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Arts Council England to spend £170m more outside London

Arts Council England (ACE) is to spend an additional £170m outside London between 2018 and 2022, a significant boost to funding outside the capital at the expense of the biggest arts organisations.

The investment was announced on Tuesday as ACE revealed details of a new round of four-year funding decisions, investing £409m a year of public and lottery money in 831 organisations across England.

At a briefing in Leicester, ACE revealed full details of decisions which had been anxiously awaited by arts organisations for months.

The big picture shows that, after repeated criticism that not enough money was being spent in the regions, ACE has increased funding outside London by around 4%. There is increased annual investment in places such as Plymouth (£3.99m), Tees Valley (£1.99m) and Bradford (£1.77m).

The regional shift was in part funded by smaller settlements for the big four arts organisations, considered more able to sustain drops in cash. The National Theatre’s settlement was, for example, 3% down while the Royal Opera House was also down 3% – around £44,000 a year.

But it was a good day for organisations applying for the first time, with 183 new recipients of funding, ranging from dance companies such as Ballet Black to theatre companies such as Newcastle-based Unfolding.

Among the losers were the north-east AV festival, Greenwich Dance Agency and the Leeds-based Blah Blah Blah theatre company. All were turned down for funding. The Arnolfini gallery in Bristol was also refused money, although buried in the reams of statistics given out by ACE was an additional £3.34m ringfenced to support visual arts activity in the south-west.

Another big shift was including museums and libraries in the national portfolio for the first time. Of the 183 new entrants, 72 were museums and seven were libraries. They included SS Great Britain in Bristol, the Woodhorn Museum in Northumberland and St Helens library service.

English National Opera, which was one of the biggest funding losers in 2012, emerged unscathed and will rejoin the national portfolio with its annual funding unchanged.

The new chair of Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota, said part of the ambition was to fund inventive and pioneering arts organisations. He said: “Everyone deserves the chance to experience the sheer enjoyment, creativity and new horizons that culture can bring.

“We set out to deliver a significant increase in our investment outside London. We’ve done that, without detriment to the internationally renowned cultural offer in the capital.”