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Ladders for development: Impact of Arts Council England funding cuts on practice-led organisations

Tim Noble, Sue Webster, 'TrasHeaD', rubbish and personal items, wood, light projector, 1999. Photo: Ingo Gerken. From the exhibition ‘Born after 1924’, 18 February - 10 April 2011, Castlefield Gallery.

Tim Noble, Sue Webster, 'TrasHeaD', rubbish and personal items, wood, light projector, 1999. Photo: Ingo Gerken.
From the exhibition ‘Born after 1924’, 18 February - 10 April 2011, Castlefield Gallery.

Sanchayan Ghosh, 'Light of Darkness'. Enlightenment Festival, Durham. Ghosh was one of two Indian artists commissioned by ISIS Arts to create unique public art works for Durham Enlightenment Festival, 6-8 November 2008.

Sanchayan Ghosh, 'Light of Darkness'.
Enlightenment Festival, Durham. Ghosh was one of two Indian artists commissioned by ISIS Arts to create unique public art works for Durham Enlightenment Festival, 6-8 November 2008.

New evidence exposing, quantifying and discussing the likely impact on the visual arts of Arts Council England’s decisions on fifteen previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) visual arts organisations unsuccessful in their NPO application. It shows that a disproportionate number of artists’ membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations lost core funding, despite ACE’s aim of creating a balanced national portfolio and makes recommendations for sustaining their work as part of a strengthened arts ecology.


A national organisation dedicated to providing quality resources that support artists and artists' production, a-n The Artists' Information Company works through an extensive network across the UK. This provides a unique overview of the visual arts infrastructure and enables a-n to comment and make intelligent observations on issues that affect artists and the visual arts sector in all its diversity.

Commissioned by a-n from visual arts specialist and writer Dany Louise, and in direct response to the Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) announcement on 30 March 2011, this research paper exposes, quantifies and discusses the likely impact on the visual arts ecology of the NPO decisions on fifteen visual arts organisations1 that were previously Regularly Funded Organisations (RFOs) but were unsuccessful in their NPO application.

It shows that a disproportionate number of artists' membership and development agencies and practice-based organisations have lost core funding as a result of the NPO decisions.

This comment from one organisation studied for this report is typical: "The smaller organisations are the lifeblood of the arts, and these cuts feel ideological. The critical faculty of the arts world has been cut, the easier targets hit. People in the arts are so passionate and dedicated to what they do. They work long hours for so little pay. For a government talking about the 'Big society' and wanting to encourage self-determination, they are not recognising that these people ARE the Big society. There's a really shoddy vandalism that is short-sighted and misguided."

Former Arts Council England, North East Director Mark Robinson also commented: "I think individual artists' interests - in literature, digital and visual arts particularly - have been hit disproportionately."2

Many of the smaller-scale visual arts organisations studied are ambitious, punch above their weight and play a crucial strategic development role within the visual arts ecology. Each has developed bespoke professional practice activity and expertise over a number of years across a range of visual arts practices, and provide significant and quantifiable opportunities for artists at early and mid-career level. Consequently, they feed into the work of bigger organisations that have neither capacity nor remit to undertake this depth of specific artist-centred development work.

The activities of these smaller organisations make a significant contribution to the ability of many artists to compete professionally at local, regional, national and ultimately at international levels. They are a vital part of the "ladder of development and opportunity" that artists must climb to develop their careers within the visual arts. They enable and support artists' production to the highest standards and they feed significantly into wider social, employment, young people and skills agendas.

Following Arts Council England (ACE) decisions not to provide NPO funding, the concern is that this unique and invaluable work may be considerably reduced, if not actually lost altogether over the coming few years, with consequent damaging effects on the future sustainability of visual arts practice in the UK.

This research paper attempts to:

  • Highlight and quantify the scope, type and number of visual arts opportunities available to artists from these former RFOs, to indicate the nature and amount of opportunities that are at risk.
  • Recommend some approaches to ensuring that this essential work can be safeguarded including through new commissioning relationships with the larger better-resourced NPOs.
  • Urge ACE and other arts funders to consider the arguments in this paper when shaping and developing policy and making future funding decisions.

