Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by North East Regional Renaissance Board (arts 21)

· 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, particularly from local government, has led to unprecedented levels of people engaging with museums, an increase in visitor numbers and a more diverse audience for museums. This investment has also changed the nature of engagement with museums from simply a passive visit to an interactive experience which, evidence shows, 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 of 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.

Our experience in the North East of England is that Renaissance and related museum activities have not only helped to change lives but have also had strong economic benefits, in particular through playing a key role in the tourism infrastructure (Heritage Tourism being one of North East England’s most significant drivers). We have also significantly developed opportunities for volunteers to contribute (including developing their employability skills), as well as really working to engage people with their museums through consultation, co-production 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 in particular 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 inevitably impinge on our ability to maintain standards and we will feel the loss of expertise through lack of staff capacity.

More severe cuts may indeed lead to the loss of some museums completely and with them the huge benefits that they bring to communities and the economy.

 

· 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 within an independent trust 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 hub has developed a number of specialist posts which work across organisations to raise standards and develop best practice, demonstrating 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. We have demonstrated in the North East that public funding for museums should be seen as an investment rather than subsidy, for example in areas such as skills development, tackling worklessness through volunteering and creating positive activities for young people.

· 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. There remain some imbalances in public funding between museums and with other parts of the cultural sector around the mix of local and national government investment. Many museums are reliant on local authority funding as their sole public revenue funder with little or no access to other areas (unlike eg many arts organizations who receive revenue funds from ACE and local authorities).

· 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 had significant capital investment there are still a 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;

It is believed that there is scope to review these particularly in light of the fact that the lottery distributors now have much more experience of the sort of projects which do come forward. There opportunity to reconsider the prohibition on soliciting projects. Equally flexibility over some rules could significantly help some projects.

It is hoped that in future there can be a more joined up approach between lottery distributors. For example, Arts and Heritage lottery distributors tend to have good knowledge of local/regional issues and strong relationships with local authorities and agencies and to ensure that arts and heritage projects that they fit align with local priorities . Where Big Lottery is awarding grants that relate to arts or heritage it would be advantageous if they could access the knowledge of the other distributors.

· 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; accreditation 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 s . In the North East this works successfully with the Museum Development Officer working within the regional Renaissance team and working closely alongside MLA officers.

We believe that is essential that there is a clear structure for the ongoing delivery of Renaissance as soon as possible. This is particularly important in the light of the current pressures on public sector budgets.

In the North east we already have two major mergers of museums and archives services ( Tyne and Wear and Northumberland). We would therefore have a particular interest and perspective on how those functions of MLA should continue to interact in the future.

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