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'We need the support of local authorities - we can't do it all': Arts Council chair Sir Nicholas Serota in Sheffield

Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of Arts Council England, in Sheffield. Picture: Chris Etchells

Councils need to increase their support for culture if local projects are to attract more funding from Arts Council England, Sir Nicholas Serota said on his first visit to Sheffield as the organisation's chair.

Last summer ACE increased its national porfolio funding outside London by 4.6 per cent - £170m - over four years until 2022, giving groups in Sheffield £13 million, a rise of 21 per cent.

Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council chair, took a tour of the Site Gallery in Sheffield which is undergoing a 2.7m expansion. Picture: Chris Etchells

Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council chair, took a tour of the Site Gallery in Sheffield which is undergoing a 2.7m expansion. Picture: Chris Etchells

Major beneficiaries included Sheffield Theatres, which was allocated more than £5m - Museums Sheffield will receive £3.2m and the Site Gallery is getting £1.3m, up by nearly £500,000.

Sir Nick went to Site to monitor progress on the gallery's £2.7m expansion scheme, as well as visiting the Millennium and Graves Galleries, and the Crucible Theatre.

Read more: 'One of the most perfect galleries in the north': Inside Site's £2.7m expansion in Sheffield

Asked whether ACE would be similarly generous with its regional spending in future, Serota said: "We need the support of local authorities. Because we can't do it all. Where local authorities invest, we will try to match that. We know there are all kinds of pressures on local authorities, and we recognise that, but we need to see support from people in cities like Sheffield and then we can respond."

The £170m increase equates to 'roughly' £40m a year, he said. "And we gave a small number of organisations an uplift. One of those was Site - we increased the grant to Site by 60 per cent in recognition of what they have done and will do in the future."

The gallery, on Brown Street, is to treble in size by extending its gallery, café and events space, and opening a new shop, workspaces to let and a participation area.

"I think it's proving the argument that if you have good organisations with really good people they will prosper in the city. And we want to back success," said Serota, director of the Tate museums and galleries from 1988 to 2017. He was appointed chair of ACE last February.

The next national portfolio funding allocation will be announced in 2021. "It's three years' time, there's a lot of water to go under the bridge. The Arts Council seeks to try and support those organisations that are doing well; it doesn't always have the money to do it, but 60 per cent is a big increase, by anyone's standards. It puts Site in a new league, really, among the galleries across the country."

In 2017 he said ACE wanted to 'reach more people in more places'. Four big London organisations - The National Theatre, the Royal Opera House, the Southbank Centre and the Royal Shakespeare Company - were given smaller settlements.