Arts Council England's new National Portfolio of funding has seen some arts groups in the West Midlands lose their funding entirely, some told their funding will dwindle over the next four years, and some groups receive funding for the first time.

Three new bodies in Birmingham have been successful in applications for National Portfolio funding.

Performances Birmingham, Writing West Midlands and the Sonia Sabri Dance Company have all been boosted by handouts from Arts Council England.

Performances Birmingham is the registered charity that operates the city’s Town Hall and Symphony Hall venues (THSH).

An amalgamation with Birmingham Jazz has been successful in applying for grants of more than £80,000 to fund a music programme alongside jazz-based education and community work.

The collaboration is the first successful outcome of the Birmingham Music Hub project, with organisations working together to share resources.

Tony Dudley-Evans, artistic director of Birmingham Jazz, said: “We believe that this partnership, which builds on many previous joint successes, will deliver an enhanced and focused programme that will broaden opportunities to engage with live music through education and concert going in Birmingham.”

Paul Keene, director of programming at THSH, said: “We work in partnership with a huge range of small organisations in the city, supporting them and helping develop their audiences.”

Writing West Midlands, which manages Birmingham Book Festival, has received an initial £180,000 handout, which chief executive Jonathan Davidson labelled as more of a “sigh of relief” than a celebration.

“It underlines the work we already do and gives us the resources to continue supporting 350 writers across the West Midlands and taking professional writers into 55 schools,” he said.

“Most of our work is low key but that doesn’t make it any less important. We shall be continuing to promote the work of writers in the West Midlands and not only taking their work across the UK but also trying to establish them overseas,” added Mr Davidson.

He added: “This award is in appreciation of 12 years of hard work. We will have to work even harder now to justify being included in the new funding scheme. The funding award presents an opportunity and responsibility to continue our commitment to the development and delivery of literature activity in the West Midlands, as well as driving and supporting the writing ecology regionally and nationally.”

The other city beneficiary, Sonia Sabri Company, is a company which has established an international reputation for presenting Indian-style Kathak dance. It creates work relevant to modern audiences, inspired by Indian and British culture.


Driving the arts forward to become accessible to more people is a key factor in deciding which organisations benefit from the new national portfolio funding scheme.

Live & Local is a not-for-profit arts organisation working with voluntary groups across Solihull, Warwickshire, Staffordshire and Derbyshire which has been boosted by a hefty grant increase to an average of about £170,000 a year over the next three years.

It provides support for arts activities that keep people in touch with communities and enhance their quality of life.

But the funding increase will just about cover existing expenditure because the group has massively expanded since making its application.

Chief executive John Laidlaw said the Arts Council grant was fantastic news for everyone involved in the project, but it was the hours of unpaid work put in by volunteers across the Midlands that helped keep its programmes on the road.

“We are all cock-a-hoop over the Arts Council national portfolio funding, but Live & Local is made possible by funding from local authorities and an investment of time, enthusiasm and commitment by local volunteers and their communities,” he said.

The organisation grew out of The Warwickshire Village and Community Touring Scheme that was originally managed from 1987 by the County Arts development officer.

Staffordshire joined the network in 1994, with Solihull and Derbyshire taking up the programme in 2001 as it expanded to take the arts to rural venues across the Midlands.

Another organisation to benefit from the new funding arrangement is Ledbury Poetry Festival.

Since its creation in 1997, Ledbury has become the largest poetry festival in Britain.

Two Black Country venues joined together to secure greater funding.

Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Bilston Craft Gallery combined its bid and has been awarded £390,000 across three years.


The highest profile casualty of the cuts is Malvern Theatre, home to the legendary Malvern Festival, founded in 1929.

The theatre has established itself as a beacon for quality touring drama in the region.

Spokeswoman Sophie Boyce said the Arts Council decision to refuse the national portfolio application was a blow.

She said: “Malvern Theatres is disappointed not to have received any funding. The theatres applied for a grant of £57,320 per year, index linked for three years starting in April 2012.

"This amount was in line with the theatre’s existing funding agreement, in place since April 2009.

“The existing grant, which is not for day-to-day running costs, was awarded in support of the diversity of programming in Malvern. The existing funding is in place for the next 12 months and so there will be no impact on the programme in the short term.

“In the longer term, Malvern is determined to maintain the range and quality of its programme and will be looking for ways to bridge the gap in funding left by the loss of its Arts Council grant.”

Music group Black Voices will also see all of its funding withdrawn. Music director Carol Pemberton said they had received about £46,000 a year for the past seven years from the Arts Council, which had paid administration costs and contributed towards her salary.

The largely self-funded vocal harmony group, grounded in the Black church, has been performing a cappella since 1987 to venues across the world.

It will now be looking to other funding streams such as Grants for the Arts to make up the shortfall.

The 50-year-old performer, from Kings Heath, in Birmingham, added: “We’re not bitter but it is a shame as I think we were one of the few Black organisations who were delivering. But everybody’s affected by some cuts. This is our little cross and we have got to pick it up and get going with it.”

>MORE: Arts Council England tries to get the funding balance right

>MORE: Full table of Arts Council funding for the West Midlands here