestra and Friends, OpenUp Music and Plymouth Music Zone – all of whose work in this field is pioneering - joining for the first time.

OpenUp Music. Members of the South-West Open Youth Orchestra play accessible musical instruments with their eyes. Image © Paul Blakemore

A broad range of museums have been integrated into the National Portfolio this time round. The South West portfolio welcomes eight museums focused organisations, boasting specialisms in maritime, military and 20th century modern art with investment in the likes of SS Great Britain, the Tank Museum, Cornwall Regimental Museum and Southampton Museums.

Libraries Unlimited is the first libraries organisation to join the National Portfolio in the South West. With responsibility for 57 libraries across Devon, they take a love of reading and learning to the heart of rural communities across the county. Libraries Unlimited provide vital, high-quality information and facilities for communities who might otherwise not have the chance to engage in cultural experiences. They have a national reputation for innovation and excellence with ambitious plans to build on existing strengths such as digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and work with children and young people.

The sheer ambition and artistic excellence of the South West’s arts and cultural organisations was reflected in the number and quality of applications we received to the portfolio. Of the 177 applications, 103 were successful on this occasion; the incredible ambition was not matched by our financial resources. 

Capital awards

We also recently announced National Lottery-funded Capital awards. Four arts and cultural organisations in the South West will share a total of £1.3million which will help to give them the best buildings and equipment to deliver their excellent work.

  • CAST (Cornubian Arts and Science Trust) will receive £499,999
  • Tobacco Factory awarded £250, 000
  • Exeter Phoenix will receive  £187, 617
  • Create Studios awarded £360, 000
Create Studios, Digital Journeys Launch. Image © Elmar Rubio

The South West in detail

The 29 organisations joining the portfolio in the South West are:

The National Portfolio will have 831 arts organisations with £409 million being invested per year. An additional £42 million per year (£170 million over four years) will be spent outside London between 2018 and 2022.

You can find a full list of the South West and all other National Portfolio organisations for 2018-22 here.