Arts Council England

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Arts Council England is a non-departmental public body of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. It was formed in 1994 when the Arts Council of Great Britain was divided into three separate bodies for England, Scotland and Wales. The arts funding system in England underwent considerable reorganisation in 2002 when all of the regional arts boards were subsumed into Arts Council England and became regional offices of the national organisation.


Arts Council England is a government-funded body dedicated to promoting the performing, visual and literary arts in England. Since 1994, Arts Council England has been responsible for distributing lottery funding. This investment has helped to transform the building stock of arts organisations and to create much additional high-quality arts activity.

On 1st October 2011 the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council was subsumed into the Arts Council in England and they assumed the responsibilities of the council. [1]


The Arts Council of England was created in 1946 as the Arts Council of Great Britain, which was later divided to form the Arts Council of England, the Scottish Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Wales in 1994. At the same time, the National Lottery was established and the Arts Council of England became one of the distribution bodies. This increased responsibility saw the Arts Council of England grow back in size to the point where it was larger than before the 1987 restructure.

In 2001 Chairman Gerry Robinson announced a further restructuring in which the Arts Council of England would be merged with the ten regional arts boards to form a single organisation: Arts Council England.

Governance and administration

Arts Council England has a national council of 15 members, including the Chair. The national council meets ten times a year and is made up of representatives of the arts community with five of the members also representing the area councils. Each area council has a board of 15 members made up of representatives of their arts community and local government. There are five area councils:

The Chief Executive of the Arts Council England is appointed by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. Alan Davey was Chief Executive from 2008 to 2014. He was succeeded by Darren Henley. Each area council has an Executive Director and each art form has a specialist advisor. The Arts Council England divides its funding into the following headings:

Chairs of Arts Council England

Executive officers

Influential employees

Sarah Weir was Head of Arts and Cultural Strategy for the Olympic Delivery Authority between 2008 and 2011. She developed over 40 permanent artistic commissions integrated into the Olympic Park [5]

Funding programmes

Arts Council England is a distributor of a core funding programme, complimented by National Lottery funding.

Culture Recovery Fund

In 2020 it administered the Culture Recovery Fund to arts venues and organisations in England affected by the Covid-19 Pandemic [6]

Former funding programmes

Arts Capital Lottery

From 1994 it oversaw a national capital fund with grants for new buildings, public art and the renovation of existing arts buildings. The story of the Capital programme is told by Prue Skene who chaired the Lottery Panel, in Capital Gains: how the national lottery transformed England's arts. [7]


Arts Council England supports a limited number of museums as Major Partnership Museums: 16 single museums or consortia were supported 2012–2015, and a further five were added for 2015–2018, bringing the total to 21. [8] Arts Council England also supports other museums via "Strategic Funds." [9]


The Council attracted criticism from the Parliamentary select committee responsible for its oversight for supporting a lottery-funded programme to subsidise UK film production that resulted in a series of films that failed to find distribution. There was also a series of costly capital projects such as the Royal Opera House and the Lowry Centre that required additional funding. In the case of the Royal Opera House the select committee found the Arts Council had broken its own procedures. In 2005 it was announced that the Arts Council England's budget was capped resulting in an effective £30m reduction in its budget.

The Arts Council of England funds a controversial cultural festival, the Festival of Muslim Cultures. [10]

In March 2006, the Arts Council announced a review of its National Office that would "enhance efficiency and delivery while continuing to provide respected and focused arts leadership and drive", while proposing to lose 42 posts, mainly arts specialists, so that the organisation will no longer have dedicated national leads for areas including contemporary music, interdisciplinary art, moving image, architecture, broadcasting, opera, social inclusion, and disability.

Arts Council England's music policy was controversial within the jazz world. Chris Hodgkins, in his 1998 paper Jazz in the UK, [11] pointed out that more than 90% of its music budget went on opera [ citation needed ] while jazz, with an equivalent audience size,[ citation needed ] received less than 1%.[ citation needed ] The funding landscape has improved since with funding for NWJazzworks and Manchester Jazz Festival 2012. [12] [13] Among other areas funding has diversified into youth music such as National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, National Youth Jazz Collective and South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (SAMYO) etc. [14] On 11 May 2006 it was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Colwyn, as documented in the Lords Hansard Columns (1058 to 1060). [15]

In May 2015, funding by Arts Council England of The Siege , a Palestinian play about how armed fighters hid out in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity for 39 days in 2002 had angered the British Jewish community. [16]

The Arts Council received criticism during the Covid 19 pandemic when it granted a single drag act, Le Gateau Chocolat, £215,305. When challenged about this grant, the Council said, “Le Gateau Chocolat is a leading Black and LGBTQ+ performer, and one of the few performers in Britain whose work spans across multiple art forms, including drag, cabaret, opera, musical theatre, and live art.” {}

See also

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  2. "Sir Peter Bazalgette named as chairman of ITV". BBC News. Archived from the original on 24 February 2018. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  3. "Sir Nicholas Serota to leave Tate for Arts Council role". BBC. 8 September 2016. Archived from the original on 28 November 2017. Retrieved 22 January 2018.
  4. Brown, Mark; correspondent, arts (16 December 2014). "Arts Council England hires Classic FM boss as new CEO". The Guardian. ISSN   0261-3077 . Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  5. "Sarah Weir OBE — Birkbeck, University of London". Archived from the original on 20 December 2016. Retrieved 8 December 2016.
  6. "Culture Recovery Fund: Grants". Arts Council England. Retrieved 18 October 2020.
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  13. "About NWJazzworks". Archived from the original on 15 July 2012. Retrieved 1 December 2012.
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