Why funding problems are now ‘massive’ for arts centres

Finding the money to run community arts centres is not always easy, especially with a decline in grant funding over the years.

While many venues have adapted and modernised in countless ways in recent decades, Annabel Turpin, co-chair of the organisation Future Arts Centres, has discerned one particular theme.

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She said: “Each venue has its own story about how it has changed. It is very difficult to draw out trends except less public funding has meant more dependence on earned income and fundraising.”

This has left arts centres more vulnerable to economic shocks - such as the pandemic and its ensuing lockdown - while the competition for scarce funds brings difficulties of its own.

A drama festival at Queens Park Arts Centre in AylesburyA drama festival at Queens Park Arts Centre in Aylesbury
A drama festival at Queens Park Arts Centre in Aylesbury

Annabel added: “Some arts centres are subsidised, receiving government or local authority funding to contribute towards their running costs or to fund specific programmes or activity, but all rely on a high percentage of earned income, generated through ticket sales, room hire, catering and other services.

“Fundraising is a key part too, with a small percentage coming from individuals and businesses, and other project funding from charitable trusts and foundations as well as public sources. Earned income is variable as well as seasonal, and fundraising increasingly competitive so simply generating enough money to keep the doors open is an ongoing challenge.“

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Some 32 per cent of arts centres received no regular funding from Arts Council England or Creative Scotland in 2018/19. The average grant was £193,000, ranging from £28,500 to £1.29 million.

And 25 per cent received no local authority core funding in 2018/19. The average grant was £180,000, ranging from £4,000 to £1.36 million.

Annabel added: “Arts centres provide a place where people can come together, share experiences and learn new skills and they emerge in communities where there is a need for this. Generally they have a social purpose, to bring communities together and better understand each other, and people’s motivations for setting them up or running them stems from this.

“They are places where creative ideas are generated and realised so play a really important role in developing ambitions and driving up aspirations in their communities. They also play a connecting role, through their artistic programmes, introducing people to new ideas, both from within and outside their community, and likewise, connecting the place to the world outside it.”

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As to how the public can best support arts centres, Annabel is clear.

She said: “The best way is by using them - buying tickets for performances and films, taking part in classes and workshops but also by using the café, hiring rooms and encouraging others to do the same.

“All arts centres are facing massive financial challenges due to COVID-19 so you can also donate money to support them and help their work with local communities continue.”

See futureartscentres.org.uk for more details about the organisation and its work, as well as links to studies and research into the sector.

* This article is part of The Show Must Go On, JPIMedia's campaign to support live arts venues

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