Opinion: Arts Council boss on plans to invest nearly £4m in Northumberland

Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley has been speaking following the announcement that Northumberland is to receive nearly £4m over the next three years.
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Our job at Arts Council England is to invest in arts organisations, museums and libraries to make sure everyone can feel the joy and inspiration that experiencing great creativity and culture can bring. This week we announced which organisations in Northumberland we will be regularly investing in over the next three years.

We believe that people in Northumberland deserve to enjoy the benefits of increased investment in arts and culture. This means more of us can continue to experience the very best and most ambitious art and culture - often free to access - wherever we live, whatever our background, whatever our passion.

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The beauty of Northumberland, including its dramatic coastline and dark skies, has proved a creative inspiration to many artists and writers born here or drawn to visit or to settle in the county.

Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England.Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England.
Darren Henley, chief executive of Arts Council England.

But Northumberland’s geography and scattered communities means that taking advantage of creative and cultural opportunities, whether as a career or to help wellbeing, is not as easy for everyone as it might be elsewhere.

That is why Northumberland is one of our Levelling Up for Culture Places, an area where for too long our investment has been too low.

We have just announced that we will invest £3,871,356 in Northumberland over the next three years.

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It includes increased support to Woodhorn Charitable Trust which will receive just over £1 million over the next three years to help sustain its work running Woodhorn and other museums in Berwick, Morpeth and Hexham.

The Maltings in Berwick which has exciting plans to upgrade the arts centre in the town, will get over £538,000 across three years to support its varied programme of work and we will continue to support their neighbour Berwick Film & Media Arts for its renowned festival.

There will be new investment in Northumberland for Headway Arts, based in Blyth, and theatre company Mortal Fools, which has a presence in Ashington and Prudhoe.

Set up in 1995, Headway Arts, provides opportunities for people to take part in creative activities and has produced brilliant original work in dance, theatre and visual arts.

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Mortal Fools began as a youth theatre group in a village hall but is now an award-winning company that works with thousands of young people every year, delivers training courses and tours projects across the country.

We are continuing our support of November Club, based in Morpeth, which has a reputation for innovative theatre productions in unconventional spaces. It launches its new production, The Locked Door, at the National Trust’s Seaton Delaval Hall this month.

There is also another three years of funding for Queen’s Hall Arts, which runs Hexham’s popular arts centre and delivers arts activities to parts of rural Northumberland, and for contemporary poetry publisher Bloodaxe Books also based in Hexham.

In towns from Berwick to Blyth, and in villages in between, we hope the benefits of our investment over the next three years will be enjoyed not only by those already connecting with Northumberland’s excellent cultural offering, but also by new audiences - especially young people.

I feel certain the investment announced this week will help all these organisations to reach even more people, making Northumberland an even more rewarding place to live, work, study or visit.