Regional museums fight back
February 3 2012
Video: Museums Sheffield
Here is a rather compelling film put together by Museums Sheffield on the impact of missing out on the Arts Council's recent funding awards. The museum service had hoped for £1.4m from the Renaissance fund. It's rare to see a museum director, in this case the excellent Nick Dodd, be so vocal in the face of cuts.
Obviously, in these austere times, there are bound to be some who win and some who lose. But Museums Sheffield have put together an illuminating statistic - Sheffield is England's fourth largest city, but receives the lowest arts funding per head of population of any English city outside London, at £4.62, compared to Nottingham at £13.06, Manchester at £17.75 and Leeds at £20.32. If so, something has gone wrong somewhere.
The lack of funding for Sheffield is odder still when one remembers that, as a pioneer of 'Trust Status' (making regional museums independent of local authority control, which is a Good Thing), it is worth everyone's while to make sure it continues to succeed.
So what is the solution? Museums Sheffield would like you to lobby MPs and the like. Regular readers will know that I've long been puzzled by the discrepancy between the Arts Council's direct grant funding (from DCMS), which has been cut, whilst its Lottery fund is awash with money - more than ever before. Surely, with a bit of tweaking, we can subtly broaden the scope of lottery funded projects? Why shouldn't a regional museum make a bid for a Lottery grant to fund, say, a one-off exhibition programme? I know the distinction between Lottery funding and direct government funding is an important principle to maintain. But is it more important than keeping the lights on?