Wednesday, 21 March 2012

News - Funding Gap tackled in East Midlands

Museums in the East Midlands have told the Museums Association (MA) that they are coming to terms with the fact they received no major grant funding from Arts Council England – but are determined to keep a place at the table and prepare for the next funding round in 2015.

The current landscape in the East Midlands and the funding opportunities in the region were among the main topics of discussion at the MA’s members’ meeting in Leicester’s New Walk Museum and Art Gallery earlier this week.

Steve LeMotte, executive director of the East Midlands Museums Service, said he was surprised at where the region’s museums stand in the national pecking order. He noted that of the 140 designated collections in the UK, only seven are in the East Midlands.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport’s Taking Part survey showed that the East Midlands is at the bottom of the league table with just 39.9% of people visiting museums and galleries, compared to a national average of 46.3%.

LeMotte said: “What does this mean? Is it a cry for help? Is it that the product’s okay but we’re not shouting about it enough or is the product wrong?”

He added that the region needed analysis, dialogue and co-operation between museums.

Liz Johnson, relationship manager at East Midlands Arts Council England, also spoke to MA members during the event.

She said: "The change [ACE taking responsibility for museums and libraries] may have been born out of necessity, but I believe it offers an unprecedented opportunity to create a more coherent cultural offer.”

Johnson added that while a lack of major grant funding in the region did leave a hole, she was determined that the the region wouldn’t lose out and that it would "keep a place at the table".

And Maurice Davies, head of policy and communication at the MA, said: “Ten years ago we would have been astonished that Nottingham wasn’t a recipient. The fact it’s not is significant and shows a major shift in thinking.”

He added that the low levels of visitor participation in the East Midlands were a “serious national issue”.

The meeting also saw MA members discuss a range of issues affecting the wider sector, including ethics and financially-motived disposals and the loss of subject specialists.

During the afternoon, Davies held the first interactive workshop on the Museums 2020 initiative, which will help shape the MA’s vision for the future of the sector.


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