Gayle Chong Kwan, 'Theatre Royal (The Obsidian Isle series)', C-type photographic prints and installation, 183x132 cm, 2011. Part of ArtSway's  New Forest Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Gayle Chong Kwan, 'Theatre Royal (The Obsidian Isle series)', C-type photographic prints and installation, 183x132 cm, 2011.
Part of ArtSway's  New Forest Pavilion at the 54th Venice Biennale.

Funding context

a-n recognises the Coalition Government's move to significantly reduce ACE's Grant in Aid budget, resulting in loss of £110m, £130m and £145m over the years 2012-2015. To achieve this, ACE made substantial cuts in its distribution of arts funding and in its own central costs. It took a range of policy positions in order to inform how they would assess and ultimately decide which organisations to fund and by how much. Key amongst these was the decision to award: "Funding levels appropriate to each organisation rather than 'equal pain for all'", and overall "to create a balanced portfolio".3

We recognise that many factors influenced what was a complex process, including those that are variable and the subject of interpretation. Assessments and priorities were made first by each regional office, then by 'greater region' and finally nationally - aiming to create "a balanced portfolio". Assessment included the perceived quality of the programme of activity proposed in applications, the organisation's financial health and sustainability, and the quality of its governance.

The key issue, however, is whether there was potentially greater room to manoeuvre than ACE has acknowledged. 48% of all NPO funding has gone to the 'Top 20' galleries and production agencies4 - most of which had previously received substantial capital lottery investment. Was this NPO decision to dispense with funds to smaller-scale organisations and those who help artists produce or critique their work essentially designed to "protect the front-line organisations"5: a direct response to the Government's request in 2010?

There is great disparity between organisations who will get funding in the millions (for example by 2015,  Baltic will get £3.11m, Whitechapel £1.57m, and Yorkshire Sculpture Park £1.37m) and those such as Lancaster-based Storey Gallery at £31,000 and Designer Makers West Midlands at £38,000, both RFOs that were cut entirely. There are other organisations that can demonstrate impeccable reputations for quality, governance and delivery where we would equally question the decision to cut.  Amongst these are ArtSway in the New Forest that has provided quality artist-led commissions to emerging and mid-career artists - including an exhibition and commission for Hew Locke, an artist with international profile. Artsway's New Forest Pavilion also provides a uniquely valuable international exhibition opportunity to artists it has commissioned by presenting them at the very high profile and prestigious Venice Biennale.

Overall, less than £1.36 million was saved by the cuts to sixteen artists' production and practice-driven visual arts organisations. Could a more equitable distribution have been achieved that acknowledged the vital role that support to artists' development plays within the well-being and sustainability of the contemporary visual arts?

Harminder Singh Judge, ‘The Modes of Al-Ikseer’. Photo: PVA MediaLab.Live art/performance at The Drill Hall, Portland, 2010.

Harminder Singh Judge, ‘The Modes of Al-Ikseer’.
Photo: PVA MediaLab.
Live art/performance at The Drill Hall, Portland, 2010.

International context

"Academic research confirms that exporting companies are more productive than non exporters, achieve stronger financial performance, and are more likely to stay in business." UK Trade & Investment

The UK visual arts sector clearly has an international reputation; it is an active participant in the global art market. Inevitably, there are many more opportunities for artists internationally than in the UK. Developing work in an international context - and the ability to compete and sell on an international stage - is thus of increasing importance to artists. International collaborations, exchanges, visits and exhibitions are a valuable source of contacts, providing essential R&D, platform, opportunities, income and profile for artists. This ultimately leads to new, innovative and richer arts production.

