The Black Country Living Museum will receive less annual funding from ACE

Real terms reduction for former MPMs

Patrick Steel, 04.07.2017
But more museums receive arts council funding
Arts Council England (ACE) has awarded the majority of the 21 former Major Partner Museums (MPMs) a flat funding settlement for 2018-22, a real-terms reduction when taking into account inflation, which was at 2.7% in May this year.

But an additional 36 museum organisations and consortia joined the former MPMs to become National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) for the first time (see below for full list) since ACE scrapped the MPM scheme.

Three former MPMs received a cash reduction: University of Oxford (-10%), University of Cambridge Museums (-7.5%), and Bristol Museums (-15%).

And Cornwall Museums Partnership received a 22% uplift, from £500,000 a year in 2015-18 to £610,000 in 2018-22.

Several museums that were part of MPM consortia have also been awarded an increase: Culture Coventry, which received £336,000 a year as part of an MPM partnership with the Black Country Living Museum in 2015-18, has received an uplift to £400,000 a year in 2018-22; and Bowes Museum, which received £272,807 a year as part of an MPM partnership with Beamish Museum in 2015-18, has received an uplift to £367,807 a year in 2018-22.

Plymouth City Museum and Art Gallery, which received more than £400,000 a year as part of an MPM partnership with Exeter City Council, and which is undergoing a revamp to bring the museum, art gallery and library together in one building, has received an uplift of £1,036,500 a year in 2018-22, over double its previous funding allocation.

Plymouth, along with Birmingham Museums Trust, Bristol Museums, Leeds Museums and Galleries, Manchester City Galleries, Museum of London, Norfolk Museums Service, Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (Twam), University of Cambridge Museums, University of Oxford, and York Museums Trust, is Band 3 NPO, in receipt of more than £1m a year.

ACE’s funding agreements for Band 3 NPOs state that they must “play a key role in supporting the wider sector”. This was previously a requirement for MPMs.

Although not classed by ACE as a museum, Sunderland Culture, a consortium including Sunderland City Council, University of Sunderland, and Sunderland Music, Arts and Culture Trust, set up to run Sunderland Museum and Winter Palace and the National Glass Centre, and which will oversee Sunderland’s bid to become UK City of Culture 2021, will receive £500,000 a year in 2018-22.

Sunderland Museum and Winter Palace was part of a successful £4.8m MPM bid with Twam in 2012, until Sunderland City Council withdrew from the agreement in 2013, forcing Twam to renegotiate its agreement with the arts council.

Twam is the only museum to be classed as a “bridge” organisation, co-funded by ACE and the Department for Education, to connect the cultural and education sector to give children and young people access to arts and culture.

In 2018-22, TWAM will receive £500,000 a year to run Culture Bridge North East, the same allocation it received in 2015-18.

Kettle's Yard in Cambridge was both an NPO and part of the University of Cambridge MPM consortium in 2015-18, but has received a consolidation of its NPO and MPM funding, £290,757 a year, for 2018-22.

The Museums Association (MA) has welcomed the spread of funding to museums in the NPO portfolio, but the MA’s policy officer, Alistair Brown, sounded a note of warning.

“It is fantastic news for those organisations that have been funded,” said Brown.

“But there is a longer term question about whether they will continue to receive those levels of funding.

“All of those organisations will need to think hard about their ongoing sustainability at that level beyond 2022.”

Sector support organisations

ACE also awarded NPO status for the first time to a number of sector support organisations: Arts&Heritage (£235,000 a year), Association for Cultural Enterprises (£198,000 a year), Association of Independent Museums (£300,000 a year), Collections Trust (£230,000 a year), Culture24 (£296,000 a year), and Kids in Museums (£160,000 a year).

Museum development funding has also remained static, a real-terms reduction, with the same nine organisations leading on museum development as previously: Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust, Leicestershire County Council, Manchester City Galleries, Museum of London, Norfolk Museums Service, South East Museum Development Programme, South West Museum Development, Twam, and York Museums Trust.

Visual arts

ACE stated that 24 former NPOs were unsuccessful in applying to the new portfolio. Among them was the Arnolfini art gallery in Bristol, which received £750,000 a year from 2015-18. ACE has said it has set aside £3.3m over four years to invest in a “bold new future for visual arts in Bristol for the long term”, but would not reveal the details of the fund or whether Arnolfini would be eligible for any of it.

A statement from the gallery said: “Arnolfini is disappointed by the news that the organisation will not be a part of Arts Council England’s National Portfolio 2018-2022.

We very much welcome the opportunity to be a part of the conversation on the future of the visual arts in Bristol and look forward to working with our colleagues, funders and peers over the coming months.”

Firstsite, a gallery in Colchester that was placed under special measures by ACE in 2015 due to concerns over its financial viability, losing its NPO status for 2015-18, has been awarded NPO status for 2018-22, receiving £814,527 a year.

And ACE has also demonstrated support for two galleries under fire from their local councils.

The Towner in Eastbourne will receive £359,350 a year from ACE, the same amount it was granted in 2015-18, despite being informed by Eastbourne Borough Council that its local authority grant would be cut by 50% from £600,000 to £300,000 from March 2018.

And New Art Gallery Walsall will receive £881,487 a year from ACE, the same amount it was granted in 2015-18. Walsall Council rowed back from a proposal last year to cut the gallery’s funding completely, instead reducing its funding from £636,000 in 2016-17 to £560,000 in 2017-18.

Grants for Arts and Culture

For the first time museums are eligible for Grants for Arts and Culture, grants of £1,000 to £100,000. The total pot for the funding period is £87.5m, an increase of £10m a year from 2015-18, and applications can be made on a rolling basis.

