Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Renaissance East of England (arts 151)

1. Summary

1.1 Introducing Renaissance East of England

This response is from the Renaissance East of England central office on behalf of the four museum services which together make up the East of England Museum Hub:

· Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service

· The Fitzwilliam Museum, University of Cambridge

· Luton Culture

· Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service

The Hub partnership was formed in 2003 as the delivery partner for the Renaissance in the Regions programme in the East of England.

1.2 Scope of response

This response therefore focuses on the significance of Renaissance funding to the sector in particular, and the impact that cutting or significantly reducing Renaissance funding would have at a regional level. Hub partners will also respond as individual institutions with their own perspectives, but this can read as a collective response to those questions on which we feel qualified to comment.

1.3 Summary of key points

· Renaissance has achieved a great deal and should be maintained

· If Renaissance is cut substantially or completely the progress made by regional museums and the participation of larger and more diverse audiences in museums and cultural heritage will be threatened

· Partnership working – including sharing services and expertise – is key to increased efficiency and improved services

· National and local government need to provide a realistic level of subsidy to encourage the partnership model of delivery and to avoid a return to subsistence levels of funding for arts and heritage organisations

· A new model for Renaissance delivered by Core museums needs to take into account the needs of rural communities

· A less bureaucratic system for delivering and monitoring publicly funded programmes would be welcome

· Museums and heritage deserve a national strategic body which has a strong voice

2. 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

2.1.1 Achievements of Renaissance in the East of England

Consistent data collection by the four hub partner museum services demonstrates the positive impact of Renaissance:

· 800,000 visits were made to hub museums in 2008/09, an increase of 11.6% since Renaissance began

· 34% increase in visits by school age children to East of England hub museums since Renaissance began

· 84% of school visits to East of England hub museums in 200/09 were facilitated (i.e. were led by or involved interaction with museum staff)

· 235,000 visits were made by children to hub museums in 2008/09, that’s a 29% increase since Renaissance began

· 57% increase from 2006/07 to 2008/09 in learning opportunities, including lectures, talks and tours, offered to adults by the hub museums.

2.1.2 Renaissance has also benefited the museum and heritage sector in the region as a whole: since 2008 Renaissance has worked with 89% of the region’s registered and accredited museums through professional networks, direct grants, skills-sharing and training and joint-work on major projects.

2.1.3 Cuts to funding will put this progress and the participation of these audiences in museums and cultural heritage in jeopardy.

2.2.1 The nature of Renaissance funding

Crucial to this expansion in opportunities for the public to engage with their heritage has been the long-term nature of Renaissance. Unlike much short-term, project funding available to museums, the Renaissance programme has become embedded in the Hub museums and has transformed the way the sector works. Over seven years it has enabled and encouraged strategic planning and the staff funded by the Renaissance programme, and their experience, are critical to continuing success such as;

· The development of sustainable long-term partnerships with other museums and outside the sector

· The collective development of strategic programmes e.g. the Growing Communities partnership now influencing local authorities in local cultural aspects of planning and development

· Improved standards in the care and interpretation of the region’s unique collections through a network of Museum Development Officers and Regional Museum Conservators and development funding

· Extending and improving services to schools

· Applying knowledge and skills to work outside museums with non-users in local communities, hospitals, residential care homes, prisons and with marginalised groups such as Looked After Children

2.2.2 The assurance of Renaissance funding from year to year (albeit with business plans of two years) has delivered efficiencies in the development of museum services and driven up standards by providing an infrastructure for joint action.

2.3.1 Conclusion: Impact of cutting Renaissance

If the Renaissance programme were to be cut completely or significantly the result would not just be an immediate loss of services to communities through inevitable redundancies, but an undermining of the partnership ethos which has been so effective in raising standards and encouraging ambition. Coupled with a reduction in local authority investment, museums’ capacity to look beyond their own institutions would be far more limited, while a return to a reliance on one-off project grants to individual institutions would risk fragmenting the sector thereby undermining efficiency.

2.3.2 To illustrate the difference, compare giving a grant to a small museum for an exhibition on an aspect of maritime heritage with Renaissance funding for a maritime heritage project officer. The first might benefit the community and visitors to the area in the immediate vicinity of the museum, but the second spreads the benefits proportionately much further: the project officer who runs the Maritime Heritage East network works with 43 museums across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex to share expertise and resources and raise the tourism profile of this rich aspect of the region’s heritage.

2.3.3 We strongly commend the continuation of Renaissance to the Committee.

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

3.1.1. Shared resources

Already in the East of England significant economies have been achieved (see 2.2 above). In addition we wish to point to:

· The merger of two separate services to form Colchester and Ipswich Museum Service [CIMS] which has integrated, streamlined delivery and saved costs. The service is now managing the new Ipswich Art School gallery as a venue and is discussing a similar arrangement for additional cultural services in Colchester.

