Northumberland cultural fund to be launched to support new events

Groups and organisations wanting to run events in Northumberland could soon benefit from a slice of a new £100,000 cultural fund.

Monday, 1st April 2019, 5:18 pm
Updated Monday, 1st April 2019, 5:24 pm
The launch of Great Northumberland 2018 in Hexham last July.

The support is part of Great Northumberland 2019, an arts and cultural programme which will take place across the county this summer, aiming to build on last year’s inaugural showcase that ran from July to September.

The Northumberland Cultural Fund, backed by up to £100,000, is due to be signed off by the council’s cabinet next Tuesday (April 9), but was discussed by the corporate services and economic growth committee on Monday (April 1), with members supportive of the idea.

It is proposed that organisations or constituted groups can apply for grants up to a maximum of £10,000, with the deadline for bids being 5pm on Friday, May 24.

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A decision-making panel of councillors and officers would then be convened in late May and successful applicants informed by the beginning of June.

Following a question by Coun Catherine Seymour, it was clarified that groups could bid for grants as small as, say, £200, while the expectation is that most will be around the £1,000 to £2,000 mark. Events cannot be chargeable; access must be free to residents of Northumberland.

A report to councillors concludes: ‘The development of a small cultural fund will continue to enhance the legacy of the Great Northumberland programme, but also facilitate and encourage free and sustainable arts and cultural engagement throughout Northumberland for residents to enhance their health and wellbeing.’

Wendy Scott, the council’s cultural development manager, confirmed, in response to a question from Coun Trevor Cessford, that the fund is for new events and that to be eligible, an existing event would have to demonstrate a new element.

Head of cultural services, Nigel Walsh, added: “The prime objective is to support activity that would not happen without our support.”

Coun John Beynon was worried that groups may be confused about this fund and the council’s existing Community Chest system, despite Ms Scott’s explanation that the two are complementary as the new cultural fund is for revenue costs, while the Community Chest is for capital spending.

For example, the new cultural fund could pay the fees of an artist or performer to appear at an event.

“The application process is very simple and straightforward, it’s very clear what this fund is available to support,” Ms Scott added.

Coun Tom Wilson asked about the council having a timetable of events in an effort to avoid clashes in different place on certain days.

He was told that it has been attempted in the past on a regional basis, but it is ‘really challenging’.

Mr Walsh said: “We encourage people to let us know (about events they are running) so we can give them advice. This will hopefully give us more insight into that.”

Ben O'Connell, Local Democracy Reporting Service