ACE has also ringfenced £125m in Strategic Funds in 2018-22, discretionary funding designed to address gaps in the sector such as enhancing diversity and increasing the reach of art and cultural activity in areas with low levels of engagement.

Rebalancing our cultural capital

The arts council seems to have listened to interventions by the authors of Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital (ROCC) and the MA, investing over £170m outside London in 2018-22 across all art forms, including museums and visual arts.

In a statement of intent, ACE held its announcement of the NPO allocations in Leicester.

The arts council cut its four biggest NPO recipients – The Royal Opera House, Southbank Centre, Royal National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company – all of which are London-based, by an average of 3%, roughly £2.5m a year, in order to bring “smaller, more diverse organisations into the portfolio”.

As a result, the proportion of funding going to London has decreased slightly to the benefit of other regions. Funding to the North of England has increased by 29.9% since 2014.

Christopher Gordon, one of the ROCC report’s authors, said: “This four-year settlement does look like the beginning of a genuine shift in policy, supported with real money – rather than hollow policy rhetoric and data massaging to try and make London look less privileged than it clearly still was/is. Spreading the money more widely and increasing the new intake is therefore a very positive and welcome sign.”

Theatre critic Lyn Gardner, writing in The Stage this week, was more blunt: “This latest round doesn’t come close to creating a level playing field, but it’s a start.”


Museums are some way behind other art forms funded by ACE in terms of diversity, something that was identified in a 2015 report that highlighted the lack of diversity in MPMs.

Defining diverse-led as being 51% or more of the board and senior management, in the 2018-22 portfolio there are no black and minority ethnic-led museums, disability-led museums, or female-led museums. There are 17 LGBT-led museums.

ACE also asked museums to self-define according to the background of their key decision makers and by this definition there was one black and minority ethnic-led museum, 19 LGBT-led museums, and two female-led museums. There were no disability-led museums by this definition.

NPOs are required to complete an annual diversity report, with the next one due to be published in early 2018.

Museums that have become National Portfolio Organisations:

Beamish Museum (former MPM)

Birmingham Museums Trust (former MPM)

Black Country Living Museum Trust (former MPM)

Brighton & Hove City Council (former MPM)

Bristol Museums (former MPM)

Cornwall Museums Partnership: Porthcurno Telegraph Museum, Penlee House in Penzance, Helston Museum, Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro, Falmouth Art Gallery, Cornwall Regimental Museum in Bodmin, and Wheal Martyn in St Austell (former MPM)

Derby Museums (former MPM)

Exeter City Council (former MPM)

Horniman Museum and Gardens (former MPM)

Hull City Council (former MPM)

Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (former MPM)

Leeds Museums and Galleries (former MPM)

Manchester City Galleries (former MPM)

Museum of London (former MPM)

Norfolk Museums Service (former MPM)

Sheffield Galleries & Museums Trust (former MPM)

Cumbria Consortium: Tullie House Museum and Art Gallery, Lakeland Arts, and Wordsworth Trust (former MPM)

Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums (former MPM)

University of Cambridge Museums (former MPM)

University of Oxford (former MPM)

York Museums Trust (former MPM)

Arts & Heritage (PHC) Plymouth City Council (was in an MPM partnership with Exeter City Council in 2015-18)

Barnsley Museums

Borough of Poole Museum Service

British Motor Industry Heritage Trust

Bucks County Museum

Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust

Colchester Borough Council

Compton Verney House Trust

Culture Coventry (was in an MPM partnership with Black Country Living Museum in 2015-18)

Doncaster Heritage Services

Jewish Museum London

Lapworth Museum of Geology

Leicester City Council

London Transport Museum

Luton Cultural Services Trust

Manchester Jewish Museum

Museum of East Anglian Life

Museum of English Rural Life and Reading Museum Partnership

National Horseracing Museum

National Justice Museum

Nottingham City Museums and Galleries (was in an MPM partnership with Derby Museums in 2015-18)

People's History Museum

Preston City Council

Ripon Museum Trust

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust

ss Great Britain Trust

Stockton Borough Council Tees Valley Museum Group

Thackray Medical Museum

The Bowes Museum (was in an MPM partnership with Beamish Museum in 2015-18)

The Bronte Society

The Geffrye Museum

The National Holocaust Centre and Museum

The Tank Museum

Wakefield Council – Museums

Watts Gallery Trust

Woodhorn Charitable Trust



We said University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) received a 17% cash reduction. In fact, this was in part a technical reduction as Kettle's Yard was part of UCM's MPM consortium in 2015-18 as well as being an NPO, but is an NPO outside the consortium in 2018-22 with its share of UCM's MPM funding reallocated.


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Liz Hide
Museums Officer, Fitzwilliam Museum
05.07.2017, 11:01
A correction: While the University of Cambridge Museums (UCM) has seen an overall cash reduction, this in part is due to a technical reduction, as Kettle's Yard is no longer part of the consortium, but an NPO in its own right. Funds previously allocated to Kettle's Yard within the UCM's MPM settlement have now been transferred directly to Kettle's Yard. Hence Kettle's Yard have seen a £142,000 increase in funding, while the actual cash reduction to the UCM is 7.5%, not 17% as reported
This information was incorrect on the first version of the Arts Council's NPO settlement spreadsheet, and has now been corrected.
Patrick Steel
Website Editor, Museums Association
05.07.2017, 11:50
Thanks Liz, we've updated the story now.
Liz Hide
Museums Officer
05.07.2017, 12:13
Many thanks!