Of organisations studied for this report, several work in international contexts:

  • ArtSway with its New Forest Pavilion at the Venice Biennale (funded in 2011 and previously by Grants for the Arts).
  • Contemporary Glass Society is in talks with European partners to present an exhibition of work by UK glass-makers in Europe.
  • Isis Arts that provides two massively over-subscribed international residencies a year and will be delivering a European partnership project for nomadic artists in 2011. Isis is also a representative on the Brussels-based European political platform for culture, Culture Action Europe, and recently initiated the Artists Mobility Forum to explore better mechanisms for artists to develop their practice in the UK.
  • PVA Media Lab, in partnership to organise a strong cultural presence for the 2012 Olympic water events in Weymouth.
  • Shisha, the international agency for contemporary South Asian arts in Manchester,champion of new and dynamic visual cultures from South Asia and beyond to the UK, including commissioning 157 new works over nine years. In 2008, Shisha launched the Asia Triennial Manchester visual arts festival which reached an audience of nearly 400,000 people, and is a key partner in the 2011 event beginning October 2011.
  • VIVID was lead UK partner to the European Media Art network, providing 20 residencies over two years to a group of artists selected from over 200 applications. Work produced with VIVID went on to the Venice Biennale (2009) and other international art festivals. Touring exhibitions commissioned by and produced by VIVID have also seen artists such as Richard Billingham expand his presence and diversify his practice through participation in film festivals and a major solo show in Melbourne.

Loss of ACE funding will impact on this:

"We work a lot internationally and support artists to work internationally.  We've run some big European projects with strong partnerships. Lack of priority in these ACE decisions for international work is hard for our international reputation. If the development of international work can't be supported, it damages us on the world stage.... England will be reduced to buying product rather than developing it." Isis Arts

"The area that we've been serving seems to have been hit quite hard.  Over the last few years, we've worked hard to raise the profile of contemporary glass with major exhibitions in London. We're in talks with European partners to take British glass makers to exhibit in Europe. We could have coped with a percentage cut, but a 100% cut is devastating and does threaten us." Contemporary Glass Society

Gregor Schneider, 'Mann liegend mit steifen Schwanz, Man lying down with stiff cock', cast, mixed media, 2004. Photo: Ingo Gerken.  Courtesy: Castlefield Gallery

Gregor Schneider, 'Mann liegend mit steifen Schwanz, Man lying down with stiff cock', cast, mixed media, 2004. Photo: Ingo Gerken. Courtesy: Castlefield Gallery

Key contributions

Many of these smaller organisations have distinct advantages over larger counterparts, particularly in the area of providing support directly to artists and in undertaking development activities designed to sustain and nurture those artists who may become "art stars" of the future. They are responsive to changing needs and often more flexible and fleet of foot, invaluably useful qualities in a fast-changing environment.

The scope of their activities and specific examples include:

