Regions outside London to get almost £60m in funding to ‘level up’ arts and culture access

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Money will be allocated to museums, public libraries and other venues to “level up access to arts and culture”

Regions outside of London will receive almost £60 million of funding to “level up access to arts and culture”, the government has announced.

Seventy museums, public libraries and other venues will receive investment in places including so-called Red Wall areas Walsall and Stoke-on-Trent.

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Bradford, which was named UK City of Culture for 2025, will receive £4.9 million to redevelop the Kala Sangam intercultural arts centre and other resources to establish a network of local arts hubs.

The Potteries Museum and Art Gallery in Stoke-on-Trent will receive £5 million to build a wrap-around extension to improve facilities and accessibility.

Basildon Borough Council in Essex will receive £4.4 million to turn empty properties in the town centre into a creative facility for screen and immersive digital industries.

It comes four days after Oldham Coliseum, a Greater Manchester venue which first opened in 1885, confirmed it was forced to close due to grant cuts by Arts Council England (ACE).

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The forced closure was enforced despite a campaign backed by unions and high-profile actors. Oldham Coliseum confirmed that a redundancy process will begin affecting all staff.

Regions outside London will get almost £60 million in arts and culture funding (Image by Getty Images) Regions outside London will get almost £60 million in arts and culture funding (Image by Getty Images)
Regions outside London will get almost £60 million in arts and culture funding (Image by Getty Images)

The funding comes following analysis by NationalWorld in 2021 which revealed London and Edinburgh were vacuuming up a disproportionate amount of arts funding in England and Scotland, leaving vast areas of cultural deserts across the two countries.

Analysis of figures from the second round of funding by NationalWorld found Londoners received more than three times more money per head for their venues, museums and other cultural organisations compared to other parts of the country.

Jonathan Webb, senior research fellow at think-tank IPPR North, said that culture cannot just be for the big cities.

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The new government fund will be delivered by ACE on behalf of the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). It was allocated through a bidding process where local authorities and organisations pitched specific cultural projects for the money to be invested in.

According to the government, the third portion of money from the Cultural Development Fund will allocate:

  • £2,743,002 to the North West of England
  • £3,000,000 to the South West
  • £3,500,000 to the South East
  • £4,490,000 to the East of England
  • £4,998,500 to Yorkshire and the Humber
  • £5,000,000 to the East Midlands
  • £8,700,000 to the West Midlands


Successful bids include:

  • In Walsall, the Guildhall building in St Matthew’s Quarter will be redeveloped as part of a £3.7 million project.
  • Cannon Hall in Barnsley will receive almost £900,000 to protect its Georgian country house and collection of fine and decorative art.
  • £350,000 will go to Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens to improve infrastructure and protect its nationally important collections covering social and natural history.
  • Essex County Council will receive £337,500 to transform the first floor of Colchester Library to provide an interactive learning and play space for children and families.
  • In Stockton-on-Tees, £50,000 will allow the library service to update and develop its collaborative workspace with new and updated equipment.

There will also be funding provided through the Libraries Improvement Fund and the Museum Estate and Development Fund - which includes £1.8 million for London.

‘Improving well-being and raising aspirations’

Culture Secretary Lucy Frazer said the funding will “support brilliant arts organisations to upgrade their venues and create new projects that will be at the heart of their communities.”

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She added: “This investment will help to level up access to arts and culture for everyone, no matter where they live.

“Culture helps us create lifelong memories with our families and friends, provides entertainment and joy, and allows us to explore the world around us in new and exciting ways. It can also boost tourism, support local business and drive local economic growth.”

Darren Henley, chief executive of ACE, said: “Investment in creativity and culture is a catalyst for improving well-being and raising aspirations, reinvigorating pride in communities, regenerating high streets and local economies, and bringing people together.

“We are pleased to play a part in delivering the Cultural Investment Fund and this £58 million investment will help create new, or improve existing, cultural buildings and spaces in our villages, towns and cities. By doing so it will support recovery and growth and unlock the creative potential of those who live and work in communities across England.”

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The package follows the announcement last year of a new national portfolio of funding for museums, libraries and other art organisations for 2023 to 2026. It includes investment for 276 institutions that were not previously part of the programme.

It means a total of 990 institutions share £446 million each year - up from 714 previously. However it will result in many long-standing institutions seeing a cut to their annual funding.

Academy Award-winner Sir Sam Mendes has criticised the ACE funding programme, which will result in grant reductions to the Donmar Warehouse Theatre, of which he is founding artistic director. He insisted it will “wreak long-lasting havoc” on the wider industry.

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