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Ed Vaizey

Exciting times for capital projects in the arts

Good news last week from Arts Council England (ACE). The first large-scale Capital programme that it’s run in nine years has seen 20 projects make it through from the first stage of the second round.

If they’re able to put forward good, solid and sound business cases then they’ll receive a grant, helping projects across the length and breadth of the country. A further 35 have successfully applied for small grants of up to £500,000.

This is a process that will see a total of around £235 million from the National Lottery go to arts organisations across England. And it will support all the various art forms that ACE looks after, helping companies become more sustainable and in many cases making the experience they offer to their audiences, artists and performers even better.

York Theatre Royal.jpg
Among the 20 large grant applicants that now have to provide a more detailed business case before the money can be signed off are the Nottingham Playhouse, the Grand Theatre in Blackpool, the Oldham Coliseum, Sheffield Theatres and the York Theatre Royal (pictured left). I know I’ve been selective in the examples I’ve chosen here, of course, but for all that the emphasis is clearly on regional theatre, a sector that has not been backward in coming forward in the recent debate about funding for the arts.

And although companies in London are inevitably well represented in both large and small grants, it’s also good to see so many successful applications from outside the capital with the North West doing particularly well. In fact just under a third of applications came from the North West, with a potential grant value of £15 million. And applications have covered a range of sectors not just theatre and music but dance and visual arts too.

Last week’s announcement was not by any means the end of the story – more a progress report on a programme that is going, in time, to make a real difference to the cultural landscape of the whole of England. It’s also worth remembering that, with the Olympics finished, and with the changes that we made to National Lottery shares, the arts will continue to benefit from Lottery largesse in hugely significant ways.

York Theatre Royal image by Carl Spencer on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

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