Record ACE NPO Investment for Lancashire


Arts Lancashire is pleased to report that Arts Council England will invest a further £10.1 million into Lancashire’s cultural sector over the next three years through its National Portfolio Organisation programme. In total, 18 Lancashire organisations will join the portfolio for 2023 – 2026. Despite keeping funding at a standstill for many of our existing NPOs, this investment represents a 59.1% increase on the county’s current ACE NPO investment levels.

10 Lancashire arts organisations who currently have Arts Council England (ACE) National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status will continue to be supported as NPO organisations in 2023 – 26.

Retaining their NPO investment are:

Blackpool Grand Theatre, Burnley Youth Theatre, Horse + Bamboo and The Grundy Art Gallery will also receive an increase on their current investment from ACE. These uplifts recognise the major contribution that these organisations make to the cultural life of Lancashire and are a tribute to their commitment to excellence.

We are also delighted that a further 8 organisations have been brought into the portfolio within Lancashire for the first time. These include:

Blackburn Museum & Art Gallery, the local museum service for the borough of Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

British Textile Biennial in Blackburn, which throws a spotlight on the nation’s creativity, innovation and expression in textiles in Lancashire.

Culturapedia, an arts organisation in Blackburn which also runs Spot On Rural & Small Urban Touring and Spot On Library & Museum Programming.

The National Festival of Making in Blackburn, which is unique celebration of UK making, from the kitchen table to the factory floor, and which also includes the Art In Manufacturing programme.

The Whittaker, a forward-facing museum and art gallery in Rossendale.

LightPool, an annual light art festival which takes place during Blackpool Illuminations.

Dance Syndrome, an inclusive dance charity in Accrington.

Idle Women, an arts, environment ?and social justice collaboration ?founded by artists in Hyndburn.

Earlier this year, Arts Council England designated Blackpool and Blackburn as Priority Places and Blackpool, Blackburn, Burnley, Fylde, Hyndburn, Pendle, Preston, Rossendale, West Lancashire and Wyre as Levelling Up Places, in recognition of these areas as having historically low engagement in culture and low investment into culture from Arts Council England. The increase in NPOs in several of these areas reflects ACE commitment to these priorities.

Lancashire’s 2023 – 26 cohort of ACE NPOs will contribute to making the arts in the county more inclusive, accessible and representative. The renewed investment in the county’s arts sector will also ensure continued opportunities for existing and emerging local artistic talent to develop their practice and fulfil their creative career ambitions in the place where they live.

Despite these successes, we are deeply disappointed for Ludus Dance who will not receive continued NPO funding beyond March 2023. They are a key player in Lancashire’s cultural sector and have played a critical role in championing contemporary dance practice and Lancashire artists over many years. Of course, Ludus Dance are still able to attract specific project funding, where they have had considerable recent success and we look forward to continuing to support their plans as they reshape their financial model so that they can continue to develop and prosper.

Alex O’Toole Chair of Arts Lancashire said,

“This is an incredible achievement for Lancashire and we’re thrilled for all 18 Lancashire organisations who have been awarded NPO status for 2023 – 26. This is the largest ever ACE investment into the county’s cultural sector to date.

We know that ACE has been under extraordinary pressure to increase their funding to the regions outside of London for this NPO round whilst also receiving a record-breaking number of applications from organisations across the country. For Lancashire to increase its number of NPOs from 11 to 18 is phenomenal, particularly as some of our existing NPOs also received an increased investment for their work.  However, for others it means three more years of standstill funding, which is a cut in real terms. As our NPOs are also key commissioners of art in the county, this will have a disproportionate effect on independent?artists and collectives, as well as smaller, non-NPO arts organisations, who rely on NPO commissions and who are also a vital part of the Lancashire’s ecology.

Despite these concerns, Lancashire is well represented in the new NPO portfolio overall, which is a strong endorsement of the county’s importance to England’s cultural ecology and profile. Arts Lancashire would like to take this opportunity to thank Arts Council England for its continued support of Lancashire’s arts organisations through NPO, Strategic Funds and Grants for the Arts, and all of the many artists and audiences who contribute to our collective work.”

Ed Matthews Gentle, Programme Leader at Creative Lancashire, said,


The increased investment into the county will enhance the capacity in our organisations and places that is key to developing local ecologies in our towns and cities. This endorsement by Arts Council of the propositions put forward by our dynamic organisations will enable culture to play a transformational role in Lancashire through nurturing a stronger and more diverse economic base, infusing innovative practice and greatly enhancing the quality of life for citizens.”


Lancashire County Councillor Peter Buckley, Cabinet member for Community and Cultural Services, said,


“We’re proud of our quality cultural offer in Lancashire. It sits at the heart of county’s levelling up plans so I’m delighted that Arts Council England will be increasing their investment into Lancashire’s cultural sector through their National Portfolio. I would like to extend my congratulations to each of the Lancashire organisations selected. The increased investment will help realise the county’s cultural ambitions and build on exciting opportunities provided by Lancashire’s cultural organisations through festivals and events, contemporary arts, theatre, music and dance programmes, in our libraries and museums and online. It will also ensure that there is further potential to develop cultural engagement and participation for communities right across Lancashire so that more people across the county can access art and culture no matter where they live. I look forward to working more closely with Arts Council England and with the new Lancashire NPOs through our support of Arts Lancashire.”


LEAP by Imitating The Dog (Image Credit: Robin Zahler)

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