Anger at revelation arts venues in region have received lowest support in the whole country

The Government has been accused of failing to back its 'levelling up' agenda after the arts sector in the West Midlands received the lowest grant support in the country.

Albert's Shed in Telford received £580,000
Albert's Shed in Telford received £580,000

Dozens of venues across the region received nearly £17 million from the Government's £257m Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), with grants aimed at helping venues and organisations to survive the Covid-19 pandemic.

But the figure – which equated to £2.86 per person – was the lowest amount of nine regions in the country.

London organisations were given £87m – £9.71 per capita, while in the South West £26.6m was handed out, at £4.72 per head.

The funding comes after thousands of venues across the West Midlands, including theatres, concert halls and galleries, were forced to close due to the pandemic.

Pat McFadden MP, the Shadow City Minister, said the level of grant support for the West Midlands appeared to go against Boris Johnson's pledge to "level up" the country.

He said: "So much for levelling up.

"The West Midlands arts and cultural sector needs help just like everywhere else. Our venues can’t operate and thousands of jobs are on the line.

"Yet these figures show us receiving the lowest help per capita in the whole country.

"In this case the Government has certainly not put its money where its mouth is."

MP Pat McFadden wants to see more cash given to venues in the region

A total of £1.24m has been handed to eight businesses in Shropshire. Albert’s Shed in Telford, which received £580,000, and The Hive arts centre in Shrewsbury, which got £74,000, were among grant recipients.

Further tranches of funding are due to be announced in the coming weeks.

A spokesperson from Arts Council England said: "The Culture Recovery Fund announcement made on Monday was for applicants to Round 1 for under £1m and therefore does not show a complete picture of the final overall investment into the West Midlands from this vital Government funding.

"This scheme was open to applications and designed to help protect the existing cultural sector from this terrible pandemic.

"Without the outcomes of the other Culture Recovery Funds rounds and repayable finance scheme, it is not possible to see the overall investment picture across the country."

Many have been left asking if our great venues are playing second fiddle to London?

Of that near-£17m handed out, £6.2m has been given to 39 groups across the border in the Black Country and again in Birmingham.

While across Staffordshire, five groups in Lichfield, Cannock, Stafford and South Staffordshire received around £1.2m.

It is hardly surprising that recipients have welcomed the funding with open arms.

The Hive in Shrewsbury received £74,000

After all, there is a strong argument for the cultural sector being the hardest hit by the pandemic, with venues forced to close when the first major lockdown was announced back in March.

Many are not planning to reopen until next year, and the grants received will help them to keep their heads above water until punters can finally return through their doors.

Yet across the whole region, the Arts Council funding equates to just £2.86 per head, the lowest figure in the country and way behind the nation’s capital, where £9.71 per person has been handed out.

In fact, of the 1,385 organisations to be awarded cash so far, a third of them are in London, where 34 per cent of the CRF funding total of £257m has been allocated.

They included Belgrade Theatre, which received just under the maximum amount allowed of £1m, and the Soho Theatre company, which got around £900,000.

There is more funding to come, with businesses that bid for grants of more than £1m set to find out if they are successful over the next few weeks.

Labour figures in the West Midlands have seized on the disparity as evidence Whitehall is not sticking to its own much-heralded “levelling up” agenda.

Critics have also pointed to a perceived lack of support for live music venues, with a disproportionately high amount of funding going to theatres and non-musical organisations.

Birmingham has seen just two per cent of the CRF's £257m cash pot

According to analysis from the Birmingham Live Music Project (BLMP), live music organisations in the Second City have benefitted from just two per cent of the first round of CRF cash.

Dr Patrycja Rozbicka said: “As anticipated, across all 28 music organisations to receive a CRF award in Birmingham, only a few are venues or organisations which have a dedicated and primary focus on live music.

“Out of 197 live music venues active on the scene in Birmingham before the lockdown, only an estimated six per cent have received funding in the scheme.

“Across 1,385 theatres, museums, music venues and cultural organisations that will receive help from CRF across the whole country, only 28 businesses or organisations in Birmingham benefit, to the tune of £5,285,771.

“Birmingham is the second largest city after London, yet secured just two per cent of the funding available.”

The BLMP has warned that without financial support many live music venues in the city may not survive the pandemic.

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