  • Delivering bespoke professional development services - these are tailored for specific artform practice and local, regional and national need. Examples include mentoring and associate artists' programmes from ArtSway, Pavilion Leeds, Designer-Maker West Midlands, Contemporary Glass Society and Manchester-based Castlefield Gallery.
  • Providing frameworks and an evidence-base about the nature of continuing artform practice and how this enables and sustains emerging and mid-career artists. Access to networks and professional peers is a key aspect in developing practice. Nearly all organisations offer this through formal networking events and/or informally through their activities and locations as community-of-interest hubs. For example, Castlefield Gallery initiated and manages that promotes the independents and artist-led visual arts activities on the same level as the institutions; its 2,183 subscribers receive a weekly newsletter. Membership organisations are particularly valuable in this respect. It should be noted that these smaller organisations usually perform well in terms of diversity in their reach - a key performance indicator for arts and public funders - and due to their 'user-friendliness and social contexts', often reach a wider range of practitioners and audiences than their larger counterparts.
  • Providing artist-led residencies that prioritise the artist experience to enable the production of the best possible work. Some organisations follow up with longitudinal relationships with artists. Vivid in Birmingham provides production support in terms of seed-funding, space and equipment so that an idea is thoroughly developed and analysed before commissioning its completion, exhibition and a major national tour every two years. Artists supported through this process include rising stars, such as Haroon Mirza (2010 Northern Art prize), Katerina Zdjelar and Harminder Judge (Arts Foundation Fellowship Award). ArtSway often tours work produced to partner organisations in other regions, as well as the exhibition at the Venice Biennale. The residency programme at Isis Arts includes commissioning and display locally as well as within an appropriate arts festival. It also runs four research residencies annually. In 2011, it has received 154 applications from 38 countries for these four residencies - it will have to reject 150 of them.
  • Commissioning works in specific fields that might otherwise not get produced. Folly in Lancashire developed Portable Pixel Playground, a 2.5 year programme providing rural communities with access to contemporary new digital art, commissioning three substantial new artworks for touring. Pavilion situates itself within a critically-engaged context and provides four major commissions a year that form a bedrock of its critical discourse programme, as well as commissioning associated new critical writing.
  • Accessible advice, signposting and a "way-in" for early career and mid-career artists on an open access and/or merit basis. Vivid was commissioned by its local authority to formally undertake this service, and responds to some 960 enquiries annually. Contemporary Glass Society has an information-rich website, runs pecha-kucha events, organises exhibitions for recent graduates, provides monthly information bulletins, a quarterly newsletter and six networking meetings a year in different regions. Castlefield Gallery acts as "a hub for artists in the area, an inspiration and learning environment for artists and many students around the region". It directly and indirectly supported some 1,250 artists in 2009/10. Its support for "Owl Project" has contributed to their ability to win the £500k Cultural Olympiad commission in the north-east. Olivia Plender had her first solo show with Castlefield Gallery in 2005 and has since gone on to show at two Tate Triennials and internationally.
  • Providing personal development and skills training for young people, young adults and recent graduates as part of the arts, inclusion and employment agendas. Many organisations surveyed play a role in this. This is a massively important area of work, both from the artistic perspective (enabling the arts and arts production to be more widely accessible) as well as within a national context of rising youth unemployment.
  • Fostering professional standards and expectations amongst artists. Contemporary Glass Society has 668 members, including around 100 from outside the UK; New Work Network has1,500 members. Newcastle-based Globe Gallery specialises in incubating grassroots participatory arts activity and works specifically with young people and those considered "hard to reach"; it is the only arts organisation in the UK to receive the prestigious Investing in Volunteers quality standard award. The London Printworks Trust, an organisation that recently produced the screen-printed sails for Yinka Shonibare's Nelson's Ship in a Bottle on Trafalgar Square's Fourth Plinth, provides screen-printing training for young adults and unemployed people.
  • In-depth expertise in specific fields that is often not available in quality and relevance elsewhere. Folly has run ten six-month work placements for unemployed under-25s, providing not just training but experience - both essential in order to get an entry-level job in the digital sector. Four Corners provided access to high-end technical facilities, an artist-lab programme, skills training and business support (amongst other activity) to around 200 artists in the last twelve months. A high proportion of Vivid's supported R&D and production programme is aimed at under-25s and recent graduates, helping them make the transition from student to professional. They run up to 48 arts events annually particularly aimed at a young adult audience. Other organisations provide talks, seminars and advice for recent graduates to support this transition process.
  • Sustaining the arts through employment - the organisations surveyed for this report alone provided 19 full-time and 46 part-time posts along with providing contracted work for 287 freelancers.
  • Between them, the fifteen organisations surveyed provide 133 internship opportunities annually and 43 formal mentoring opportunities for artists. Organisations that require invigilation and front-of-house staff, for example, Vivid and the Storey Gallery, employ artists to do this. Many organisations offer internships, with ArtSway paying minimum wage for four internships a year. Isis Arts partners with Newcastle University on a formal paid placement programme of 100 hours each for three students; it is usual for other organisations to pay expenses. It should be noted that many of the 'high profile' arts venues pay neither minimum wage nor expenses to their interns. Whilst the use of internships can be controversial, in a competitive field where significant experience is required before employment or self employment within the visual arts occurs, these artist-centred organisations are providing a valuable service.
  • In their position as 'cultural hubs', many organisations provide a welcoming space for informal networking, dialogue and advice for artists at all stages of career. In contrast to formal organised networking and learning events, their existence as place-based and/or virtual cultural centres allows for organic longitudinal networks, support and advice to occur on an artist or user-led basis. While it is hard to quantify the impact, it is a hugely important function, particularly in geographical or emerging-artform areas that are otherwise under-served.

In summary, the scope and breadth of such programmes are crucial to the incubation of artists in developing their capacity for quality in production, and the values, theory and vision that accompanies it. These programmes and organisations support artists' livelihood strategies and employment specifically through bringing on emerging artists, and in nurturing audiences for their work, alongside participatory activities, volunteering and life-enhancing opportunities for a wider public. This type of activity significantly contributes to artists' experience and their capacity to operate professionally within what are often niche and innovative fields of practice, not simply by "telling" but by offering opportunities for supported participation, practical application and demonstration.

