Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (arts 04)

· What impact recent, and future, spending cuts from central and local Government will have on the arts and heritage at a national and local level;

Investment in museums through the Renaissance programme and other funding has led to unprecedented levels of people engaging with museums, an increase in visitor numbers and more diverse audience for museums. It has also changed the nature of engagement with museums from a passive visit to a positive experience which contributes to learning and personal development and to health and wellbeing, with individual benefits also being realised at community level. Conversely a reduction in investment will threaten this. Whilst some the legacy of what museums have achieved will last for a short while, its effect will be limited if activities and programmes cannot be sustained. Museums provide good value for the investment made by the public sector but reductions in funding could disproportionately impact on outputs and outcomes. Renaissance and related museum activities have not only helped to change lives but have also had strong economic benefits, in particular supporting tourism, and have significantly developed opportunities for and the contribution made by volunteers as well as really working to engage people with their museums through consultation, coproduction and involvement of communities in programming and management.

It is worth pointing out that investment has also allowed museums to increase staff capacity and with it knowledge and an increased ability to engage with audiences at a higher level in terms of public engagement initiatives, and collections expertise etc. Public confidence in museums has grown as a result.

 

Renaissance investment has also helped raise standards of collections care. The Bowes is a good example of this; Renaissance has assisted with the expansion of our conservation department and related activities, consequently our knowledge and confidence in dealing object movement and collections care issues. It has also made us more able to support other museums in the region through advice etc.

 

Cuts will inevitable impinge on our ability to maintain standards and we will feel the loss of expertise through lack of staff capacity.

 

· What arts organisations can do to work more closely together in order to reduce duplication of effort and to make economies of scale;

Museums in the North East already work closely together, for example collaborating on projects such as creative apprentices, and on outreach activities. The North East Hub is led by Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, already a ‘federation’ of 5 district councils and a university to provide good value in delivery of museum services. Museums in Tees Valley are currently looking at how they can work more closely together whilst in Northumberland Woodhorn, Berwick and Tynedale museums have come together to deliver a more efficient service. Bringing together services across domains must also be considered as has been achieved at Woodhorn and TWAM bringing together museum and archive services.

NERMH initiatives such as Core Skills, the NECCF and Curatorial Needs programmes are surely excellent examples of working together as a sector to make the most of skills sharing and dissemination to the whole region through training and support networks. The development of the posts of Access Officer, Evaluation and Diversification Officer working across organisations to raise standards and develop best practice are also ways of economies of scale through partnership and joint co-operation.

· What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable;

It is important that there is a plural economy. Beamish, the Living Museum of the North, for example, runs its core operations on the funding it can generate itself but has enhanced, in particular, its learning and outreach work with public funding. At TWAM the outreach and inclusion work which has led to the very strong involvement of non-traditional audiences has been funded through the Renaissance programme.

· Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one;

Whilst government will naturally wish to set the agenda for the direction of funding, what is important to museums is that this funding can be delivered with the minimum of bureaucracy, that its purpose is transparent, and that it is granted for a reasonable period of time (at least 2-3 years) and that there is sufficient notice (at least 6 months) as one programme comes to an end of what future programmes will be.

· What impact recent changes to the distribution of National Lottery funds will have on arts and heritage organisations;

The changes to both the Heritage Lottery and Arts Lottery will be beneficial for museums, supporting both smaller grants and some larger grants – although many museums have has significant capital investment there are still la number of capital projects which ,with lottery and other investment, could produce significant benefits for jobs, for tourism, for lifelong learning and for quality of life.

· Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed;

We strongly support plans to restore Lottery to its original distribution proportions. Both in the north east and nationally the proven benefits of significant arts, sport and heritage initiatives supported by the lottery indicate just what these sectors can achieve. Most recently the success of the lottery funded Great North Museum has shown how well-developed heritage projects can deliver exceptional outputs and outcomes. Later this month the Museum will welcome its millionth visitor since reopening, and this has been achieved in 15 months.

