Arts funding: Major English venues cut, with more money for the regions

image copyrightJohan Persson
image captionThe National Theatre, which is currently staging Salome (pictured), had had a £517,000 cut

Four of England's biggest arts venues have had their public funding cut to help boost culture in the regions.

The National Theatre, Southbank Centre, Royal Opera House and Royal Shakespeare Company will lose £2.5m of Arts Council England funding per year between them.

Arts Council chair Sir Nicholas Serota said funding for 2018-2022 would "take more money out of London".

An extra £42.5m per year will be spent outside London, with 183 organisations added to the funding portfolio.

image copyrightOMA
image captionThe planned Factory arts centre in Manchester will get funding

Launching the new funding deal in Leicester on Tuesday, Sir Nicholas said "many parts of the country need" more funding, while acknowledging it was "vital that London continues to thrive".

The Southbank Centre's annual grant will drop by 4%, while the National Theatre and Royal Opera House - also in the capital - will have their subsidies cut by 3% from 2018/19.

'Undoubted challenges'

media captionArts Council England's Nicholas Serota explains why supporting regional arts boosts culture for everyone

Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard said: "We face undoubted challenges as a result of this funding cut, and will have to find ways to reduce costs while continuing to present the very best of ballet and opera."

The National Theatre's executive director Lisa Burger said making up the shortfall would "not be easy and it puts even greater pressure on box office, fundraising, and commercial activity".

A Southbank Centre spokesperson said the venue would "diversify and grow our self-generated income in order to sustain our programme".

The RSC, which is based in Stratford-upon-Avon, will also see its grant shrink by 3%.

It said the cut would "not be easy to absorb" but that it recognised the Arts Council's financial pressures and its desire to "rebalance their portfolio".

image copyrightSarah Lee
image captionOutgoing Shakespeare's Globe artistic director Emma Rice has funding for a new theatre company

Some other winners and losers:


  • There will be an extra £9m a year for the Manchester International Festival to run the new Factory arts venue, which is due to open in 2020
  • The English National Opera (ENO), which had been put under special measures in 2014 by Arts Council England, with funding decided on an annual basis, is now back in the portfolio, receiving £12.38m per year
  • There are 183 new organisations that will receive annual funding from 2018-22
  • Without Walls, a Manchester-based consortium of outdoor arts festivals, is the biggest new entry, with £1.2m per year
  • Wise Children, created and led by Shakespeare's Globe's outgoing artistic director Emma Rice, has been awarded £475,000 per year
  • Other new recipients include The Bronte Society; Whitstable Biennial in Kent; and Corali, a dance company of performers with learning disabilities
  • Some organisations that were cut adrift a few years ago - like Red Ladder theatre company in Leeds - are back in the fold
  • There's also a separate four-year £23m grant for BookTrust to give young children access to literature


  • The Arnolfini gallery in Bristol is the biggest casualty among the 24 organisations that were funded last time but were unsuccessful this time. The Arts Council said its £750,000 would be ringfenced for visual arts in the city
  • Bristol Museums has had its annual grant cut by £236,412 per year
  • University of Cambridge Museums is down £242,000 per year and University of Oxford is down £140,000 per year
  • Hampstead Theatre is to lose £122,000 a year
  • London Print Studio is down £80,000 per year

The Arts Council is increasing the number of organisations it funds from around 700 to 831. Sir Nicholas said diversity was also an important driving force for the next funding period.

Money for 'unlikely' places

The total annual budget for government funding distributed by Arts Council England will be £409m - £42.4m more than the currently figure. Libraries and museums are included for the first time.

Sir Nicholas said: "Over the last decade or more we've seen great galleries created in places that were previously thought of as unlikely such as Margate, Nottingham and Wakefield.

"That's what the investment is about. It's about giving people outside London the opportunity to experience the best."

Arts Council England invests money from the government and the National Lottery to support arts and culture across England.

Analysis - Will Gompertz, BBC arts editor

This felt very much like Nicholas Serota's announcement. It had all the hallmarks of his lifetime's experience as an elite arts operator. He knows which buttons to push and when to push them.

Persuading some major nationals to give up some of their funds for the greater good. Looking out for the interests of artists as individuals and not just those represented by organisations. And a tone that spoke of expansion and renewal, not consolidation and conservatism.

The next few years will be interesting with him at the helm. He says the Arts Council doesn't need shaking up, but I suspect he won't be able to resist. I think we'll find he has quite an impact.

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