News & Insight
8th February 2022
2022 welcomes optimism in the Arts
By Liz Purchase, Senior Consultant Arts and Heritage
This time last year, theatres, concert halls, galleries and museums, were all closed; the arts and tourism sectors faced a truly bleak picture. Fast forward twelve months, and the hope for a return to normality that sustained audiences, venues, and artists alike during 2020/2021, is being realised. It has been a long wait; but as we return to the venues and heritage sites we so missed, the delight in experiencing them in person is tangible.
The arts are still facing uncertainty of course, but capital projects are once again taking off, and this is a sure sign that optimism is alive. At the Philanthropy Company, we are delighted to see our current and past clients reinstate exciting projects, like the Barbican, who recently revealed the shortlist of architects for a £150m overhaul; the project will revamp the iconic Grade II listed complex and welcome in a new age for the centre. The National Gallery has recently unveiled plans for a £25m upgrade of the Sainsbury Wing, and the Museum of London is forging ahead with its major new site in West Smithfield.
Much to be optimistic about in London, but also outside of the capital city; construction of Manchester’s new flagship arts venue The Factory is underway again, and NewcastleGateshead Quays has just announced Sage as the main partner for its new, state of the art arena opening in 2024. On the North West coast, planning permission has been approved for the £125m Eden Project North in Morecambe; and just down the coast in Blackpool, the go ahead has just been given on the £300m Blackpool Central Indoor Entertainment Park. How fantastic these new attractions will be for boosting UK tourism, jobs and business in the North.
A historic track record
The UK can be very proud that it excels at entertaining and enlightening people from all over the world. In 2019, before the pandemic took hold, the UK Cultural Sector contributed £34.6 billion in GVA to the UK economy (DCMS Economic Estimates 2021). Even during the lockdown of 2020, enterprising arts and heritage sites worked within restrictions and continued welcoming visitors. Our client Chatsworth House, kept its wonderful grounds open – their green spaces so important for people locally. As they now open up both house and grounds again, we continue to work with them to welcome a wider range of people, and visitors from across the globe.
Lockdowns didn’t stop the close relative to arts and heritage, the UK film and TV industry; it contributed £13.8 billion to the economy (‘Screen Business’ BFI, 2021) and there is no sign of that slowing. The popularity of period dramas is perennial; Downton Abbey and Bridgerton anyone? And where would they have been without the incredible locations of Highclere Castle in Hampshire, and Castle Howard in Yorkshire – both major heritage attractions also open to the public again this year.
Joining the Cultural Recovery Fund in 2020/2021, was the exceptional emergency support from trusts and foundations, providing life-line grants and preventing permanent closures. But we now see major funding opportunities for capital projects opening up again, as emergency grants subside. The Garfield Weston Foundation, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and The Wolfson Foundation all have live capital grant programmes; and where the major funders go, smaller funders tend to follow.
Aside from ‘bricks and mortar’ projects, countless learning and participation projects are underway in orchestras, museums and theatres. The welcome sea-change in society that is driving improved accessibility in the arts, is seeing a flourishing of new perspectives and stories, and funders are keen to support them. In 2021, The Art Fund announced over £2m of ‘Reimagine’ grants to 40 museums; from the Isle of Bute to Cornwall, County Durham to Wales, a diverse range of arts and heritage organisations will now explore their collections, and welcome new interpretation like never before.
Funding opportunities for the performing arts are also in play again; the Andrew Lloyd Webber Foundation has recently re-opened funding to support access to arts and heritage. But not just grants to support widening participation; they also have a live fund to help Victorian Theatres with repairs.
More than green shoots for arts and heritage, these funding opportunities equate to investment in the UK cultural sector, and confidence it will flower as a major economic contributor again.