Arts Council England

Arts Council of England logo

Arts Council England was formed in 1994 when the Arts Council of Great Britain was divided into three separate bodies for England, Scotland and Wales. It is a non-departmental public body of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport. The arts funding system in England underwent considerable reorganisation in 2002 when all of the regional arts boards were subsumed into Arts Council England and became regional offices of the national organisation.

Arts Council England is a government-funded body dedicated to promoting the performing, visual and literary arts in England. Since 1994, Arts Council England has been responsible for distributing lottery funding. This investment has helped to transform the building stock of arts organisations and to create lots of additional high quality arts activity.

Since October 2011, Arts Council England has been responsible for supporting and developing museums, a function it inherited from the now defunct Museums, Libraries and Archives Council.


The Arts Council of England was created in 1946 as the Arts Council of Great Britain, which was later divided to form the Arts Council of England, the Scottish Arts Council, and the Arts Council of Wales in 1994. At the same time, the National Lottery was established and the Arts Council of England became one of the distribution bodies. This increased responsibility saw the Arts Council of England grow back in size to the point where it was larger than before the 1987 restructure.

In 2001 Chairman Gerry Robinson announced a further restructuring in which the Arts Council of England would be merged with the ten regional arts boards to form a single organisation: Arts Council England.

Governance and administration

Arts Council England has a national council of 15 members, including the Chair. The national council meets ten times a year and is made up of representatives of the arts community with five of the members also representing the area councils. Each area council has a board of 15 members made up of representatives of their arts community and local government. There are five area councils:

  • North
  • Midlands
  • London
  • South East
  • South West

The appointment of the Arts Council England Chief Executive is made by the Department of Culture, Media and Sport, a position held by Alan Davey since 2008. Each area council has an Executive Director and each art form has a specialist advisor. The Arts Council England divides its funding into the following headings:

  • Combined Art (Festivals)
  • Dance
  • Education

  • Literature
  • Music
  • Research

  • Theatre
  • Touring
  • Visual Arts

Chairs of Arts Council England

Executive officers

  • Peter Hewitt: Chief Executive, 19972008


Arts Council England supports a limited number of museums as Major Partnership Museums. 16 single museums or consortia were supported 2012-2015, and a further five were added for 2015-2018 bringing the total to 21.[2]


The Council attracted criticism from the Parliamentary select committee responsible for its oversight for supporting a lottery-funded programme to subsidise UK film production that resulted in a series of films that failed to find distribution. There was also a series of costly capital projects such as the Royal Opera House and the Lowry Centre that required additional funding. In the case of the Royal Opera House the select committee found the Arts Council had broken its own procedures. In 2005 it was announced that the Arts Council England's budget was capped resulting in an effective £30m reduction in its budget.

The Arts Council of England funds a controversial cultural festival, the Festival of Muslim Cultures.[3]

In March 2006, the Arts Council announced a review of its National Office that would "enhance efficiency and delivery while continuing to provide respected and focused arts leadership and drive", whilst proposing to lose 42 posts, mainly arts specialists, so that the organisation will no longer have dedicated national leads for areas including contemporary music, interdisciplinary art, moving image, architecture, broadcasting, opera, social inclusion, and disability.

Arts Council England's music policy was controversial with jazz enthusiasts. Chris Hodgkins, in his 1998 paper Jazz in the UK,[4] pointed out that more than 90% of its music budget went on opera while jazz, with an equivalent audience size, received less than 1%. The funding landscape has improved since with funding for NWJazzworks and Manchester Jazz Festival 2012.[5][6] Among other areas funding has diversified into youth music such as National Youth Choirs of Great Britain, National Youth Jazz Collective and South Asian Music Youth Orchestra (SAMYO) etc.[7] More recently it was raised in the House of Lords by Lord Colwyn on 11 May 2006 as documented in the Lords Hansard Columns (1058 to 1060).[8]

In May 2015, funding by Arts Council England of The Siege, a Palestinian play about how armed fighters hid out in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity for 39 days in 2002 had angered the British Jewish community.[9]

See also


External links

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