Arts Council England chief on boosting the arts in South Tyneside

Arts Council England has announced which arts and cultural organisations will receive investment through its National Portfolio between 2023-26. This is a key group of museums, libraries and art organisations receiving regular funding from the Arts Council.

Darren Henley.
Darren Henley.

Here its chief executive Darren Henley talks about this funding that affects South Tyneside, and the difference these organisations can play in people’s everyday lives.

At Arts Council England, it is our job to invest in arts organisations, museums and libraries to make sure that everyone can feel the joy and inspiration of culture in their lives.

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We have just announced how we will be investing in creative and cultural organisations across England over the next three years. As part of this we will invest £1,362,000 in South Tyneside – a significant increase of 351%.

We believe that people in the borough deserve to enjoy the benefits of increased investment in arts and culture. This means you can continue to experience the very best and most ambitious art and culture - often free of charge - wherever you live, whatever your background, whatever your passion.

As part of our investment, we have almost doubled our funding to The Customs House while at the same time we’ve added a new organisation to the funding programme – South Tyneside Libraries, run by South Tyneside Council.

This addition reflects the important work of The Word, the National Centre for the Written Word, and our ambition to put more focus on libraries nationally. This investment will help The Word grow its relationships with local, regional and national writers.

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We are also offering first time support to Jarrow Hall, a landmark whose story stretches back even further, to the days of Bede and Anglo-Saxon Northumbria.

This funding programme is a step change – we are focusing our investment in places where it has been too low for too long.

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South Tyneside is one of 54 places we have identified across the country where we are prioritising our investment.

Arts and culture are also a huge part of the national economy with the creative industries worth billions every year. Two million people are employed in the creative industries across the UK. Many of these are people working in libraries, theatres, museums, and cultural venues in our villages, towns, and cities across the country

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That includes people like Ray Spencer MBE, the irrepressible inspiration behind The Customs House and whose leadership and dedication have helped so many into arts careers while also providing a range of superb arts experience through his venue. I was delighted to read that Ray has just been awarded the Freedom of the Borough of South Tyneside, an honour he richly deserves.

One of our successes in South Tyneside has been our support for The Cultural Spring which we have funded through our Creative People and Places programme. The Cultural Spring has been one of the most successful of these programmes anywhere in England and has introduced thousands of people to arts and culture for the first time since it was launched in 2014.

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We are all creative, we all deserve the very best and most ambitious art and culture, wherever we live, whatever our background, whatever our passion.

That is what this the investment we have announced delivers, and in these difficult and challenging times it is more important than ever that our arts organisations, museums and libraries offer comfort, joy and a wealth of everyday wonders to people here in South Tyneside and right across the country.