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Funding gets a little more levelled-up in the north

In a shake-up of Arts Council England’s public funding, 109 areas outside London designated as Levelling Up for Culture places will get priority for £43.5m of new funding.

The list of northern towns includes Blackpool, Bolton, Burnley, Bury, Kirklees, Knowsley, Oldham, Pendle, Preston, Rochdale, Rossendale, St Helens, Tameside and Wigan.

ACE has been told by government to reduce its funding of London-based organisations by more than £70 million over the next three years and divert investment across the country to areas less well served by arts provision. London-based theatres, not surprisingly, lobbied hard to try to prevent the change.

ACE is also asking all its funded, London-based, organisations to consider relocating, to help redistribute funding across the country.

This would, effectively, merely redistribute funded companies around the country, not money. Its main advantage would be the reduced cost of maintaining a company no longer resident in one of the world's most expensive capital cities.

The Arts Council confirmed it has been given a two per cent government grant increase over its next spending period, amounting to £43.5 million between April 2022-March 2025. All the "new" money is to be spent outside London, though in reality it will presumably not come anywhere near the cost of maintaining companies in the light of the expected major increase in the cost of living over the same period.

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has said the investment must "correct the historic imbalance that has seen regions outside London not getting their fair share of national funding".

The Arts Council is required to reduce its investment in London by £24m a year by the end of 2024-25. From April 2023, £16m of this must be invested annually outside London, with a further £8m a year redistributed by April 2025.

Every applicant from London will be asked to "give serious consideration" to the idea of relocating by March 2025 – which of course would cost money they will now no longer receive.

Dorries said: "I know this will not be the right thing for every organisation, but I believe some culturally significant organisations should seize the opportunity to establish themselves in other parts of the country."


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