The Japan Foundation
Performing Arts Network Japan
Arts Council England
Arts Council England

Arts Council England – National office
14 Great Peter Street
Tel: 0845 300 6200
Fax: 0161 934 4426
Arts Organization of the Month Arts Organization of the Month
Dec. 25, 2013
Arts Council England 
The Arts Council of Great Britain (ACGB) was launched shortly after the Second World War in 1946 amidst regrets regarding the War and the desire to rebuild the country anew. The Arts Council’s first chairman, the eco nomist Lord John Maynard Keynes, advocated for the ‘arm’s-length’ principle of maintaining a proper distance between the arts and government as a defense against the type of state-supported, and politically censored, art found in Nazi Germany. At the same time, Keynes encouraged a philosophy of respect for artists.
In 1994, the ACGB was divided into separate arts councils for Scotland, Wales and England (from here onward we discuss the resulting Arts Council England). As the largest of the three arts councils, the Arts Council England had a budget of GBP 234 million from its first year, of which GBP 48 million came from the profits of the National Lottery instated by the government the same year. With the birth of a Labour Party government in 1997 came a policy of strengthened of arts and cultural programs, under budget allotments from the government (Department of Culture, Media and Sports, or DCMS) increased steadily to reach a level of GBP 453 million, to which was added the GBP 172 million from the National Lottery to provide a total budget of GBP 625 million.
The coming to power of the new Conservative Party and Democratic Party coalition government in May of 2010, however, brought major budget cuts amid the serious financial crisis and Arts Council England has been given the task of making cuts to reduce its budget 29.6 percent by fiscal 2014. In fact, government funding fell to GBP 393 million in fiscal 2011 and a major re-organization of the Council has been undertaken.
Previously, there were nine district offices and regional councils operating under the umbrella of Arts Council England, but following the re-organization there are now five offices, including the London office, with its administrative responsibilities for all of England, and four regional offices carrying out operations for the North, Midlands, South East and South West regions of England (with a support center for the head office in Manchester). However, the organization is designed to maintain area-specific programs and policies by preserving councils with decision-making power not only the head office in London but in each of the regions as well. The total number of staff members has been reduced, however, from 560 members in 2011 to 420 as of July 2013.
Currently, the Arts Council programs are divided into three main pillars: the National Portfolio Funding (NPF) providing funds for the country’s representative arts organizations and cultural institutions in line with national policy, the Grants for the Arts providing grants for a wide range of arts and cultural activities through an open-access system, and Strategic Funding providing support for what are considered to be strategically important programs and projects.
For much of the history of the arts councils in Britain, support for the arts and culture was allotted not as grants given out through a system of applications open to the public but in the form of “Regular Funding” to select recipients budgeted out on a regular basis. However, with the implementation of National Portfolio Funding (NPF) from fiscal 2012, a shift was made to an open-access system for grants. With the adoption of the NPF system, the Arts Councils announced a ten-year strategic frame titled “Achieving Great Art for Everyone” (with a revised version announced in October 2013). This policy lays out five main objectives and in the evaluation of recipients for NPF, primary importance is placed on the contents of the recipients’ proposals to fulfill these aims. In fiscal 2009 there were 880 institutions and organizations receiving funding on a regular basis with a total budget of GBP 345 million, but with the implementation of NPF in fiscal 2012 that number was reduced to 696 organizations along with a significant reduction in total funding to GBP 315 million.
The system of open-access grants was implemented with the funding received from the National Lottery beginning from 1994, with grants allocated under a flexible system in which applications are accepted year-round and judgment on applications of less than GBP 10,000 being made within six weeks of application, while those exceeding that amount are judged on within 12 weeks. Looking at the results of recent years, 2,795 grants were given in fiscal 2009 to a total of GBP 65 million, while in fiscal 2012 grants numbered 2,741 with a total value of GBP 94 million, indicating no significant change in the number of grants but a major increase in the total grant money paid.
As for the Strategic Funding that the Arts Council allots according to its own strategies, approximately 1,000 artists or arts organizations were given a total of GBP 166 million in funding in fiscal 2012. This funding is used for overseas performances by artists, performance tours, audience development, strengthening organizational structures and so on.
After the peak budget of fiscal 2009 mentioned above, the Arts Council’s budget was decreased two years in a row, but fiscal 2012 saw a significant increase to GBP 469 million in government funding and GBP 270 million from the National Lottery, for a total budget of GBP 739 million. This increase was due to a number of factors, including the fact that, despite the decrease in government funding for existing programs, the funding for museums and libraries is now made via the Arts Council, the fact that funding for the Music Hub musical education program is now allotted through the Department of Education, and the significant increase in funding from the National Lottery for the Arts Council’s Strategic Funding and open-access Grants for the Arts programs.
(Information compiled by Mitsuhiro Yoshimoto /Director of the Center for Arts and Culture, NLI Research Institute)