Mark Vernon, ‘Sonic Symbiosis Supper’.As part of a new programme of Upgrade! events for Northwest England, Folly Lanternhouse International (FLI) resident artists hosted Digital Lunches throughout 2009/10, gathering artists together to explore art, technology and culture over dinner.

Mark Vernon, ‘Sonic Symbiosis Supper’.
As part of a new programme of Upgrade! events for Northwest England, Folly Lanternhouse International (FLI) resident artists hosted Digital Lunches throughout 2009/10, gathering artists together to explore art, technology and culture over dinner.

Limiting moves towards a stagnant and mono-cultural arts environment

If these services are not to be available in the future, artists at all levels are likely to become more isolated: because they are less networked, less supported in their practice and potentially less critically engaged. This will inevitably affect the future quality of arts work produced in the UK.

Importantly, it is likely to result in the "up and coming" layer being less able to "up and come", to the detriment of those galleries and production agencies higher up the art world ladders who have little time and capacity to cast their talent-spotting nets widely.

Along with abolition of Creative Partnerships, Find Your Talent and other reductions in the education sector - such as cuts to budgets for school visits to galleries and museums - there is also genuine concern that work with young people, the creatives and new audiences of the future, will be seriously affected. While those of all ages with social and cultural capital are more likely to weather the storm, this is far less certain for those not so advantaged.

Quantitative data gathered for this report already suggests education work has been affected. Taken together with the impact of vastly increasing tuition fees, this specific layer of cuts to the visual arts has the potential to lead to an unwelcome stagnant and mono-cultural arts environment, in which only an elite group of people with leisure, money and social and cultural capital can gain access to the arts.

A way forward

NPO investment is clearly not intended to replicate RFO funding. At least in theory, it is intended that movement can be maintained within a National Portfolio in a way that wasn't achieved with RFO funding. Organisations that haven't succeeded this time may - if still viable and eligible - be able to re-apply for 2016 and beyond.

However, removal of RFO status puts organisations in a particularly difficult situation. There remains a powerful perception that removal of ACE core funding will be viewed as a lack of confidence in an organisation, not just within the sector, but potentially with funders including charitable trusts and local authorities. Removal of ACE core funding for the years 2012/15 is not necessarily a death-knell, and many organisations may well be candidates for Grants for the Arts funding provided they can meet the eligibility terms and conditions6. It should be noted that the organisations that took part in this study feel that what they offer has unique impacts and that should they close altogether, there are no obvious successors to take on their "niche" role. Many surveyed for this study are nevertheless determined to find ways to continue.


1. We urge those who may be the 'alternative funders' to such organisations to make decisions "blind", based on the merit of the application, quality of programme and organisational robustness. We remind such funders that the award of NPO status provides a snapshot in time and is fixed, short-term funding that will be reassessed in three years time. Not entering the National Portfolio is not necessarily a reflection on the quality of an arts organisation. ACE's statement is clear:
"We know that the demand for funding will not meet supply. We received 1,333 applications to join the national portfolio, submitting bids for a total of £1.4 billion. The available grant in aid budget for the portfolio for the same period was £956.5 million. As a result, we have had to make some very difficult decisions. Some very good organisations have not been successful, and some strong applications have been turned down."7

2. We urge ACE to recognise the need, depth and value (for the future sustainability and quality of the contemporary visual arts), of professional development activity and opportunity currently being delivered by these smaller practice-led organisations. We recommend that this recognition is formalised within its funding agreements with larger-scale galleries, institutions and visual arts organisations in receipt of NPO funding, obliging them to take responsibility for wide-ranging artist professional development activity.

3. We equally urge those larger-scale galleries, institutions and visual arts organisations in receipt of NPO funding to take this obligation seriously by actively recognising the knowledge, expertise and experience available in the smaller organisations. We urge that they give detailed consideration to outsourcing their artists' professional development role and commissioning services from practice-led organisations that have the expertise, networks, local reach and experience to deliver it.

