Artists and organisations in South West respond to NPO decisions - updated

Image: Daniel Crow, Director of a space arts


Arts Council England announced that 103 organisations in the South West will be in the National Portfolio for 2018-22, receiving around £109million in funding over the four years.

This is an increase in the total number of NPO organisations in the South West (up from 86 in the last round) whilst investment is up to £28.1m (from £23.6m).

177 applications were received with 29 organisations joining the portfolio including Karst, Take A Part, a space arts and Somerset Art Works, with four capital awards in the region including Exeter Phoenix and CAST. 7 organisations receive additional funding that reflects a significant extension to their programme and ambitions, whilst 66 organisations will receive funding at the same level as their 2017-18 award, consolidating the core of a high-achieving sector.

a space’s successful first time NPO application marks a milestone in the organisation’s history. Having started out 15 years ago with a £500 grant from Hampshire County Council as a voluntary artist-led gallery, they now manage 3 studio complexes across Southampton and Eastleigh and are developing a new arts and heritage venue in God’s House Tower, the city’s former Archaeological Museum. Director, Daniel Crow, hasn’t stopped smiling since the announcement was made this morning. “We are thrilled, delighted, grateful and excited for the future. The investment comes at a crucial point in our development and will help us grow as an organisation and achieve great new things for artists and audiences in Southampton”.

Kim Wide from Take A Part said: "Take A Part will use the funding to focus on delivering its core community models Crazy Glue (arts education with parents and children in hard to reach areas), Young Creatives (a training programme for emergent artists and producers in communities in Plymouth) and our biennial international symposium on socially engaged practice, Social Making, as well as expanding our partnership commissioning process with organisations across the region.”

Matt Burrows, Curator at Exeter Phoenix said: “We are very pleased and excited to receive a grant from ACE’s Small Capital fund which will allow us to greatly improve our gallery spaces and general visitor experience while adding energy saving and green measures to the building. As an important part of the city and wider region’s visual arts infrastructure, we particularly look forward to upgrading our art spaces to enable new ways of working and to continue to inspire and attract new artists and visitors alike.”

There were also some significant losses and unsuccessful applications across the region including Arnolfini, Situations, Plymouth Arts Centre and Spacex, who commented: "Everyone at Spacex is very disappointed with the outcome of today's announcement and we will be discussing ways forward with the Board later this week."

Situations’ statement on their website stated: "Claire Doherty’s departure from the organisation as Director marks a moment of change for the organisation after 15 years of supporting artists to make extraordinary new artworks and unlocking opportunities for people and place. We will be making an announcement in due course about the future of the organisation, but our intention is to find a way for what Claire has built here to be continued in some form in the future.”

Her new employers at Arnolfini stated that they are "disappointed by the news that the organisation will not be a part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio 2018-2022. We very much welcome the opportunity to be a part of the conversation on the future of the visual arts in Bristol and look forward to working with our colleagues, funders and peers over the coming months." Doherty added that she hopes “to draw on all that we have achieved at Situations over the past 15 years to play a part in reimagining the future for the arts ecology in this extraordinary city.”

Artist and researcher, Susan Jones noted "It's great to see some of the imaginative small-scale and practice-led ventures back in #npo ranks after the horrendous 2011 cull. A vibrant visual arts depends on a babble of voices and span of artistic rationales, not just on the flagships."

Whilst further NPO investment is greatly welcomed, giving more people in more places across the region the opportunity to experience the visual arts, the South West covers the largest geographical area of any ACE region yet receives the lowest overall subsidy.

Vickie Fear, Producer at We The People Are The Work, a new city-wide exhibition in Plymouth noted: “I have mixed feelings about the NPO funding announcement. It’s fantastic news for KARST and other newly funded organisations in Plymouth, but we're still the largest region with the least funding. When organisations with comparatively small grants have cuts there can be a big impact on our sector and I’m disappointed not to see some additions to the list that have been working very hard and doing great things over the last three years.”

