Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA) (arts 227)

This submission is being made by Professor Marilyn Palmer, President of the Association for Industrial Archaeology (AIA), on behalf of that Association. AIA is the national organisation for study, research and recording in industrial archaeology, bringing together both amateurs and professionals. The membership numbers about 700 individuals and about 50 affiliated societies, therefore representing several thousand people interested in the recording and preservation of Britain’s industrial past.

In 1998, the Tentative List of World Heritage Sites drawn up by DCMS recognised that ‘industrialisation is one of Britain’s major contributions to the world’. Selections for that List concentrated on ‘outstanding sites representative of processing and manufacture, developments in inland transport, prowess in generating and using power, and virtuosity in civil engineering, all fundamental to the development of modern society’. This was followed by the inscription of no less than six industrial World Heritage Sites between 2000 and 2009, establishing Britain’s pre-eminence in early industrialisation. This submission from AIA is made in the context of this international recognition of the importance of the industrial heritage in the UK.


· Cuts in national and local authority spending will seriously affect the activity of the many voluntary organisations who provide the labour to maintain industrial heritage sites

· Such cuts will also affect the ability of organisations seeking HLF grants to provide the necessary matched funding

· The HLF has played a major role in funding many small projects in the industrial, maritime and transport sectors and successfully harnessed the voluntary activity which is the bedrock of the industrial heritage sector.

· HLF policy guidelines have proved sufficiently flexible to respond to the needs and priorities of the heritage sector and are not in need of major revision.

· HLF should not be expected to pick up any shortfall brought about by the recent abolition of the DCMS arms-length bodies such as the MLA, Renaissance in the Regions etc. Its funding is additional to, not instead of, Government funding.

In answer to the questions raised in your request for evidence into the funding of arts and the heritage, the AIA would make the following points:

1. 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.

The conservation of the industrial heritage is a relative newcomer compared with other sectors such as churches, vernacular and polite architecture, being just over half a century old (see Marilyn Palmer, ‘Industrial Archaeology and the Archaeological Community: Fifty Years On’, Industrial Archaeology Review, Vol.XXXII: No.1, May 2010, pp 5-20). From the outset, it was very much a voluntary activity, although local authorities were quick to realise the tourist potential of the industrial heritage and have come to support many projects throughout the country, for example the Bowes Railway in County Durham, the only operational preserved standard gauge rope-hauled railway in the world. Although run by volunteers, this is owned by, and receives funding from, Gateshead and Sunderland Councils, through whose territory it runs. In the face of spending cuts, local government will be faced with the necessity of prioritising their statutory responsibilities such as education, social care, housing etc. Museums and heritage sites which are local authority-funded are unlikely to be a priority and hence could have their funding reduced or cut altogether. Similarly, there has been a high demand for grants for industrial heritage projects from the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). Local authority spending cuts will have a major impact on the availability of partnership funding to match grants from other bodies, including HLF. The vulnerability of the industrial heritage sector in these respects has already been pointed out by Sir Neil Cossons in a report recently commissioned by English Heritage.

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

I am unable to comment of arts organisations in this respect, but would like to stress the major importance of partnership working to industrial heritage in order to maximise the use of resources, skills and knowledge. Recently, AIA ran a day’s workshop in conjunction with English Heritage and HLF, resulting in a Strategic Vision for the Effective Stewardship of the Industrial Heritage 2008-2013 ( see Additionally, AIA obtained in 2008 an English Heritage National Capacity Building Grant to run a series of day schools to train volunteers who comment on planning applications in the recognition of the significance of industrial buildings. Eleven such day schools have now been organised, the AIA contributing its voluntary labour as matched funding. Such partnerships are a very cost-effective way forward in the heritage sector: voluntary activity is available, but needs some pump-priming from central or local government in order to make it effective.

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

A key role of most heritage - focused organisations is the protection of the UK's significant heritage, especially that which is at risk: English Heritage, for example, maintains the Register of Buildings at Risk. Heritage per se, though, is not always a great money-spinner: many sites, for example cultural landscapes and national parks, are not subject to entrance fees and so some public money is needed in order to conserve what the public believe is of value and significance locally, regionally and nationally. Public money, as pointed out in our response to Q.2 above, is especially important at the start-up until the operation of a heritage asset becomes sustainable when volunteers are recruited and trained to manage the asset and the public are visiting and providing income. A mixed economy is required consisting of public money from central and local government, from Lottery and other grants and from private individuals.

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

The current funding system has worked well in the UK compared with that in many other countries. HLF has done an excellent job in supporting many small projects which would not have been able to proceed without their financial assistance. More than £770 million has been awarded to over 2,200 conservation and activity projects in the industrial, maritime and transport heritage sector, and more than 70% of these have included opportunities for people to volunteer. HLF has the advantage of a UK-wide role, while being so structured as to be able to respond to local needs and priorities. It would be advantageous if they were enabled to work more closely with English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Scotland and the heritage service in Northern Ireland, to maximise the strategic use of resources to identify significance, risk and funding opportunities, while maintaining their otherwise separate roles.

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

AIA is obviously pleased that HLF will have more funds to give as grants and would hope that industrial and transport heritage will continue to benefit since, as pointed out above, it is an internationally significant aspect of the cultural heritage of the UK. Industrial heritage is also a sector which is appreciated at local and regional level, something that HLF has done a great deal to support and encourage.

6. Whether the policy guidelines for National Lottery funding need to be reviewed.

The current Policy Directions in place at HLF, and their mixture of trustees, managers, an expert panel and regional committees, have proved flexible enough for HLF to respond to the needs and priorities of the heritage sector and do not need radical review. Regarding the transport heritage in particular, much of this is in private ownership. If this is to be made more accessible to the public, then there may well need to be more flexibility around the awarding of grants to private owners as long as the public benefit is high and greater than any private gain there may be.

7. 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 abolition of the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council has yet to be fully evaluated, as does the abolition of regional bodies such as Renaissance in the Regions etc. and I am not competent to comment on this. However, I must point out that HLF must be seen as additional to Government spending not instead of and hence it should not be expected that HLF can pick up the short-fall brought about by these changes.

· 7 & 8 The role of private businesses and philanthropists in heritage funding

Such people have long played a role in public funding, but on the whole this has not had a major impact on the industrial heritage sector. What is important here are small-scale, local and regional projects which cumulatively make up the richness of the UK’s internationally-recognised industrial heritage. The role of English Heritage, Cadw, Historic Scotland, local authorities and HLF are key players, in conjunction with the volunteers who provide much of the labour in the study and conservation of industrial heritage, and need smaller, locally-based grants rather than the major flagship projects normally funded by philanthropists. AIA has always hoped that funding would be forthcoming from businesses but, in the current economic climate, recognises that this is probably unrealistic.

September 2010