Museums Association President David Anderson has caused controversy after 19 museum directors contacted the Museums Journal to take issue with comments made in an online article about a new report calling for reform to arts and culture funding in the UK.
The report finds that between 2015 and 2018, 48.3% of ACE’s grant-in-aid funding, taking into account region-specific funding for Major Partner Museums, will go to London organisations, despite approximately 85% of the population living outside the capital.
This follows the findings of Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital that in 2012/13, ACE distributed £320m to the arts, with £20 per head allocated in London against £3.60 in the rest of England.
Hard Facts To Swallow’s conclusion states: “Our research and analysis over the past 18 months illustrates the systemic inability of the arts council to reform its policy without external intervention. The forces of custom, practice and vested interest are just too strong, and the overall impression is of an increasingly closed system that operates with insufficient transparency.
“We contend that after the next general election any incoming administration should fundamentally review the arrangements for funding the arts and culture in England, including the arts council itself.”
Alan Davey, ACE chief executive, said: “The authors raise a number of issues that are at the heart of our 10 year strategy, agreed with the art and culture sector. We’ve been addressing the balance of funding between London and elsewhere since that strategy was launched in 2010, and we will build on that in our next funding period.
“The trend is in the right direction. We need to be realistic about the speed of progress given the difficult economic picture. We agree with the authors that it’s essential our investment reaches audiences all over the country. We think it will take time to extend reach and build capacity, particularly at a time of cuts in funding.”
But David Anderson, the president of the Museums Association, said it was “deeply disappointing” to discover that ACE’s funding of museums and the arts outside London remained “rampantly unfair”.
“The scandal of Northampton City Council’s sale for £16m of Sekhemka is yet more evidence of the funding firestorm that is now engulfing many publicly-funded museums in the English regions,” he said. “The discordant sound you hear in the distance is that of ACE fiddling.”
At present, the President of the MA is not representing the views of many in the sector who run regional museums, and is damaging the credibility of the MA. We hope that he and the next President, as well as the new Director, will do much more to build bridges with others and to restore the MA’s standing.
The document was signed by: Sharon Ament, Director, Museum of London, Maria Balshaw, Director, Manchester City Galleries & Whitworth Art Gallery, Janet Barnes, Director, York Museums Trust, Vivienne Bennett, Director, Bristol Museums & Galleries, Tony Butler, Director, Derby Museums, Louise Connell, Director, Penlee House Galley & Museum, Lead Partner Cornwall Museums MPM, Richard Evans, Director, Beamish Museum, Camilla Hampshire, Director, Royal Albert Memorial Museum & Art Gallery, Exeter, Tim Knox, Director, Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, Diane Lees, Director, Imperial War Museum & Chair, National Museum Directors’ Council, Andrew Lovett, Director, Black Country Living Museum, Nick Merriman, Director, Manchester Museum, Steve Miller, Director, Norfolk Museums Service, John Roles, Director, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Paul Smith, Director, Oxford University Museum of Natural History (on behalf of Oxford MPM), Nicholas Thomas, Director, Cambridge University Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology, Janet Vitmayer, Director, Horniman Museum & Gardens, Hilary Wade, Director, Tullie House Museum & Art Gallery, Ian Wall, Director, Royal Cornwall Museum, Gordon Watson, Director, Lakeland Arts Trust.