Newcastle culture fund yet to attract any donations

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A £600,000 Cultural Investment Fund created by Newcastle City Council to attract match funding for the arts from private donors has failed to attract any money since its launch in July.

The fund was established in response to the outcry that followed the council’s decision in March to end its annual £1.2 million support for arts organisations and venues in the city as part of wider £100 million budget cuts intended to avoid what one councillor described as the “abyss of austerity”.

Although the fund is not due to begin offering grants until 2015, it had been hoped that it would attract donations from the private sector well in advance of its formal launch. A council spokesman said a “controlled call for first stage applications” to the fund has already been opened, with organisations able to apply for grants of up to a maximum of £100,000 for core revenue costs and up to £10,000 for specific projects.

In July, city council leader Nick Forbes, who has said he expects Arts Council England to match the amount promised by the city council, described the fund as “a radical solution to the arts funding dilemma; it removes the arts from the pressures of revenue funding, where it will always lose out to more immediate priorities, and creates a sustainable way of making sure the city’s art galleries, theatres and arts cinemas are supported by the council”.

But questions are being asked about Community Foundation, the body that will manage the fund and seek private donations, which has only just finished appointing its board and has failed to attract a penny in donations in the five months since the fund was announced.