Artist, Julie McCalden added "I feel optimistic about the NPO announcement – more funding for the regions (it’s a start anyway) and 183 new orgs into the fold – many of them artist-led projects. Whilst I am shocked by the news that Arnolfini has been dropped from the portfolio – which is terrible news for the people who work very hard there – it has restored some of my faith in the Arts Council. I had previously thought that Arnolfini was ‘too big to fail’, but this goes to show that ACE is prepared to make difficult decisions.

Arnolfini has an opportunity to completely reinvent itself and I find that prospect hugely exciting – if it avoids dodgy mergers and focuses on working with artists. It could rethink what an arts institution could be. The fact that ACE has ring fenced the 3.3m that Arnolfini would have received for Visual Arts in Bristol is also reason to celebrate – if the pie is distributed more widely hopefully that will mean that less of it will go to buildings and infrastructure and more of it will go to artists, and that can only be a good thing."

The South West portfolio sees significant new investment in major urban centres such as Plymouth and Southampton, as well as giving audiences in areas who historically have had less chance to enjoy arts and cultural experiences more opportunities to do so in their communities, with National Portfolio organisations working primarily in Torbay, Weston-Super-Mare and Gloucester for the first time.

Gordon Dalton, VASW's Network Manager added: "The South West has a wide variety of artists and visual arts organisations across the largest of regions. Its geography contains many large cities and rural areas. Continued further investment in its artists and organisations of all sizes is required to ensure a highly valued, supportive and sustainable visual arts ecology, one that works together to create, produce, present and promote high quality artwork engaging broad and diverse audiences."

Full list of South West NPO

Further comments and views will be added (see below) #VASWnpo

Carol Carey, Director, Somerset Art Works: "To put it simply we are delighted! It's been quite a journey, but  to have the special qualities of the artists and people we work with  acknowledged is wonderful. Really looking forward to future now."

Sandy Kirby, B-Side, Portland: "b-side are thrilled to remain part of the Arts Council NPO family, the funding enables us to continue working with artists, communities and place - commissioning brand new art, supporting artists practice and working towards our 2018 festival and beyond, thanks ACE"

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England said: "This is an exceptionally strong portfolio of organisations delivering great arts and cultural experiences to audiences throughout the South West."

Steve Clement-Large, Artist, Plymouth: "The most striking thing for me was the headline news about funding shifting away from London to the rest of England, 60.4% of the funding in fact. The other fact is - that the “rest of England” constitutes 87% of the population – that still seems a mighty big imbalance. On a local Plymouth level – as a self-employed sole trader with a few links to the wider cultural sector, I amp leased for the local successes and the projects and organisations concerned and wondering if this will make any real difference to my day to day…probably not. I live in hope."

Aspex’s Chair of the Board of Trustees, Drusilla Moody said: "Aspex Visual Arts Trust​ is delighted that Arts Council England continues to recognise the important work we do. The board are very proud of the Aspex​ team, who are committed to delivering an extraordinary quality of work, on top of educational experiences. Retaining National Portfolio Organisation status enables the organisation to continue its important work, enriching Portsmouth and the the surrounding area's cultural and creative environment."

Andrew Brewerton, Chair of Plymouth Arts Centre’s Board of Trustees: "The news that Plymouth Arts Centre's ACE National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) grant will not be renewed this time is naturally a disappointment, but we accept this decision and would like to acknowledge the generous support of ACE over the last 70 years."

Joe Meldrum, Plymouth Culture: “Plymouth Culture is extremely pleased to announce that we have been awarded NPO funding from Arts Council England. This will help support the continued growth of culture in Plymouth. Which means more opportunities for artists including training and talent development workshops, making events such as Mayflower 400 open to the cultural sector, and developing a sustainability within a rapidly growing sector. Our funding comes as part of continued support for Plymouth’s creative development from Arts Council England, and we would like to say a huge thank you for supporting so much in our city. Also, thanks you go out to all of Plymouth cultural sector who work together, support each other and have become much more than the sum of its parts."






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