Blackpool, Kirklees, Barnsley, Rochdale, Blackburn, Selby, Wigan and Knowsley are included in a list of 54 towns and cities to be targeted by Arts Council England for priority investment and opportunity in its 10-year Let’s Create forward plan.
The plan aims to redress the balance of cultural under-investment in many areas of the country and to improve and equalise access to the arts generally by 2030. The new announcement covers the present to 2024.
“We want to see villages, towns and cities across the country thrive through a collaborative approach to culture,” says ACE.
“We have identified 54 places across England in which our investment and engagement is too low, and opportunity for us to effectively increase investment and engagement is high, and so we’re prioritising working with them from 2021 to 2024.”
Arts Council England will work for itself and others to develop investment opportunities in the priority places, which include poorer parts of London and towns in the Midlands such as Walsall and Wolverhampton, South West such as Gloucester and North Devon, and South East such as Luton and Slough. The areas chosen are the result of checking public funding levels and available opportunities.
Let’s Create was first published just before the pandemic in January 2020 and followed several attempts to redistribute grant money away from London and more evenly across the country. ACE currently gives a third of its funding within London and two-thirds in the rest of England (including the government’s £1.96bn Culture Recovery Fund), where a decade ago London received well over 40 per cent. Recent statistics have shown that London continues to offer the fastest growth in arts investment and spending, which is hardly surprising given the huge density of cultural opportunities and population in the capital.
The Arts Council says post-Covid progress is even more critical, since theatres everywhere have been pushed to the brink of closure. The Arts Council has acknowledged the large body of work undertaken by theatres regardless of closures - online and within communities where possible, and says it wants to work with arts organisations to “build on that spirit of imagination and innovation as our society reopens”.
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