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NPO 2017: National Theatre and RSC hit with 3% cut in funding round

National Theatre, South Bank. Photo: Milan Gonda/Shutterstock
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Four of the UK’s biggest cultural institutions have had their funding reduced by Arts Council England as the body seeks to spread its money more evenly across the capital and invest in smaller companies.

The National Theatre, the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Royal Opera House and the Southbank Centre will all lose 3% of their national portfolio organisation grant throughout the next funding period, which runs from 2018 to 2022.

Following the cuts the NT will receive £66.8 million over the four years from 2018, while the RSC will receive £59.9 million. The ROH will get £96.1 million in total, with the Southbank Centre receiving £73.4 million.

ACE’s director of theatre Neil Darlison explained that the reductions to the NT, Southbank Centre and ROH will allow funding for other London-based companies to remain the same and for smaller companies to be brought into the portfolio.

He said: “The money that those three organisations gave up stays in London, so in order for us to fund some smaller organisations the money that was released from those three organisations helps some uplift and some movement within London.”

The figures were mutually agreed with the four organisations, and ACE chief executive Darren Henley suggested that being in London means that the NT, Royal Opera House and Southbank Centre are “more easily able to diversify their income streams”.

He also insisted that the reductions were not a comment on the artistic quality of the organisations.

“The National Theatre does fantastic work, the RSC does fantastic work, and I really pay tribute to them because they’ve understood the need to grow an ecology around them. I think artistically the National Theatre is in a very strong place,” he said.

Smaller, London-based companies added to the portfolio include Chris Goode and Company, the Yard Theatre in Hackney and Yellow Earth Theatre Company.

Announcing the new national portfolio, Arts Council chair Nicholas Serota said the organisation was fulfilling “three key promises”: to shift investment outside London, to broaden the portfolio in order to reach places that have received “relatively little” funding from ACE in the past, and to fund “more diverse and more diverse-led” organisations.

An additional £170 million will be spent outside London across the next four years, and more than 60% of all investment will be beyond London.

Serota explained that the shift is “not a result of pressure”, but is a response to “activity and excellence well beyond London”.

“It comes about because the Arts Council has been making small-scale investments in a number of organisations across the country over the last four or five years, and they have grown to a point where they both need and deserve regular annual funding. It’s a pull factor rather than a push factor,” he said.

Serota added that the portfolio will “energise the whole cultural sector, it’s going to disrupt, challenge, and above all it’s going to change people’s lives”.

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