Feedback on Sheffield's Major Grants bid from Arts Council England

After giving our voluntary board the chance to discuss the feedback on our recently declined Arts Council Major Grants bid, we have decided to publish the information.  For those of you who don’t mind deciphering the bid-speak our sector indulges in, a pdf of the feedback is available here.

Our brief analysis of this feedback is that Sheffield’s bid was marked down solely on grounds of our ‘core budget weakness’ undermining our ‘resilience’.  In other words, the fact that our core budget is smaller than other services has been interpreted as making Sheffield less capable of delivering the other criteria (for which we scored either ‘outstanding’ or ‘strong’).  The bid guidance requires applicants to be ‘sustainable, resilient and innovative’.  At no point does it reference core budget size, nor imply that this goal will significantly outweigh others.

Museums Sheffield prides itself on the efficient service it maintains on limited means. In the 14 years since Museums Sheffield was established ‘resilience’ (defined as the ability to sustain existence and withstand shocks) has been perhaps our most notable strength.  Furthermore, at a time when Sheffield City Council has been tasked with passing on £57m of savings from central government, they offered to maintain Museums Sheffield’s funding at current levels for the next 3 years – the clearest possible commitment they could give to our sustainability.

In their recent statement Arts Council England recognise that historically, investment levels in the arts have varied across England’ and that this is something they are ‘working hard with our funding partners to address’.  The question remains, why was the largest national funding programme for museums over the next 3 years not seen as an opportunity to redress this balance?  Why was it considered acceptable to actually increase the divide, and withdraw funding from a successful organisation in an under-funded region?

The Arts Council again reference transitional funding and their commitment to investing in the future of Museums Sheffield.  We are grateful to Arts Council Yorkshire for fast-tracking an initial transitional payment. However, our visitors and supporters need to be absolutely clear – transitional funding will largely pay for Museums Sheffield to lay off staff and wind down activity.  The strategic funding we may be able to apply for later in the year is of a much smaller scale than the Major Grant funding denied to Sheffield, and will not support our ambitions for the future as the Arts Council’s statement suggests.

Museums Sheffield staff were informed in an emergency meeting this morning that our voluntary board of trustees, faced with a huge budget reduction from 1 April, have no choice but to enact a large-scale programme of redundancies, affecting every level of the organisation.  Tears were shed. Not personal tears, from those about to lose their jobs, but tears for 14 years of hard-won growth and resilience in the city we’re proud to call our own.





Feb 01 2012


  1. Written by Dave Atkin about 3 years, 8 months ago

    According to the ACE website the final figures to be awarded to each of the 16 Museums to be funded has not been reached - therefore they have the opportunity to re-asses and change their decision about Sheffield. They would not be breaking any rules in doing so - none of the other applicants could complain, the Government could not intervene. It is in the ACE gift to make up the rules as they go along - which they obviously have in making the announcement they have.

  2. Written by George Credland about 3 years, 8 months ago

    "Strong contribution to all 5 ACE Goals, although the pro-active approach to goal 4 is undermined by legacy of financial instability." - so they propose to improve the situation by withdrawing funding?

    I'd love to see stats from ACE showing spend per capita for cities across England together with the percentage change in funding resulting from this round.

  3. Written by George Credland about 3 years, 8 months ago

    ACE strategic funding "will not support our ambitions for the future"

    Clearly crushing disappointment. Not least for the staff who've given so much and deserved better. However please don't give in to despair.

    A few thoughts that came out of the reaction to the announcement:
    - "Sheffield has the largest number of artists/workshops outside London." Ref:
    Whilst it may not be possible to fund significant exhibitions, would it not be possible to showcase new local talent by drawing on this resource?

    -"The problem doesn't just affect Sheffield. The surrounding region is also badly affected."
    a) Do neighbouring museums and galleries have work that'd be worth showing in Sheffield, and we have works that they could exhibit? Whilst art enthusiasts may have travelled to the other organisations and seen the works, I'll bet most won't. This could provide a low cost way to provide variety for local people especially those least able to travel.

    b) ACE funding for outreach in underrepresented communities is available. Whilst Sheffield doesn't qualify, Rotherham and Doncaster are included. Is it possible to extend the great work done locally (and acknowledged by ACE as such) to these communities. Thereby supporting staff on the educational programmes?

    c) Where other museums and galleries have already lost their curators (e.g. Derby), is there any interest in co-funding positions? Clearly these are specialist staff and won't easily be replaced once they're gone.

    d) Working with other regional museums (non-ACE) would it be possible to form a regional consortium to match the scale of the institutions in the more affluent cities? It seems that it an open tender, Sheffield is always likely to be out classed on size of collections and exhibits when considered on its own in direct comparison.

    Whilst too late for this funding round. What can be done to gain representation for South Yorkshire on the ACE Yorkshire board? Again this isn't an issue just for Sheffield but the region as a whole. Will the area ever be a priority for ACE Yorkshire if there is no voice at the table?

    -Whilst there are legal statutes regarding notification of redundancies, is it necessary to rush into this? The transitional funding may only be for a year, but there's still time to work out alternative scenarios.

    "Strength does not come from winning, When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength" - Mohandas Ghandi

  4. Written by Jonathan Turner about 3 years, 8 months ago

    As a photographer who does a lot of work in Sheffield, I'm extremely disappointed to hear this news.

    I've recently finished a project for the Millennium gallery, which involved producing photographs of Sheffield families (for the 'Family matters' exhibition recently opened) as well as working with a large group of young people to help them produce their own photographs for the exhibition. The young people, aged from 13-21, and originating from countries as varied at Afghanistan, Yemen, and Poland, as well as the UK, all enjoyed the experience and, I believe, got a great deal out of it personally. Photography can be a tool for better communication, and as such is incredibly valuable for anyone, especially if you already struggle to communicate.

    The project worked in partnership with the Childrens' Society as well as the Youth Offending service, both of whom have been supportive of the work being done by the Millennium gallery. As the theme of the work was about family it was a good opportunity for the young people to explore what this meant to them personally, and for some of them this was also, I believe, extremely valuable.

    It's a hard kock to the good work being done in Sheffield, and I don't see how the gallery will be able to maintain anything like this level of provision for the city, both in exhibition of art, or in their very valuable outreach work. For those such as myself; artists looking for opportunities for work and raising their profiles, this is also very bad news!

    Everyone understands that cuts have to be made across the country, but as far as I can see, no one understands why Sheffield has to lose out in such a big way.

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