Artists’ opportunities delivered by studied organisations 2009-10

The information below was collected following interviews with 15 RFOs not accepted as NPOs, thus providing a snapshot of quantifiable activity in a single year from a limited number of organisations whilst recognising that some organisational activity is inevitably hard to categorise and quantify.

It shows the range and number of artist opportunities delivered in twelve months prior to NPO decisions as an indication of quantity and types of work undertaken over a longer period including by those organisations who didn’t contribute to the consultation due to time constraints and/or inclination. Where there has been ambiguity in figures, we have been cautious, using average rather than higher figures.

Activity   Artists directly benefiting Artists indirectly benefiting Full-time Part-time Freelance Interns/ Volunteer
Number of artist residencies   34          
New work commissioned   37          
Exhibition, screening & public realm opportunities   229          
Talks, seminars, one-off events 763            
Formal mentoring   43          
Formal internships 133            
Art programme budgets8 £1,367,439            
Education Programme budgets9 £21,686            
Number of artists supported   1,489 5,139        
Employment supported       19 46 287 133
Audience reached - live 273,96010            
Audience reach – Digital 314,19111            


a. Financial information regarding the artistic programme budgets is taken from ACE Annual submissions where made available, via direct information from organisations where not; and where neither of these were available, by using the formula of 50% of turnover to estimate programme budget.

b. Programme and education budgets have multiple funders and amounts stated do not represent 100% ACE funding.

c. Financial information on education budgets were taken solely from ACE Annual Submissions where available. It would appear that changes to the financial climate in 09/10 severely affected the budgets allocated to education activities potentially a sign that non-core-programme work will suffer in particular when turnover is significantly lessened.

d. Other information is sourced from ACE Annual Submissions were available, via direct information from the organisations where not, and conservatively estimated according to other organisational information when neither were available.

e. It is notable how much work is achieved by so few full and part-time staff and to consider the wider implications of this.

'What happens if...?'. Exhibition of experimental objects and actions by artists and designers from the UK, Switzerland, Hungary, Israel, and the USA, Storey Gallery, 2010

'What happens if...?'.
Exhibition of experimental objects and actions by artists and designers from the UK, Switzerland, Hungary, Israel, and the USA, Storey Gallery, 2010

Tomasz Bajer, ‘Border Crossing’.Bajer was commissioned by ISIS Arts as part of 'At Home in Europe'. 'Border Crossing', a 4m high plywood construction, was installed on Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne on Saturday 27 September 2008.

Tomasz Bajer, ‘Border Crossing’.
Bajer was commissioned by ISIS Arts as part of 'At Home in Europe'. 'Border Crossing', a 4m high plywood construction, was installed on Northumberland Street, Newcastle upon Tyne on Saturday 27 September 2008.

Comments from organisations

"A successful arts ecology needs public showpieces and buildings to present them in.  But it also needs the less visible spaces for artists to develop their practice, experiment with new technologies and to explore new ways to engage with society.  During 20 years of visual and media arts practice, ISIS Arts has supported over 300 artists to produce work of regional relevance and international significance.

"This week alone (April 2011) we are considering over 100 applications from 38 countries for our artists' research residencies in Newcastle. In May we start our 'Homelands' programme, bringing regional and Slovakian artists to work with the Roma community of the city. These like the rest of our planned projects continue to support international cultural exchange between our artists and communities, developing and stretching the role of the artist in society." Isis Press Release

"Our NPO bid provided for our expertise to cross the border into Poole and Bournemouth where there is a gap [in provision].  That won't happen now.  There will be an effect on artists' development and opportunities, especially with Aspex having their funding cut (56.10%).  There is now a huge gap between visual arts provision between Southampton and Bristol." ArtSway

"The media arts landscape seems to have been ravaged by today's arts funding news. Shocked at how much of the digital art landscape has been wiped out" Honor Harger, Lighthouse, Brighton via Twitter 30/3/11

"Work is going to be harder to pull together, especially with many of our partners having had their funding reduced or cut completely... It would seem that funding is shifting towards "spectacle projects" and less around community participation projects.  A lot of our work is around R&D, a bit risky, we don't necessarily know what the outcome will be, and this will be affected.

