Arts boss praises city’s culture

From left, Dukes creative director Joe Sumsion, Alison Clarke, from Arts Council England, Dukes board member Carolyn Reynolds, Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley, David Lawson from Lancaster City Council, and Dukes executive director Ivan Wadeson.
From left, Dukes creative director Joe Sumsion, Alison Clarke, from Arts Council England, Dukes board member Carolyn Reynolds, Arts Council England Chief Executive Darren Henley, David Lawson from Lancaster City Council, and Dukes executive director Ivan Wadeson.

The chief executive of Arts Council England said Lancaster is “on the up” with “a real sense of aspiration” during a visit to the city this week.

Darren Henley spent the day in Lancaster on Tuesday, April 19, holding talks with people from The Dukes, the city council, the university, Lancaster library, the City Museum and Lancaster Arts Partnership.

He said Lancaster is “a fantastic and attractive heritage city with lots of things happening.”

The head of the national development agency for the arts in England, which provides funding for arts activities, said he had been in post for a year and spends half of his working week “going round the country, meeting people that make arts and culture great”.

Arts Council England has been criticised over recent years for its apparent bias towards London - with London receiving 15 times more funding per head than other regions.

But he told the Lancaster Guardian: “By 2018 we’ll be looking to spend 75 per cent of our National Lottery money outside London, which is up from 70 per cent.

“The other element is the grant and aid budget, and that too has had a direction of travel outside London, into organisations like The Dukes.

“We would anticipate moving more money out of London and keep that going.

“We have a capital city that is world renowned, but I’m absolutely determined to increase centres of arts excellence outside London.”

Mr Henley said he wanted places like Lancaster to bring fundable propositions to the table.

“We want to see confidence and great ideas, which are relevant to the lives of people that live here,” he said.

“I get a sense that this is a place that is on the up and there is a real sense of aspiration. Wherever you live in the country you deserve excellent arts and culture.”

He added that Arts Council England is the national development agency for libraries and he wants to work with libraries - despite the threat many are under - to look at how best to develop them.

Joe Sumsion, creative director at The Dukes, said: “Darren seemed to be very interested in what we are doing.

“We’re spending a lot of time trying to make ourselves indespensible to our local community. Children should grow up with strong access to local culture.

“If the arts council wants to invest more in the regions, I think we can put up a really strong case and I think that’s what we just did.”

Previously managing director of Classic FM, attended the University of Hull.

We work as the national development agency for libraries, and we’re working to bring arts and culture into libraries, and increase connectivity, for example, 90 per cent of libraries now have wi-fi.

We’re keen to work with libraries to look at what we can do to help develop libraries and make them into interesting spaces.

It’s a really challenging time for local authorities at the moment, and I’m very interested to find methods to keep as many libraries open as possible.

I admire the people that run the library services because what they’ve done is re-invent the physical spaces.