Good News For English Museums From Arts Council England

Arts Council England have announced changes to the way it will approach its investment, from 2018. Funding for Museums and Libraries will be brought together with funding for the arts for the first time, with museums able to apply both to be National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and for Grants for the Arts and Culture.

AIM’s new Chair, Richard Evans, Director at Beamish, has welcomed this news and writes here about the positive impact that these changes will have for AIM members in England.


AIM’s new Chairman, Richard Evans, Director at Beamish, has welcomed the news today from Arts Council England

 AIM is really pleased to see the changes announced today by Arts Council England (ACE)  and we really welcome the new opportunities they will create for English museums of all shapes and sizes because for the first time, museums and libraries will be part of the Arts Council’s investment portfolio and funding agreements for the Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations will be lengthened from 3 to 4 years, to allow organisations more time to put their business plans in action.

AIM appreciates having been involved as the ideas have been developed – and we can see that ACE have listened very carefully to museums including the views of our members. The feedback has been used to inform the Arts Council’s investment process from 2018 and the new NPO applicant guidance and further details about Grants for the Arts and Culture, and strategic funds, will be published in October 2016.

In some senses this marks the moment when museums have finally become integrated into the work of Arts Council England. We particularly welcome the news that all museums will be able to apply to the Arts Council’s largest fund, Grants for the Arts and Culture. This is a bold move – and the right one we think – to help ACE deliver on its own goals and ambitions. Making sure their investment goes much further and reaches more people.

To slightly badly paraphrase the Arts Council’s strategy – we know museums deliver truly great experiences for everyone. AIM is confident these changes will help demonstrate that a broader portfolio of investment by ACE – reaching all types of museums across England including many more independent organisations – will create real and lasting benefits. Benefits to our museums and how they work – but most importantly of all perhaps – benefits to the millions of people we reach every year.

Our experience suggests that so often the greatest returns are created by modest investments in the right organisation, at the right time. We also know that sometimes the best ideas are to be found in the very smallest museums. Biggest does not always mean best.

It’s sometimes easy to forget that independent museums represent more than two thirds of all museums in England – and employ half of the sector’s entire paid workforce too. AIM looks forward to supporting independent museums to take up the opportunity presented by Arts Council’s new funding programmes, to generate some brilliant ideas and truly original projects, creating valuable experiences for people from all backgrounds to enjoy.

Other responses

AIM’s previous Chair, Dr Matthew Tanner, took part in an Arts Council England panel discussion about the changes to the Arts Council England investment process. He said “From a museum perspective, this is a radical change as it will allow innovation to grow in all sorts of places. We will see people seeding this opportunity all over the place – it’s very exciting.” You can listen to the discussion HERE

John Orna-Ornstein, Director of Museums for ACE described the change of Grants for the Arts to Grants for the Arts and Culture: “This major new fund will have a broad remit – to develop great art and cultural activity for everyone – and will typically support applications between £1,000 and £100,000. This is a significant new potential source of funding for museum activity and will open in January 2018.”

Welcoming the overall changes, he said: “I am confident that these plans are a strong, dynamic response from the Arts Council to the challenges and opportunities facing museums, as well as the wider arts and cultural sector. They will allow us to make strategic decisions about individual places and will support partnership-working across museums and the arts.”

The full announcement of the changes plus the downloadable ComRes Report on the sector consultation and the Arts Council’s recommendations on the investment approach can be found on the Arts Council England website here:

 Changes to Arts Council England’s 2018 investment approach




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