North East lottery cash subsidising London's arts scene

Lottery money once intended for North East regional art is now flooding in to London say academics

John Stillwell/PA Wire
A woman places pictures of stage and screen stars who are attending the EE British Academy Film Awards at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden in central London

The Arts Council has distributed more lottery funding to just five London institutions than the entire North East, a funding report today reveals.

Academics behind a new look at how lottery cash is spent on arts say that despite more households in the North of England playing the lottery than in London, regions outside the capital and the South East see nowhere near the same level of investment.

The report comes from the same team who last year revealed how London was soaking up Government arts cash.

Their latest study calls for a new model in how lottery cash is handed out.

In the North East, where some 56% of households play the lottery, the region has received £221m in lottery cash since 1995.

In London, where 32% of households play the lottery every week, some five groups alone - the Royal Opera House, the Royal National Theatre, English National Opera, Sadler’s Wells and the South Bank Centre - have received £315m.

Overall London has contributed £386m to Arts Council lottery cash, but has received back £1.1bn.

The report’s author’s last night said there was “no evidence supporting the claim that ‘lottery funding has traditionally been used to fund projects in areas of the country that lack established arts and culture infrastructure’. The evidence seems to point substantially in the opposite direction.”

The local authority area with the poorest return is County Durham, where lottery players have contributed £34m since 1995 while arts organisations there have received just £12m.

Former director of Northern Arts Peter Stark helped write the PLACE report.

Mr Stark, a chief adviser to Gateshead during its regeneration plans around the Baltic and the Sage, said that while it was clear that Tyneside had benefit from lottery cash, overall there was a need for a fairer funding model.

He said: “There is something fundamentally wrong in the use of lottery funding to prioritise existing organisation, in particular the largest ones when the point of the lottery was that it helps a much wider spread.”

He said that all areas could benefit if, as money taken away for the Olympics returns, there is a new funding model that reflects deprivation, availability of art and distance from London.

“London should have a larger share, but not to this extent,” Mr Stark said. “The Arts Council likes to say that if its fund was increased it could solve this problem, but it can’t just continue with this funding model.

“We are getting to a point where the money being redirected to organisations already receiving pretty substantial funds from the tax payer must lead to a pretty serious look at how we deal with lottery funding and the way in which we fund the arts in this country.”

Last night Durham MP Helen Goodman said there was overwhelming evidence that the region’s were getting a bad deal. The shadow culture minister said: “The Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report revealed the deeply unfair distribution of funding between London and the regions.

“This second report confirms that many citizens, particularly in the North East, aren’t getting access to what they have already paid for through taxation and Lottery tickets.

“Culture and the arts are a vital source of wellbeing and Labour is committed to achieving fair access for all, regardless of where people live or how wealthy they are.”

 
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