Theatre News

Arts Council England announces funding plans for 2023-26

The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry
The Belgrade Theatre in Coventry

Arts Council England has revealed which organisations have gained or lost a National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status as part of their new funding announcement.

NPOs are companies which receive a share of ACE’s funding allocation between April 2023 and March 2026.

This year’s funding announcement comes against the backdrop of the government-led policy of “Levelling Up” areas outside of the capital, with a “transfer programme”, where ACE will “provide funding to organisations for two years to deliver activity and to consider their options for relocation” also being offered.

990 organisations (with 276 new companies) received a share of £446 million this year, with “Levelling Up” locations also seeing a significant increase in spend. Of this, 48 new companies are from theatre disciplines. The majority of venues saw funding frozen or small increases.

In total, 24 organisations plan to relocate from London from October 2024, including 18 NPOs. These include Headlong, the famed theatre company responsible for major touring and West End shows.

Donmar Warehouse is no longer listed as an NPO, nor is the Hampstead Theatre, the Watermill Theatre, the Gate Theatre or the English National Opera, the latter of which makes its home at the London Coliseum. We have covered this news here.

New NPOs include the freshly opened Shakespeare North Playhouse, which began productions earlier this year, as well as Hall for Cornwall.

The National Theatre has seen its funding reduced for the period from £16,700,000 to £16,156,916, while the Royal Court has seen its funding for the period reduced from £2,311,234 to £2,2236,073.

The National Theatre’s executive team said in a statement: “Government investment in the UK’s world-class creative sector is instrumental in its success. We support the Arts Council’s decision to increase overall support for the sector; the whole of the country needs a vibrant and sustainable cultural life that supports world-leading creativity, community building and economic impact. The National Theatre is a charity that plays a unique role in that ecosystem and works in partnership with organisations nationwide. We’re grateful for the funding support for the National Theatre from Arts Council England announced today, especially given the difficult times that many people are facing.

“While a reduction to our ACE funding will present challenges, we remain committed to creating and sharing outstanding live and digital theatre with audiences nationally and globally. We know that some colleagues across the industry have received difficult news today. As it has always done, the National Theatre will continue to work to support the sector and those colleagues who face an uncertain future.

“In the 5 years pre-pandemic half of our UK audience was from outside London, and as a national organisation, we are uniquely placed to support arts education for young people in every region and provide world class training and skills development for the UK’s unrivalled creative workforce.

“The funding received by the NT is the bedrock which enables us to multiply UK Government investment through self-generated income, including through significant fundraising and box office. We are grateful for all those who continue to believe in the value of the creative sector’s contribution to society, now and in the future”

The Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said: “For many theatre organisations, today’s offer of Arts Council England funding will be greatly welcomed: it will offer creative opportunity and business security within an incredibly challenging economic environment.

“However, for many, today’s unwelcome news that they will not be offered funding, or offered less funding than hoped, will be incredibly challenging. Those organisations will be faced with some very tough decisions in the coming months. As theatres face a gruelling winter and crippling energy bills, even those who do receive funding won’t be able to achieve what they have in the past – creatively and as civic centres within their communities.”

London Mayor Sadiq Khan said: “Many of our world-leading cultural organisations will be left devastated by this announcement of over £50 million worth of Government cuts to London’s arts funding.

“These cuts could not have come at a worse time as arts organisations already face a triple whammy of spiralling operating costs, soaring energy bills, and the impact of both the pandemic and the cost of living crisis on audience figures.

“London’s cultural organisations contribute billions and power our capital’s economic comeback as well as the wider UK economy every year which is why they need continued investment. A strong London equals a strong UK that’s why I am urging the Government to think again and reconsider the consequences of these detrimental cuts.”

Elsewhere, it was positive news for companies like the RSC, as well as the Belgrade Theatre in Coventry, which saw a lift of almost 30 per cent in annual funding. Chief executive Laura Elliot and creative director Corey Campbell said: “We are absolutely delighted, and hugely grateful to Arts Council England, for awarding us this funding. It’s a huge credit to the team here at the Belgrade, along with Coventry City Council and our other funders, who offer such valued support.

“Over next three years, this investment will be pivotal in enabling an evolutionary step change for the Belgrade, as we continue to develop our vision. We will lead a ‘people first’ approach; prioritising co-creation and cultural democracy; aiming to be a leading example of an inclusive, learning theatre that sits at the very heart of its community.

“The additional funding will enable us to expand our work into key levelling up areas; build a cultural offer that is developed with and for the people of Coventry and wider region, and proudly share it with the world.”

We will update this article as we crunch the numbers.