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Arts funding fears as Lottery cash plunges £77m

National Lottery money is a vital source of revenue for theatre companies. Photo: Shutterstock National Lottery money is a vital source of revenue for many theatre companies. Photo: Shutterstock
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Money raised by the National Lottery for good causes fell by £76.7 million in the first quarter of this financial year, prompting fears of arts funding cuts.

The figures follow disappointing Lottery ticket sales and have been described as “worrying” for theatres and other arts organisations, which are supported by Lottery money via bodies such as Arts Council England.

Camelot, which runs the Lottery, announced its total 2016/17 figures in June, admitting sales had fallen “well short” of where it had hoped they would be with a further decline expected in 2017/18.

Since its inception in 1994, the Lottery has given more than £37 billion to good causes through the National Lottery Distribution Fund. A proportion of Lottery ticket sales funds this, in addition to any unclaimed prizes. Money is then allocated to arts, heritage and sport projects across the UK, among other charitable causes.

In 2016/17, Lottery money allocated to good causes reached its lowest point since 2010 and was £296 million less than the previous year. For the arts, this translated to a £200 million cut compared to 2015/16.

The latest report from the Gambling Commission – which regulates the Lottery – shows that in the first quarter of the 2017/18 financial year, from April to June, proceeds from National Lottery game sales that went to good causes decreased by a further £76.7 million on the previous quarter, January to March. This represents a drop of 18%. The quarter before that saw a decline of just 0.6%.

It has not yet been confirmed how the £76.7 million cut will translate into reductions in arts funding. However, Charlotte Jones, chief executive of the Independent Theatre Council, has warned that Lottery funding cuts could put strain on new work supported by Arts Council grants.

She labelled the figures “worrying” and told The Stage that a squeeze on Lottery arts funding could impact a range of areas including “diversity, access and the variety and ingenuity of work coming up”.

“A lot of new work and new artists rely incredibly heavily on things like Grants for the Arts [which is funded entirely by the Lottery], and it’s just such a vital income stream, but any additional pressure on it will make it extremely difficult for work to get made.”

Jones also encouraged practitioners to make it more obvious where their funding comes from to stress the importance of different funding streams.

Caroline McCormick, chair of the Achates Philanthropy Foundation, said the continued decline in Lottery sales and resulting reduced levels of income for good causes was “part of the complex and challenging economic picture” for UK arts organisations.

She added: “At the heart of this challenge to grow and diversify Lottery sales and other forms of voluntary income generation lies the need to raise awareness of the value of the arts as charities, which are no longer fully state funded and are in urgent need of support. It is therefore imperative that the National Lottery reviews how it communicates the arts as one of its priorities.”

In 2016/17, ACE – the largest distributor of Lottery money for the arts in England – received £227.4 million of Lottery funding, compared to £268.4 million the previous year.

It shares Lottery money between Grants for the Arts, its strategic funding programmes – such as Ambition for Excellence – and national portfolio organisations.

ACE has committed a total of £71 million per year of Lottery funding to 150 organisations in its 2018 to 2022 national portfolio. This is a slight increase on the 99 organisations that received total grants of £69.6 million annually in 2015 to 2018.

A spokeswoman for ACE said: “The National Lottery generates more money for good causes across the UK than any other institution and will continue to do so.

“There have always been fluctuations in income, which we manage so that we can still support thousands of great projects across England.”


Five biggest Lottery arts grants in 2016/17

  • Hall for Cornwall, stage two capital project – £4.6m
  • Contact Manchester, stage two capital project – £3.4m
  • Bury Metro Arts, A Better Met – £2.9m
  • Wrexham County Borough Council, redevelopment of Wrexham Peoples’ Market – £2.3m
  • Arts Council of Wales, creative learning through the arts – £2.3m

Total: 7,012 grants

Total Lottery money given to the arts

2007/08 – £127m
2008/09 – £130m
2009/10 – £188.2m
2010/11 – £130.6m
2011/12 – £148.2m
2012/13 – £362m
2013/14 – £305.5m
2014/15 – £257m
2015/16 – £449.4m
2016/17 – £249.4m
2017/18 – ?

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