Some of the Midlands’ biggest arts organisations are celebrating having their futures secured – after scooping key government grants.
In total the Arts Council England has announced that £57.3 million will be spent across 24 organisations, representing a small rise.
The Birmingham Royal Ballet received the highest amount of three-year funding with £23.6 million, followed by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra which got £6.5 million.
But three Midland groups have missed out, with almost £300,000 slashed from their funding.
Birmingham-based Big Brum Theatre will lose its £104,000 per year funding in April next year as well as Birmingham-based arts think tank IXIA (£113,000) which has received support for a decade.
Coventry’s Imagineer Productions (£76,000 per year) will see its own three years of funding end in 2015.
Arts Council England said the three now had nine months of funding remaining to allow them ‘to explore alternative sources of support or to adapt their business plans’.
The smallest beneficiary is Ex Cathedra Limited which received £173,000, believed to be the only choral recipient in the country.
With three years’ ‘investment funding’ of £2,658,000, The Black Country Living Museum now joins Ironbridge and Birmingham Museums Trust as a Major Partner Museum in the West Midlands and was recognised for its ability to “showcase the history of the world’s first industrial landscape in interesting and innovative ways”.
Be Festival becomes an NPO for the first time with three-year funding worth £435,000.
Arts Council Midlands area director Peter Knott said: “The net increase is a good result for Birmingham in this climate.
“The proportion of funding to the North and Midland regions has increased compared to London, with a 3.6 per cent rise in NPO funding in Birmingham. The city has some of the greatest arts organisations whose names resonate around the country, Europe and the world.
“Through our funding we are supporting Birmingham’s festival strategy and helping to underpin it.”
Since 2010, there has been a 36 per cent reduction in government grant aid, with lottery money being used to fund additional organisations.
Other savings have been made with the Arts Council’s Strategic Funds for capital investment and the Catalyst programme which supports endowments for large organisations.
Mr Knott added: “Over the last years we have worked hard on rebalancing. Organisations have had to become much more entrepreneurial and imaginative to make their businesses more sustainable.
“The Birmingham Arts Partnership has been working hard to share data and develop different propositions and ideas to go forward.
“They are trying to give themselves more strength by working much more closely together and we think that is a very good idea.
“We live in the real world and that means less money available and organisations need to be more imaginative in the way they go forward.
“I think this announcement is a ‘good news’ story. We are very supportive of the arts and culture that are here.
“There is burgeoning work being done by Ikon and Eastside with the likes of Bill Drummond. They are doing work of real artistic integrity. The rest of the world is looking at it, but it’s difficult to put a value on it.”
Christopher Barron, Birmingham Royal Ballet’s chief executive, said: “We were thrilled, and greatly relieved, to hear about our settlement.
“The grant increase for 2015/16 of eight per cent indicates a comprehensive level of support for the work that BRB does in taking its performances and learning initiatives all over the country.
“In these times of economic difficulty BRB has been generously supported in the West Midlands and elsewhere, enabling the company to adapt its business plan to the changing financial environment.”
Peter Phillips, chairman of the Midlands Area Council, said: “We faced a difficult task of making the funding recommendations.
“But we’re proud of the portfolio and hope it will help us achieve our goal of getting great art to everyone.”
THE THREE BIG LOSERS
* Big Brum is a charity founded in 1982 to deliver Theatre-in-Education programmes and youth theatre work.
More than 80 schools, pupil referral units and other educational spaces in the region, and more than 4,000 children and young people benefit from the company’s work each year.
Big Brum said: “We are profoundly disappointed with the decision. We are surprised that, whilst the Arts Council have apparently prioritised young people in this funding round, they have decided to remove support from an organisation that delivers high quality theatre to, in their own words, ‘diverse audiences primarily in Birmingham’s most deprived communities’. We will explore all options that remain open to us.”
* Based in the Custard Factory, IXIA is a charity which describes itself as ‘England’s public art think tank’, creating knowledge and survey data for policy makers, delivery organisations and artists to develop public art policies, strategies and projects.
It was originally established in 1987 as an unincorporated membership association called Public Art Forum, transferring to not-for-profit status on April 1, 2003 and changing changed its name to IXIA in September 2004.
Chief executive Jonathan Banks said: “We made what we thought was a very strong application and are very disappointed, but working through our options.”
Mr Banks said IXIA had three staff and up to 30 freelancers over a year and their ability to word documents for organisations like councils ‘had helped to generate £110 million for the public to enjoy art’.
* Imagineer is run by director and creative producer Claire Maddocks, founder of the Coventry Arts Alive Festival.
Based at the city’s Sandy Lane Business park and best known for its Cultural Olympiad project, Godiva Awakes, the Imagineer team have a long track record in outdoor performance work and celebratory arts with a strong international focus.
Its mission is to ‘create world-class events, harnessing the imagination of street artists, engineers and children to tell universal stories in new and extraordinary ways in outdoor spaces, creating beauty and human connections where you least expect them’.