Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by Nottingham City Council (arts 218)

Nottingham City Council welcomes the opportunity to contribute to the Culture, Media and Sport Committee inquiry into funding of the Arts and Heritage. In making this submission whilst we recognise the difficult public funding environment being faced, we also appreciate the contribution that a relatively small level of public funding made within Arts and Heritage does significantly help deliver a broad range of economic and social regeneration issues. In particular for Nottingham;

· Playing a key role in defining Nottingham as an International City of Culture, Learning, Science and Sport.

· Supporting Nottingham’s objectives to increase tourist bed nights by 50% by 2020.

· Acknowledging the opportunity that the creative industries provide for future employment and future economic prosperity.

· Creating a sense of place and helping the City build, diverse and cohesive neighbourhoods.

· Support in raising aspirations and help improve skills and health.

Recently a report by Experian entitled "Unlocking the potential of the Creative and Cultural Sector" published March 2010, identified that in the East Midlands the economic output for the regional economy was significant. Experian forecasts suggest that the Gross Added Value (GVA) output for the creative and cultural sectors in this region was equivalent to around £2.95bn in 2009 – or around 4.3 per cent of total regional GVA.

Moreover, the creative and cultural sector’s contribution also makes a significant contribution to the physical landscape of Nottingham City, helping ensure that the City is a great place to live, work and visit. Indeed a wide body of academic research points to the central role creative and cultural assets play in supporting the economic competitiveness of regions. The sector plays an important role in developing aspirations and helping improve life skills and health and, Nottingham in the last number of years the City has worked with a variety of partners to help support a range of large cultural regeneration projects in key development areas of the City, examples include; The New Arts Exchange (Hyson Green), Broadway Cinema & Media Centre (Hockley) and the Nottingham Contemporary Gallery (Lace Market).

Therefore any potential loss of national & regional investment through Government and related agencies such as EMDA, MLA and the Film Council could have a serious knock-on affect for a urban Capitals such as Nottingham. Decreasing funding will make it more difficult for Nottingham to sustain a meaningful cultural offer or have the opportunity to obtain the required and on-going investment needed into the Arts, Libraries and Museum and Heritage sectors for the area.

Nottingham has already undertaken quite an extensive programme of change to make economies of scale and look towards merging of institutions. Nottingham Contemporary is a product of merging the funds, skills and experience of former Angel Row Gallery (operated by Nottingham City Council) and Bonnington Galleries (operated by the University of Nottingham). The New Art Exchange brought together a number of individual arts organisations in the minority ethic arts delivery to create a truly multicultural arts centre and facility. The Museum service some time ago undertook a radical restructuring, including the relocation of some collections and the closure of the City’ Costume Museum and reduced opening hours of its Wollaton Hall Industrial Museum.

The Library and Information Service has also been engaged in a modernisation programme of the range of services it provides and how it delivers them. Difficult decisions have been taken to close under performing community libraries and re-invest in fewer but better facilities supported by more flexible outreach services together with electronic resources and services that support a number of corporate priorities and offer improved value for money. A great deal of progress is being made in achieving a modal for genuine community engagement via the BIG Lottery funded Community Libraries project and the service already benefits from the support of a wide range of volunteers that add value to the service. Plans are well developed to provide new library facilities in two joint service centres whilst the City Council has invested in the existing Central Library building in order to re-locate it’s Customer Contact centre to develop a city centre ‘one stop shop’ for citizens. It is considered that the City Council continues to meet it’s statutory obligations but if it is to remain cost effective, relevant and inclusive then adequate attention, support and investment needs to be made available to allow Library Services to evolve and respond positively.

The City Council Museum Service has played a key regional role within the Renaissance East Midlands Partnership and monies from the Renaissance in the Regions initiative from MLA has been key in linking communities to museum collections and cultural activity and providing opportunities for some of the most disadvantaged in the region. This has been achieved within the East Midlands partnership by working closely in concert with other museums [local authority, National Trust and voluntary operated] to develop skills and expertise, by sharing relatively modest resources and by combining activity to achieve demonstrable economies. Renaissance in the Regions has yielded opportunities for our Service to engage with local communities within the City and, in partnership with other Services, to take a lead role for community engagement work throughout the East Midlands. It is very much hoped that Renaissance funding will, even if reduced by economic necessity, be continued in this vital area of matching communities to their cultural heritage.

Whilst in principal Nottingham City Council is not wedded to the fact that governing structures within Arts & Heritage don’t need to change, it is important in such changes and announcements already made concerning the future of the MLA that its sartorial voice in Library’s and Museum is not lost in any future succession structures being proposed.

In terms of funding for the Arts & Heritage, how much, who should pay? In the short term we need to be realistic as to the shift in culture required and relevant incentives that need to be put in place in order to move from our present reliance on the public purse patronage to increased private donations. Most certainly some freedoms and relaxation of rules in respect of charging opportunities for Libraries or from funding implications in respect of Heritage Lottery Funding Awards previously taken would assist in re-balancing the present state funding mix. Similarly the announcement of potential increased Lottery funds back to the Arts & Heritage is welcomed and again this offer needs to come with a better understanding of allowing funding between capital and revenue and without previous strings attached in respect of matched funding, if this type of opportunity is truly going to be embraced and positively used.

Finally, whilst we acknowledge the challenges to the UK economy, we also need to be mindful of areas where future growth in the UK economy are likely to come from and in this context it might be short-sighted to underplay the potential role that Arts and Heritage still play in stimulating Tourism, and nurturing broader commercial creative industry sectors.

September 2010