culture cash split attacked

Sheffield's Michael Palin
Sheffield's Michael Palin
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‘INEXCUSABLE AND inexplicable’ – that was the damning verdict of one of the region’s most celebrated talents after The Yorkshire Post lifted the lid on the disparity of taxpayer cash awarded to arts.

Monty Python star and television presenter Michael Palin, who was born and raised in Sheffield, led the calls for the Government to put a stop to London-centric funding and ensure the region gets a fairer deal from Arts Council England (ACE).

He said: “The pool of talent in Yorkshire and Humber is, as anyone who’s ever worked up there knows, as vibrant and exciting as anything in London.

“The Arts Council’s neglect of this talent is as inexcusable as it is inexplicable.”

Leeds-based scriptwriter Kay Mellor OBE, the woman behind a host of television dramas including BBC series The Syndicate, said: “Quite clearly it’s not fair that the North gets so little and the South gets so much.

“It reminds me very much of when I first started working in television and I spent most weeks travelling to London for meetings and script sessions etc. But now we’ve seen the light and television is much more spread amongst the regions in a fairer way.

“I suppose we just have to wait for the Arts Council to see the light. The arts are not just about London, they are nationwide and any grants or funding should be distributed accordingly. All this does is strengthen the North/South divide when there’s a whole movement trying to draw them closer together.”

Last year, funding from ACE formed 35 per cent of income for Leeds-based Northern Ballet.

The £2.52m it received was crucial in supporting new productions and making dance accessible to people in Yorkshire.

Chief executive Mark Skipper said: “It is well documented that there is a disparity in funding between London and the regions.

“Northern Ballet receives substantially less funding from ACE than the other major ballet companies but reaches a much wider audience.

“Over the last three years Northern Ballet has worked hard to increase income from ticket sales, fund-raising and commercial activities with significant success. Public funding is essential to support the creativity of the company and ensure we are able to maintain our touring reach and our work with developing the next generation of artists.”

Public funds also play a vital role ensuring theatres can continue to support original work and offer productions on par with London’s West End.

Daniel Evans, artistic director of Sheffield Theatres, said: “Although the funding we receive from Arts Council England is only 12 per cent of our total income, it is absolutely vital to our ability to uphold the quality and ambition of the work we produce.

“Following the Rebalancing Our Cultural Capital report and the parliamentary inquiry into the discrepancy in funding between the regions and London, I’d naturally like to see the situation re-balanced with greater funding being directed to the regions.

“We attract local and national audiences to our theatres, as well as taking our work to other towns and cities all over the UK, and I believe it’s vital that arts funding is distributed in a way that ensures that audiences can enjoy the arts whether they live in London or anywhere else in the country.”

Smaller-scale organisations such as Barnsley’s Lamproom Theatre also believe funding should be more evenly spread on a grass-roots level.

Trustee Ruth Pearson said: “We recently had a grant for a specific project but ACE funding has never been vital to us. We use the ‘bums on seats’ philosophy to ensure we put on shows people want to come and watch to create revenue.

“On a trustee level we’ve found certain organisations are awarded huge chunks of money, we do feel it would be of more benefit to give out little grants to more to those of us delivering the arts on people’s doorsteps.

“A small amount of money can make a big difference to us. We have a Grade II-listed building in need of capital investment but we cannot do that without grants.”