We feel that it is important that the ongoing policy reflects both the reduced availability of capital funding and current challenges to revenue funding. Whilst many cultural buildings have been re-energized through lottery funding and have delivered benefits in terms of tourism, jobs created and learning outcomes, there are significant museums, galleries and other cultural facilities which have the potential to significantly increase their contribution to the local economy and society with investment in capital infrastructure. The lottery has also supported ground breaking revenue projects both at community and wider level. The North East Hub’s Culture Shock project for example (www.cultureshock.org.uk) has not only created a fascinating digital archive but has allowed people to debate relevant local issues through the medium of creating 500 digital stores documenting life across the north east.

As the lottery distributors have now established themselves successfully and developed strong policy bases it seems appropriate to allow them to shape programmes more effectively and where they can identify gaps or needs to target activity and, where appropriate, to solicit grants.

Whilst the Big Lottery has had specific responsibility for delivery to the voluntary and community sectors, excluding statutory bodies it is important that arts and heritage lottery distribution benefit the entire sector although we would of course expect applicants to demonstrate evidence of need and demand and how they are linked to user communities.

Many organisations such as our own are actively involved in fundraising from the private and charitable sectors, from trusts and foundations, from individual giving, from sponsorship and through corporate social responsibility. The opportunity to develop lottery strands within heritage and arts which specifically incentivize and increase investment in arts and heritage could be an opportunity for development.

It is also hoped that in future there can be a more joined up approach between lottery distributors. For example projects involving historic and contemporary art may require joint funding applications to Arts and Heritage lotteries – too date these have been difficult to facilitate although we have has significant support with the principle from officers in the North East.

· The impact of recent changes to DCMS arm’s-length bodies – in particular the abolition of the UK Film Council and the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council;

The key concern which museums in the North East have expressed is the loss of the high quality regional support which has been provided by Directors of Engagement and their teams . It is clear that many functions of MLA will need to continue ( Government Indemnity; Acceptance in lieu; accr editation etc). Who takes them on is more difficult to determine . The Renaissance programme must continue to build on the achievements of museums in the region, both within and without the Hub , and we need a straightforward and effective way of delivering the funding and monitoring for this. It is also very important that the museum development function continues to be delivered to support regional museum. In the North East this works successfully with the Museum Development Officer working within the regional Renaissance team and working closely alongside MLA officers.

As a joint Archives and Museums service we have benefited from the function of MLA across these two domains and from the support regional officers of MLA in particular have given to archives in the region . The relationship between local/ regional archives and DCMS and/or The National Archives needs to be clarified and it is important that there are support structures which can be delivered at a regional level for archives. One possibility, depending on funding, is to have a closer relationship between archives and Renaissance.

Museums and heritage also have a key relationship to tourism, which is a priority are for the government. It’s important that new structure facilitate the development of heritage tourism. If there is an intention to pass some of the national functions of MLA which need to continue (e.g. Acceptance in lieu, Accreditation) going to an alternative agency consideration should be given to either a Heritage Agency perhaps incorporating elements of Heritage lottery Fund and HLF or a Cultural Agency which represents a broadened and reframed Arts Council.

Whether businesses and philanthropists can play a long-term role in funding arts at a national and local level;

Museums in the North East already work hard to engage businesses and philanthropist, TWAM has just established a new fundraising trust outside local authority control which is led by business people and will actively fundraise for the museums and archives. In the North East however, there is a comparative shortfall in the number of high net worth individuals with disposable assets (amongst the wealthier people much investment is tied up in fixed assets) and of head offices or large regional firms where the decision on sponsorship is made locally. This significantly reduces our ability for this type of fundraising. It is particularly difficult to develop philanthropic funding to support revenue costs.

One additional concern is where individuals or organisations donate objects or collections which have ongoing ‘maintenance’ or care costs. A framework which promoted the idea of endowments for care of collections alongside the donation of collections could be of interest.

Whether there need to be more Government incentives to encourage private donations.

Increased tax incentives focused on encouraging philanthropy in this area would be welcome. Specific government initiatives to support the engagement of businesses with culture are also important. It is important that this work goes beyond the ‘easy win’ of encouraging business, for example, to hire paintings for board room walls. Valuable as that is, there is much more that business and culture have to offer to each other.

August 2010