Arts and Culture

Stockport received just 0.5% of Arts Council funding in Greater Manchester this year

Stockport received just 0.5% of Arts Council funding for Greater Manchester this year – despite having been the region’s 2023 Town of Culture.

The city of Manchester, meanwhile, received a 65% share of the region’s funding – a total of £25 million.

Much of this funding went towards cultural organisations including Factory International, Manchester City Galleries, and HOME.

Arts Council England awarded more than £38million in total for the 2023/2024 financial year to the Greater Manchester region.

In Stockport there were eight successful applications for funding in 2023 with Stockport Council receiving the most (£50,000) and smaller organisations receiving less – such as GRIT Studios, which received £29,500.

John Macaulay, co-founder at GRIT Studios, said: “Stockport Council are acutely aware they don’t get much Arts Council funding. I sit on the cultural strategy board and we’re trying to change this.”

GRIT Studios offers studio space for artists, makers and creatives and has previously been rejected for funding from the Arts Council.

The cultural strategy board is a partnership between Stockport Council and local creatives to drive artistic activity in the borough.

Macaulay believes that smaller organisations may suffer from a lack of time and resources to complete the often lengthy applications necessary to secure ACE funding.

“You need people who are more experienced than you to help you. [Otherwise] it’s like getting a plumber out to change your electrics, it’s not going to work.

“You can pay £250 to £300 a day for someone to apply for you and people are intimidated by the applications. The time and money is symptomatic of why Stockport suffers.”

Stockport received just 0.5% of Arts Council funding
The Manchester and Stockport ‘Gritters’ – credit GRIT Studios

Elsewhere in Greater Manchester other smaller organisations in receipt of funding from Arts Council England echo the same concerns.

The bottom six local authorities combined received less than 10% of the overall funding for Greater Manchester.

One organisation that received funding in Bury is the Fusilier Museum and Learning Centre, which received £29,000 from the Arts Council for 2024.

The museum hopes to keep the legacy of the regiment alive with its collection of uniforms, medals and artefacts belonging to the Lancashire Fusiliers and offers an educational programme to schools.

Gini Wilde, Marketing Manager for the museum, describes a lengthy and detailed application process which can take weeks to complete and months to receive confirmation.

Wilde said: “The staff we have applying are very experienced and even then we’re not always successful. We have had a few knocked back.

“There is an art to it and if you don’t know what you’re doing it will put a lot of people off – but we wouldn’t be where we are now without it.”

Bury received a 0.8% share of the regional Arts Council funding – in stark contrast to the neighbouring borough of Bolton, which received almost 12%.

The Bolton Music Service received the most funding there, claiming £2.2million.

The service works with the local community to increase access to quality music making and is one of just eight successful applicants in the area.

Manchester however had 99 successful applicants – a mixture of large organisations such as the Royal Exchange, the Hallé orchestra and Manchester Art Gallery and smaller outfits.

One organisation which operates outside the city centre is Sick! Festival – a series of events such as film and spoken word evenings to encourage better physical and mental health through art and social connection.

Sick! Festival takes place in May in Moston, Harpurhey and Charlestown – the most deprived areas of Greater Manchester according to the 2019 Indices of Deprivation.

The festival aims to provide work that engages with the concerns affecting the health of residents and is created and curated in collaboration with the local community.

Paul Cocker, Head of Business Development for Sick! Festival said: “A lot of money goes into Manchester city centre. What we’ve always tried to do is reach voices from the margins and represent people who don’t always get reached.

“There are employment and health inequalities in the area and that is a key driver for having the festival here. There is a ten-year life expectancy difference between a man in Harpurhey and a man in Didsbury, for example.

“It really does put into perspective the difference between the city centre and the less prosperous suburbs.”

Sick! Festival received £254,000 of funding from the Arts Council, which is one of the larger grants awarded in Manchester.

Factory International received the most funding in Manchester at £9.9million – which is 25% of the total Arts Council funding in Greater Manchester.

This figure includes £9million a year for the running of its new venue Aviva Studios.

The rest funds engagement programmes, events and the Manchester International Festival, which takes place every two years.

A representative from Factory International said: “Last summer’s Manchester International Festival attracted over 325,000 visitors to the city and generated £39.2m of economic activity. A record number of 428 volunteers from across the region helped bring MIF23 to life.

“[It] also offered paid opportunities to more than 150 local musicians and performers from Manchester and over 1,160 children and 25 schools were involved in creative activities as part of MIF23.”

The Greater Manchester Combined Authority named Stockport their ‘Town of Culture’ for 2023, offering funding alongside Stockport Council and One Stockport for more than 50 events over 12 months.

John Macaulay hopes this will help create a more balanced picture for Stockport.

Macaulay said: “GMCA has given a lot of funding in the last nine months to Stockport and it has raised aspirations. We can’t change 0.5% to 25% overnight but I’m really hopeful that next year we will get a bigger slice of the pie.”

A spokesperson from Arts Council England said: “In making decisions, we look at how the work we fund will help to make a difference and we consider the strength of each application alongside other applications we receive.

“Competition for our funds is very high and unfortunately we are unable to fund all the good applications we receive. As an organisation we are continuously monitoring our funding programmes to make sure they are meeting the needs of applicants and the sector.”

Stockport Council said: “We continue to help artists and organisations in Stockport secure external funds, including those supported by Arts Council England, to develop their programmes.”

Featured image Gerald England

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