Arts organisations celebrate cash for next few years - but Portsmouth theatre boss is left 'disappointed'
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The Arts Council England has announced its latest round of funding, which will be given out over the next three years.
Aspex Gallery in Gunwharf Quays will be given £342,540 over that time, while The Spring in Havant will receive £366,000. Hampshire Cultural Trust, which runs Westbury Manor Museum in Fareham and Gosport Museum in Gosport, will receive £1,500,000 over the three years, and the Crying Out Loud theatre and circus group, which is establishing a base in Portsmouth, is being given more than £900,000 over the three years.
But Paul Woolf, chief executive of the Kings in Southsea, said he was hugely disappointed to not receive any of the £150,000 a year that his theatre had bid for. He said it was particularly odd as Portsmouth is designated a ‘priority area’ for arts funding.
‘I’m mystified,’ he said. ‘I’m mystified by the Arts Council. We made an application for support for our community programme. We didn’t get it, which is disappointing, as we don’t get any other support.’
Mr Woolf said that the money would have been used to expand the community programme, to employ people to carry out outreach work in Portsmouth to show people the benefits of attending or getting involved with theatre. The money would also have been used so that the Kings could stage shows – such as youth productions - that wouldn’t necessarily bring in any revenue, but would give amateur and young actors the invaluable experience of performing on a professional stage.
He added: ‘Because the Arts Council has not supported us we will have to have a rethink.’
Elsewhere in Portsmouth, though, there was joy at cash grants, even though it was tempered with the realisation that rising costs will eat into some of the money. Aspex Gallery in Gunwharf Quays was one of the organisations that saw its National Portfolio status for 2023-26 renewed, meaning that regular annual funding would come in. It will receive £342,540 in total.
Aspex Portsmouth director Joanne Bushnell said: ‘We are grateful to Arts Council England for their investment in our work and the city. We will work to build on and strengthen our connections with our local communities,
particularly young people; diversifying and building the local creative sector; and improving access to culture in Portsmouth.’
Chair of the board of trustees, Dr Dawn Langley, said: ‘The investment of £114,180 per year from 2023-2026 is very welcome at an extremely difficult time for public funding. Nevertheless, this is a standstill figure, which with
increased inflation and energy costs represents a reduction in funding in real terms. I know our team will respond with ingenuity and resourcefulness to ensure we continue to deliver our ambitions for Portsmouth.’
Cllr Steve Pitt, Portsmouth City Council’s cabinet member for culture, leisure and economic development said: ‘I am always pleased to see investment in our creative and cultural industries and welcome the renewal of Aspex Portsmouth’s National Portfolio Organisation status.
‘However, with Portsmouth being designated as a Priority Place by Arts Council England, I am also extremely disappointed that once again, their request for an uplift in funding, especially at this challenging time for the sector, has not received a positive response.’
Crying Out Loud, in partnership with Sud Basu, is a consortium of producers and creative practitioners, who present visual theatre and circus across the UK. It has been given £922,464, which it says will in part be used to ‘deliver extra activity developing new talent in Portsmouth and the Solent area, a Levelling Up for Culture Place’. It says it will employ staff to strengthen partnerships and collaborations in the region alongside their existing national and international work.
Crying Out Loud artistic director Rachel Clare and Sud Basu said: ‘Crying Out Loud are delighted to establish a new base in Portsmouth and very grateful for the additional funding from Arts Council England to develop a new programme of work in the Solent area. This will be additional to our current work and in collaboration with our new partner Sud Basu, it’s an extremely exciting beginning of a new era for us. We look forward to developing more new partnerships and making some great work together.’
Hampshire Cultural Trust was set up by the county council eight years ago to manage various artistic and cultural venues across the county. It has been awarded funding £500,000 a year, and it’s the first time it has been given National Portfolio status. Its bid was focused on expanding the organisation’s work in Gosport, Rushmoor and the New Forest.
Trust chief executive Paul Sapwell said: ‘We are thrilled to have received this offer of £500,000 as a National Portfolio Organisation from Arts Council England and are hugely grateful for their support. This is a landmark day
for Hampshire Cultural Trust and such an important part of our development as a young, cultural organisation. With this funding, we can not only focus on the three Arts Council priority places in Hampshire within our portfolio but can also continue to deliver cultural experiences that support wellbeing, happiness and health across the county, fulfilling our purpose of helping to change lives through culture.’
Arts Council England south west area director Phil Gibby said: ‘We’re proud to be backing the brilliant work taking place – from the Levelling Up for Culture Places of Gosport, the Isle of Wight, and the New Forest to well-loved organisations in Southampton and Portsmouth. All of these places will be a part of the changing cultural and creative landscape over the next three years - helping to boost civic pride in communities, provide jobs and joyful experiences, and overall making Hampshire a great place to work, live and play.’