Final Steps Taken Towards Newcastle Culture Fund

Innovative plans to reconfigure council arts funding across Newcastle are close to completion.

Newcastle City Council leader Cllr Nick Forbes met national Arts Council chair Sir Peter Bazalgette and North East Regional Council Chair, Joe Docherty, in Newcastle today (Monday) to agree the final touches to the Newcastle Culture Fund.

The fund, which now goes to a full meeting of the council this Wednesday for agreement, is a 600,000-per-year initiative, available to arts organisations across Newcastle.

The money in the Newcastle Culture Fund comes from a range of sources including public health funding as well as income from council investments like its loan note to Newcastle Airport and a share of growth in the business rate income that it is able to retain.

The council will also pursue a partnership with Newcastle University where savings generated from shared services between the university and the council will be reinvested in the cultural life of the city.

The fund will be developed with the Community Foundation Tyne & Wear and Northumberland, a Newcastle-based charity that will bring its expertise to grow the fund from individual donors and the business sector. The fund will have an independent panel established by the Community Foundation.

The Newcastle Culture Fund was developed by the council in partnership with Arts Council England North East and comes after a robust public response to Newcastle's budget proposal to reduce subsidies for cultural organisations by 100 per cent.

Cllr Forbes said: "I'm tremendously excited by the progress made on the Newcastle Culture Fund. It's an example of what can be achieved when organisations like ourselves, the Arts Council and cultural venues come together and think differently.

"We are on the final straight, and if full council agrees the plan later this week, we should be able to get the fund running within two months.

"The value of arts and culture to Newcastle has never been in doubt; what has been in doubt is the funding to support them. This new approach not only provides that security, but means those who wish can also make a contribution."

Peter Bazalgette, Chair, Arts Council England, said: "We recognise the pressures Newcastle City Council has been facing. The Arts Council is grateful for the way in which the City Council has worked closely with us to broker this new funding package for key cultural venues.

"But, of course, a 50 per cent cut to the culture budget still means serious economic and social impact for Newcastle and beyond."

Community Foundation chief executive Rob Williamson, said: "We are delighted to be working with the Council to develop this fund and its independent panel. Cultural philanthropy has been a cornerstone of our work since we first supported the project to keep the Royal Shakespeare Company coming to Newcastle over 22 years ago.

"This fund, alongside our Arts Council supported North East Fund for the Arts, will continue to bring innovative support to this crucial sector."

In addition to the Newcastle Culture Fund, the council is also starting-up a capital fund that makes available loans to arts organisations to finance projects, including building extensions and building improvements to help arts organisations generate more income.