Museums miss out on £4.2m grants

Under the Sea  Exhibition Millennium gallery. Artist Paul Evans with his life size charcol drawing of a Killer Whale ' Away from the Pod'. Millennium gallery staff member  Rowena Hamilton with the UK Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef
Under the Sea Exhibition Millennium gallery. Artist Paul Evans with his life size charcol drawing of a Killer Whale ' Away from the Pod'. Millennium gallery staff member Rowena Hamilton with the UK Hyperbolic Crochet Coral Reef

MUSEUMS Sheffield has received a ‘devastating’ blow after missing out on grants which would have been worth £4.2 million over the next three years.

The trust said the knock-back from Arts Council England, whose existing £800,000 annual grant to Museums Sheffield is coming to an end, means a 30 per cent budget cut, 45 job losses and an end to staging major exhibitions of national and international importance.

The devastating news came on a black day for Sheffield’s arts and cultural scene as Sheffield Council also announced £900,000 of cuts in the sector over the next year.

Museums Sheffield lost out on its bid to the Arts Council’s Renaissance major grants programme despite Sheffield already having the lowest allocation from the organisation of any major city in England.

The lack of funding will mean no more significant exhibitions of a national standard, such as the current China: Journey To The East British Museum Tour on display at Weston Park, an end to links with the Tate Gallery and Victoria and Albert Museums, and ‘greatly reduced’ educational activity with schools and adults.

Museums Sheffield chief executive Nick Dodd said: “This is bitterly disappointing. Funding from the Arts Council England’s outgoing scheme has transformed the quality of museum and gallery provision in Sheffield over the past eight years.

“We know we put together a compelling case for continued funding under the new Arts Council grants programme, which met all the published criteria.

“This decision will have a devastating impact. We fully intend to appeal.”

Museums Sheffield said it is still in negotiations with Sheffield Council over its main funding settlement for 2012/13.

The council supported Museums Sheffield’s bid to the Arts Council, promising to the current annual grant of £2.044 million for the next three years - but may now reconsider.

Sheffield Council leader Coun Julie Dore said: “This is a huge disappointment. We know Sheffield had a very strong bid and should have been recognised for its cultural offer.”

Sandra Newton, a trustee of Museums Sheffield, which runs the Millennium Galleries, Graves Gallery and Weston Park Museum, believes the loss of Arts Council England funding would send the three venues into a ‘downward spiral’.

There could be fewer donations and income from commercial activities as no more big exhibitions will mean a likely decline in visitors, she warned.

In total, 29 applications were made for major grants to the Arts Council, 16 of which were granted - including in Leeds and York, for Oxford and Cambridge University Museums and two museums in London.

In 2010, Sheffield only received £4.62 per head in Arts Council grants, the lowest of any large city outside London. Leeds received the most - £20.32 per head.

Museums Sheffield has pledged that none of its sites will close but 45 of the trust’s 107 staff would be made redundant.

Arts Council England said it was looking to see whether extra money could be allocated to Museums Sheffield from remaining Renaissance funding, worth £23 million each year.