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Business & Economy

Guest Contributor: Investing in the region’s cultural future

Having recently announced sweeping changes to its funding framework, which will see scores of regional operators receive increased financial support, Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England, tells North East Times Magazine about the significance of its cash drive and the impact it will have on the area’s cultural landscape and its many communities.


As the national development agency for creativity and culture across England, we’re in the privileged position of being able to invest taxpayers’ and National Lottery players’ money in brilliant artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries in villages, towns and cities right across the country.

We want more people to have the opportunity to enjoy and take part in creative activities.

To help make that happen here in the North East, we will invest an extra £2.9 million a year in 55 cultural organisations, bringing our total investment from 2023-2026 through this funding programme to £73.1 million.

Among those operators are 14 newcomers to our national portfolio.

They include the Festival of Thrift, in Redcar, the annual celebration of sustainable living that attracts some 50,000 visitors; and Redhills, the fabulously restored Durham Miners Hall, which is to be a centre of culture, heritage and education.

Also in County Durham, Northern Heartlands, which has initiated and supported projects in the rural Northern Pennines and former pit villages, joins the portfolio. 

The same applies to Company of Others, based in Walker, Newcastle, which shows dance is an activity for all, and Mortal Fools, which is inspiring thousands of young people across Northumberland through drama groups and creative workshops.

Our focus on investing in more opportunities for the region’s children and young people will see renewed funding for established organisations such as Seven Stories, the Newcastle-based national centre for children’s books, and additional support for Theatre Hullabaloo, in Darlington, backing its ambition to become a national centre of theatre for young audiences.

Our investment will help nurture talent and develop skills, with support for initiatives such as Stockton Arc’s fantastic Artists of Change programme, which employs artists on a year-long contract.

We will continue to fund many of the region’s renowned cultural institutions, including BALTIC Centre for Contemporary Art, Sage Gateshead, Northern Stage and MIMA, run by Teesside University, and are investing in new cultural establishments, such as the Fire Station, in Sunderland, through support for Sunderland Culture.

We are also backing many of the North East’s excellent museums, including Tyne & Wear Archives & Museums, Beamish and Jarrow Hall, in South Tyneside, which brings Anglo-Saxon history to life.

Libraries are equally important, and joining our portfolio is South Tyneside Libraries, with The Word, National Centre for the Written Word, among its four sites.

This new investment will place creativity at the core of communities across the North East, it will boost the region’s thriving creative industries and will have a huge impact on the lives of people across the region.