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Plans to pump more than £23m into region’s arts funding over three years

PUBLISHED: 12:26 01 July 2014 | UPDATED: 12:35 01 July 2014

The Out There Festival of Circus and Street Arts 2013, organised by Seachange Arts, taking place in Great Yarmouth. 

Picture: James Bass

The Out There Festival of Circus and Street Arts 2013, organised by Seachange Arts, taking place in Great Yarmouth. Picture: James Bass

Archant Norfolk © 2013

Wymondham’s Creative Arts East and Great Yarmouth’s Seachange Arts have been earmarked to receive hundreds of thousands of pounds of arts funding, as part of plans to pump more than £23m into Norfolk and Suffolk over three years.

The two organisations are new additions to Arts Council England’s National Portfolio funding for 2015-18, which will see it invest £12.4m in eight organisations in Suffolk and £5.7m in five in Norfolk from 2015-18.

In addition, £1.5m will go toward the Norfolk and Norwich Festival Bridge to continue its role as a bridge organisation and £3.6m will be awarded to Norfolk Museums Service as part of the Major Partner Museums programme.

In Norfolk, the Writers’ Centre Norwich will be offered an increased level of funding, while Norwich Arts Centre and the Norfolk and Norwich Festival also remain in the portfolio.

Creative Arts East will get £150,000 and Seachange Arts £300,000 in 2015/16, and they are expected to get the same in the following two years, although the council is warning this could change if any further government cuts are announced in the coming years.

In Suffolk, recipients include Saxmundham-based Aldeburgh Music, HighTide Festival Theatre in Halesworth, and another six organisations in Ipswich which are DanceEast, Eastern Angles Theatre Company, Gecko Theatre Ltd, New Wolsey Theatre, The Robert Pacitti Company Ltd and Tilted Productions.

Arts Council England says the majority of organisations in the portfolio have received standstill funding, with increases only given in exceptional cases. A total of 37 organisations across the country have seen funding reduced, while 58 will be leaving the portfolio.

The council says it intends to talk to these organisations about the next steps before it release any details about them more widely, although one already to come forward and say it has lost out is the Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. The funding represented 36pc of its revenue grant funding and some eight per cent of its total income, which effectively funds 20pc of the theatre’s running costs.

Theatre bosses said they were “disappointed” to miss out but they will be working hard to identify new ways to ensure the theatre’s continuing financial stability.

The funding announcement comes at a time of pressure on the arts, despite culture’s relatively smaller cut of 5pc in the Chancellor’s last spending review.

Arts Council England’s investment in its national portfolio for 2015/16 will be £339.5m, compared to £341.4m in 2014/15.

The Major Partner Museums budget has increased to £22.6m in 2015/16 from £21.5m, and the Grants for the Arts budget, which dishes out ad-hoc sums of money to smaller organisations and individual artists, has risen to £70m in 2015/16, from £63m in 2014/15.

But this comes at a price as Arts Council England’s strategic funds for the arts overall has been slashed from £153m in 2014/15 to £104m per annum.

Alan Davey, chief executive Arts Council England, said: “We have produced a connected mix of organisations who can produce excellent work that will engage and succour audiences nationwide. This portfolio is about investment in new talent whilst supporting stability and continuity.

“The portfolio should be viewed alongside our strategic funds and grants for the arts – these will fund added ambition and reach in a sector that has shown it is hungry to do more and audiences that have shown they are hungry for great cultural experiences.

“But we mustn’t forget that sustaining the National Portfolio comes at a real price in terms of the reduced size of our investment in these other areas over the next three years. We have increased Grants for the Arts, but have cut things like capital spending significantly. The long term health of our arts and culture depends on continued commitment from central and local government to invest in our sector.”

For more on this story, see tomorrow’s paper.

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