museums sheffield: the arts council funding fallout

*this whole story is developing all the time, see the comments at the bottom for the latest*

fairly regular readers of this blog will know that over the summer i moved over the hills from manchester to sheffield. since arriving in sheffield i have been enjoying getting to know a brand new set of museums and galleries, which i have generally been impressed by. yes, everything is on a much smaller scale than those which i used to frequent on a near daily basis whilst studying for my MA whilst in manchester, but i try not to see them as comparable institutions. weston park museum is a very well curated introduction to a city, and includes some really nice flourishes of delivery including the gallery built around snowy the polar bear. in the city centre the millennium gallery has proved a reliable place to head for when i’ve needed to see things to either calm thoughts or spark inspiration – in particular the kid acne exhibition and the ruskin gallery struck me last year.

there is one gallery which i have not yet fully got to grips with, and that is the graves gallery. working in an art gallery means that you sometimes end up completely missing others, especially when they have restricted opening hours. this has been my issue with the graves gallery, which i have seen a total of three rooms in. i was a bit shocked at how much work there was in the gallery when i first stepped in, presuming that their limited opening hours belied a limited collection. instead, i think that they may be the tip of an iceberg which sheffield is unfortunately ploughing straight towards.

last week the arts council announced that, despite a very strong bid, museums sheffield has missed out on £4.2million of funding over the next three years – which represents a cut of at least 30% in funding for the city. reports suggest that this leaves funding for the arts in sheffield at around £4 per head, whereas nearby leeds is sitting pretty with over £20 per person. it is frankly shocking that a city of sheffield’s stature, with an arts scene which seems to be growing around the work of museums sheffield, has been cut adrift.

i can still recall the consternation of the last round of funding cuts when i was working in a manchester arts venue (which was allocated its money), and the issues which were faced by those who missed out. at least one major venue has gone the way of dust as far as i know. sheffield is now facing a situation where the museum service must find ways of meeting an £800,000 shortfall for their current budget, let alone the dark times yet to come. talk is of around 50 jobs going, an end to the expansive exhibitions policy which has seen major national shows exhibited in the city, and potentially worse.

museums sheffield have been very upfront about what this funding decision means for their service. combative posters have appeared across their venues appealing for the people of the city to support them in this dark time, and they have made realistic announcements about what these cuts mean. an end to big name exhibitions, cuts to family engagement, the wrapping up of outreach programmes.

yesterday i attended sheffield council’s public consultation on the budget cuts it is facing itself. the council is losing around £24million of their own budget from central government, and is thus being forced into cuts of around 10% across all its’ services. yet they chose not to apply this to museums sheffield, instead implementing a cash standstill which would support the outstanding arts council bid, and the industrial museums’ hlf bid. so here we are with a council which is willing to draw back on other areas to support the visual arts and heritage, but even that is not enough to see these vital services protected.*

so what next? museums sheffield held discussions with arts council england’s yorkshire team yesterday to discuss the short term issues, and the application of ‘transitional funding’ parachute payments which are being rolled out to those renaissance funded institutions who have missed out on the current round of funding. talks are also ongoing about an appeal to overturn the decision, which whilst i support in principle of the need of these funds in the city, you have to wonder how the arts council could begin to find the money to offer sheffield any form of funding? remove it from services who were successful in the initial bidding process?

i am hopeful that a solution can be found, whether via an appeal process or through a succesful application by museums sheffield for the arts council’s renaissance strategic support fund. either way, action is going to be needed from the people of sheffield to show their support for their arts institutions. now is the time to make use of those politicians who you put in power, be it at local or national level. make a noise about how important these museums and galleries are to the city, to you personally, and to the lives of those who need them most. contact you mp. write to your councillor. go direct to the arts council.

most of all, get to the museums and galleries. you know those gift aid envelopes you normally walk past? use them. that family birthday coming up – get them something from the gallery shop. sheffield, support your cultural institutions now, whilst you still can.

museums sheffield blog – help us make the case for culture in sheffield

*it must be noted that sheffield theatres and site gallery have both seen their funding cut in line with sheffield council’s budget cuts.

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7 thoughts on “museums sheffield: the arts council funding fallout

  1. UPDATE – arts council england have released a pretty extraordinary statement defending their decision. i didn’t expect to see them coming out an commenting on the decision, but then again they have been backed into a bit of a corner by museums sheffield’s own upfront position.

    http://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/apply-for-funding/renaissance/renaissance-major-grants-programme/our-renaissance-major-partner-funding-decision-museums-sheffield/

  2. A very good succinct message which needs many more of sheffield people to get involved in this travesty.I used the millenium Gallery last year when we did the piece called “Passing Though”,in celebration of the Crucibles 40th Birthday,lest did I suspect this happen to this and all special places in the city.SaveOurMuseums!

  3. it is important to galvanise all this energy and do something collectively to protest against the Arts Council funding decision. I have written to both my MP (Nick Clegg) and my local councilors Nick Clegg Nicks reply .. Thank you for contacting me following the news that Museums Sheffield
    have been unsuccessful in their application to the new Arts Council
    major grants programme.
    I share the disappointment of many people on hearing that Museums
    Sheffield has been unsuccessful in its recent bid for Arts Council
    funding.
    I know the hugely important role Museums Sheffield plays in protecting
    and promoting the cultural heritage of our city. I also know the
    benefits for Sheffield had this bid been successful. That’s why I wrote
    to Arts Council England in my role as a Sheffield MP before the decision
    was made in order to make the case for Museums Sheffield’s bid.
    Quite rightly, the Arts Council is independent of the Government and is
    not controlled by politicians, and neither I nor any of my colleagues in
    the Government or Parliament can interfere in their decision making.
    However, what we can do is make the case for Sheffield, as I did before
    the decision was made. I am now urgently seeking a meeting with Arts
    Council England so that I can discuss their decision face to face.
    Thank you for again contacting me on this matter.
    Yours sincerely
    Nick Clegg MP

    hopefully this ‘non political’ decision can be reversed but we do need to protest loud and long

  4. FURTHER UPDATE – museums sheffield have announced the horrific levels of redundancies which are going to be forced upon them due to this funding cut. 45 of the 107 staff across the organisation are going to go, across all levels of activity. you can’t even begin to imagine that impact that is going to have on the level of service which museums sheffield can offer.

    working in a gallery alongside volunteers i really appreciate the enthusiasm and commitment which they bring. however, you can’t fully staff a museum or gallery with volunteers – the knowledge levels and commitment to an organisation just can’t be expected from volunteers. sheffield is facing a hugely changed picture, where its galleries and museum could now be seen as repositories of objects, rather than sites of engagement.

    museums sheffield statement on redundancies – http://www.museums-sheffield.org.uk/blog/2012/2/feedback-on-sheffields-major-grants-bid-from-arts-council-england

  5. Ignoring the subject being discussed, as a former teacher, schooled in the 1950s, it saddens me that with the advent of email, ‘proper’ punctuation has gone out of the window. Whatever happened to capital letters for names and places and capital letters after a full stop?

  6. hi lesley, i promise you that this isn’t a case of “them young uns” not knowing how to use punctuation and capital letters. if you have a flick through the rest of this blog you’ll spot that it is a stylistic choice to write fully in lower case, and one which i have to go back and check my own pieces on before publishing. i made the decision when i started this blog to experiment with just using lower case, and found that i quite liked the way that it settled things down on the page. rest assured, i am a bit of a pedant for a misplaced/unused capital letter in every other walk of life!

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