"Organisations like ourselves have been cut nationally and there is a conversation amongst ourselves about how we are going to respond.  We are now going to look at how to engage more closely with the digital participation agenda.  The worry is that work will have less emphasis on artistic product as ACE was the primary source of funding that allowed artistic product to be inserted into those programmes". Ultimately it means fewer artists will be employed." Folly, Lancashire

"It's taken five years to build up a visual arts presence in Birmingham and we finally got there. In Eastside there are three contemporary visual arts spaces of which now only one is funded by ACE.  I am very concerned about the impact overall for the visual arts in Birmingham.  A large percentage of the visual arts organisations that have been cut completely work with new technology, cutting edge with innovative early stage artists.  A whole network of international touring and spaces have been cut from ACE.  But the threat is to the level that we have been able to take the work to, the dialogue, is likely to go." Vivid, Birmingham

"Media arts have been hit quite hard". Several correspondents

"It feels like the visual arts have been hit particularly hard... in terms of pattern it seems that ACE has been cutting organisations that support artists, as opposed to more established galleries. Organisations that don't quite fit the standard model of delivery in the visual arts and possibly ones that are a bit more political.  Lancaster has been extremely badly hit across artforms. Of 5 RFOs in the city, three have been cut completely, one cut by 70% and one cut by 12%.  More widely, Lancashire has been cut whereas it seems that Cumbria has been supported. It appears that Cumbria County Council has been very vocally supporting the arts in terms of advocacy and financial resources, whereas this cannot be said to the same extent from Lancaster and Lancashire Councils." Storey Callery, Lancaster

"It doesn't feel like Great Art for Everyone is being addressed in our case." Globe Gallery, Newcastle

"Four Corners programme supports over 500 artists and trainees a year, including many people with the least engagement with the arts living in east London...the Arts Council assessment described Four Corners' application as 'a strong vision for integrated artists' development creating a one-stop film and photographic hub with world class equipment, programmes, workspace and residencies'.

"Our new centre was funded by over £1m of public money, including the Arts Council...ACE funding only represents 11% of our budget but we lever 60% of our annual funding on the back of it. (This) could have significant impact on artists in London accessing skills development, professional support and facilities in film and photographic production, especially the latest digital technologies. This in turn could have a negative effect on the production and employment prospect for artists..." Four Corners Press Release

"Grassroots artist-led initiatives such as PVA MediaLab have an important role still to play in this. As a rural, artist-led studio with a new technology brief, we provide creative and professional development support and many opportunities to make new work for exhibition. We have invested heavily developing partnership work across Dorset, encouraged by ACE, particularly in the b-side festival for Weymouth & Portland. Our subsequent 'disinvestment' seems little reward for undertaking this work towards growing the sector, engaging with 2012 and delivering work specific to the Cultural Olympiad and its legacy. We have to carefully consider how to honour these partnership commitments to co-commissioning and plan for a sustainable future post 2012." PVA Media Lab

"PVA Media Lab is a unique resource for Dorset..." Arts Council England, South West

"Isis are the go-to people for international collaborations." Alison Clark-Jenkins, North-East Regional Director, Arts Council England.

Organisations studied

ArtSway Trust Limited

Castlefield Gallery

Contemporary Glass Society

Designer Maker West Midlands


Four Corners Film

Globe Gallery

Isis Arts Ltd

Labculture Ltd t/a PVA MediaLab

London Printworks Trust

New Work Network



Storey Gallery



1 See list of organisations studied above.

2 Mark Robinson, Applicant time: what price service from the arts ecosystem? 15 May 2011.


4 'Spotlight on arts  funding', a-n Magazine, May 2011, p 19

5 See October 2010.

6 The ACE GFTA fund will be £48m (rather than £66m in 2009/10). However, as NPOs will not be eligible for GFTA, ACE says that the £12m which previously went to RFOs in additional grants will compensate. Note  however that GFTA issues guidelines about the extent to which they will fund activity outside the UK


8 Partial figures available

9 Partial figures available

10 Partial figures available

11 Partial figures available


Sincere thanks are due to all the organisations studied who found time to respond quickly to our requests for information and data for this study whilst dealing with the immediate impact of the news that they would be cut by Arts Council England.

First published: May 2011

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