A senior government cultural adviser has hit back at critics of a decision to divert arts funding away from the capital.
The Arts Council England funding agency was accused last weekend of trashing the capital’s arts institutions in the name of “leveling up,” former Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s economic rebalancing agenda, but Lord Neil Mendoza insisted that both British culture and their media to “London in focus”.
The Arts Council’s latest round of funding, released on November 4 and spanning 2023-2026, increased grants to institutions outside the capital by £43.5million, an increase of almost 22 per cent, while around £50million in grants to London-based organizations were not renewed.
The decision has made headlines accusing the government of “brutal” cuts in London’s arts scene, including an “attack” or “war” on opera after the Arts Council announced it would cut funding for English National Opera, if she didn’t move.
Lord Neil Mendoza: “There’s this idea that once you’ve received funding, it’s a human right to continue funding. That’s not true.” © Lucy Young/Shutterstock
However, the decision was warmly received by northern leaders and art figures.
Mendoza, who as Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal is tasked with providing independent advice to the government on cultural issues after the pandemic, said that before Covid-19 London received £21 in annual culture funding per capita, compared to £6 everywhere else The numbers are now £18.80 and £7.40 respectively.
He called historical regional disparity “severe” and said: “It’s just not right – it’s absolutely not fair. We’re so focused on London. Not only is culture centered on London, but journalism is centered on London.”
Of 1,700 institutions that applied for arts funding over the next three years – a record number, according to Mendoza – 990 were successful, including existing recipients like Yorkshire Sculpture Park and new ones like the Unanima Theater in Mansfield.
Yorkshire Sculpture Park has won yet another grant from Arts Council England © Anthony Devlin/Getty Images
More than a third of the Arts Council’s grant budget is still spent in London, but 78 ’emerging heritage’ areas such as Stoke and Wigan, which the Government considers historically neglected, will receive a combined 95 per cent cent boost.
Mendoza, a former JPMorgan banker and provost at Oriel College in Oxford, said the move aims not only to strengthen institutions outside the capital, but to “give proper attention to and recognize the talent and the people in those places.” , including the role culture can play in economic growth.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan last week warned that London arts would be “devastated” after funding for organizations like Covent Garden’s Donmar Warehouse theater was not renewed.
Mendoza insisted that unsuccessful bids did not constitute cuts. “You haven’t lost funding,” he said. “Every three years, everyone applies for a three-year grant. Nobody lost anything because nobody guaranteed anything.
“There’s this idea that once you’ve received funding, it’s a human right to continue funding. That is not true.”
Every cultural organization needs to think, “What if I don’t get an Arts Council grant,” he said, noting the thousands of cultural organizations across the country that are funded commercially or with the help of local government grants.
Last week, the ENO said in a statement that the announcement “would allow us to increase our national presence by creating a new base outside of London, possibly in Manchester”, but has since launched a campaign to move in to stay in the capital. Mendoza said the move is a matter for ENO, which is in talks with the Arts Council.
“Manchester was just an idea,” he added of possible locations.
Letters in response to this article:
Art cuts in London are making the country culturally poorer / By Ros Morgan, Chief Executive, Heart of London Business Alliance, London W1, UK
Why the reorientation of arts funding is problematic / By Sir Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England 2013-17, London W2, UK