· Museums Luton is now part of Luton Cultural Services Trust which brings together museums, libraries and arts services into a new charity. This has enabled better co-ordinated and more efficient cultural provision for the town.

· Norfolk Museums & Archaeology Service and CIMS are developing new joint governance models that could both reduce overheads and provide exciting new possibilities for the interpretation of East Anglian heritage

· Funding of a Museum Development Officer for the museums of the University of Cambridge has led to combined outreach projects reaching thousands of families and the development of schools’ teaching in the museums. Shared facilities and response to emergencies, for example, have been developed.

3.3.2 We would welcome DCMS support for museums exploring different models of governance and encouragement of the sharing of staff functions across arts and heritage organisations.

3.4.1 Shared expertise

The Renaissance East of England skills-sharing and training scheme, SHARE, has a proven track record of delivering effective museum development through a ‘barter’ economy. Hundreds of days of time from staff in five of the region’s largest museum services are pledged and then used to support activities that benefit museums of all sizes. These include training sessions, tailored on-site advice, mentoring, work-shadowing and self-supporting networks of specialists. SHARE provides a ‘network of know how’ that helps unlock expertise so that it can benefit as many as possible. SHARE has increased skills levels in collections care, service to the public and museum management and administration.

3.4.2 We are currently exploring how to develop the SHARE ‘mutual’ model for the future and, as part of that, are looking at a full cost-benefit analysis. We believe the model is of interest to many in the sector but we know that some core funding is essential for its administration. We are sure that this model could be extended to include other partners in cultural services.

3.5.1 Shared services

The collaboration of Renaissance East of England partners has produced joint initiatives and services for museum users such as exhibitions:

· Stevenage Museum and Epping Forest District Museum have used Renaissance funding to produce family-friendly touring exhibitions which can be booked for free by museums in the region

· Eastern Exchanges, the East of England’s response to the Cultural Olympiad which has already engaged thousands of young people in activities and involved many of them in planning the events

· Joint exhibitions are also a central part of the work of the regional museum networks such as Maritime Heritage East and the Greater Fens Museums Partnership.

3.5.2 What the partners can bring to the table results in better services for all: the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.

3.6.1 Conclusion: Future possibilities

Renaissance East of England believes there are real opportunities in this area, and that our experience has shown that delivering economies of scale can go hand in hand with developing strategic vision. However, government should recognise a certain level of funding is needed in order to maintain the necessary capacity for this model of working.

4 What level of public subsidy for the arts and heritage is necessary and sustainable.

4.1.1. While we accept that some cut in public subsidy to the arts and heritage is unavoidable we would argue that cutting too much will ultimately undermine the long term sustainability and credibility of the country’s cultural heritage.

4.1.2. Public subsidy needs to be set at a realistic level in order to:

· Provide a solid base from which institutions are able to raise money from other funding partners and private donors which in turn supports the purchase of works of art and exhibitions

· Enable organisations to plan strategically and so make the most of opportunities for partnership nationally and internationally

· Avoid ‘subsistence’ funding where institutions live hand-to-mouth damaging credibility and ability to programme quality activities

· Safeguard a commitment to public service ensuring all sections of the community benefit from our cultural institutions

5 Whether the current system, and structure, of funding distribution is the right one.

5.1.1 Renaissance and Core museums

The distribution of public funds to the museums sector in England through Renaissance has been successful in a number of regions. The hub partnerships have provided many efficiencies with regional posts, projects and central coordination supporting the whole museums community.

5.1.2 The MLA proposal for Core museums has the potential to undermine good hub partnership working if too narrow a definition of what constitutes a core museum is imposed, i.e. a single institution based in a metropolitan centre. This model excludes more rural parts of England without major centres of population. We welcome a recent suggestion that Core Museums might also include groups of museums working together and consider this model more likely to build on Renaissance achievements.

5.1.3 We also would welcome a direct funding relationship with DCMS if Renaissance continues – the principle of devolving funds and responsibility direct from national to local is something we support.

5.2.1 Local Government

We need sufficient funding from central or local government to cover the basic obligations for the upkeep of collections and provision of public services. We need to be able to rely on this in order to put our effort into income generation, cultivation of supporters and donors and applications for funding from research bodies and charitable foundations.

6 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.

6.1.1. The MLA has been important in providing strategic leadership and a voice for museums, libraries and archives at a national level. However, their role as programme managers for Renaissance has been more problematic.

6.1.2 Less bureaucracy is to be welcomed but a sector strategic body of some kind is important. There are some issues which are best coordinated and communicated nationally, such as Accreditation standards. It’s also important that if these functions of the MLA are merged with an existing body e.g. The Arts Council, Heritage and Museums are not seen as the ‘junior’ partner – after all 8 out of the top 10 tourist attractions in the country are museums. There would need to be an equal representation and voice for arts and heritage organisations.

September 2010