Looking at National Portfolio Orgs, and some questions from a friend

In my continuing quest for a bird’s eye view on the arts & culture landscape, today I poked at the current data on the Arts Council’s National Portfolio Organisations (NPO). On the Arts Council website, there’s an Excel download of all the NPO organisations for 2018-2022. So, I downloaded that, and made a Google spreadsheet version: Copy of all NPOs and funding 2018-2022.

Copy of all NPOs and funding 2018-2022

I found this useful to help with grounding amongst all the big numbers flying around. It helped me realise that the £1.57M relief promised to the sector is a big amount, since that’s just below the total funding across all NPOs for 2018-2022, which amounts to £1,622,621,636. The difficult part is that there are 840 organisations listed here, and — even though I’m not sure anyone actually knows — there are lots more than 840 arts orgs across the UK.

The disciplines listed are:

  • Combined arts
  • Dance
  • Literature
  • Museums
  • Music
  • Theatre
  • Visual arts, and
  • Not specific

When I sorted the sheet by Column 0 (% change in support from one period to the other) + Column D (Funding band) + Column N (Total Funding 2018-2022), you quickly see:

  • 187 orgs have been added for four-year period, adding £147,487,464 to the funding pot
  • Without Walls and Arts & Heritage Plymouth City Council are the big new NPOs in terms of £, each with over £1,000,000 investment each year – yay!
  • 526 orgs have retained the same level of funding across both periods, 0% change
  • You can see little blobs of new NPOs at round funding figures; like seeds

Some other facts I didn’t know before poking at this data:

  • Royal Opera House is funded to the tune of £24,028,840 annually (and that’s about 20% of its income normally)
  • There are 36 “Band 3” orgs, which receive a minimum of £1,000,000 per year, and have other requirements around diversity, international collaboration, education, digital etc, per Page 41 of the NPO Relationship Framework.
  • There are 58 Sector Support Organisations (SSOs), including 24 new ones in this period. SSOs are great.

I found this table not very helpful in the ACE-produced NPO info, perhaps because it doesn’t connect with the overall list of NPOs or show crossover, for example a BME+LGBT+Female-led? Or, am I missing something blindingly obvious here?

ACE NPO Investment Factsheet PDF

What are the big juicy questions?

The questions from my friend, and long time advisor and conversator from afar, Eliza Gregory, has been chatting and emailing with me about all this… and she’s sent me questions that I like so much, I’m just going to copy them in here.

  1. What are the social implications of entrenching cultural wealth in terms of endowments, grants and artifacts?
  2. What social problems are connected to these practices?
  3. And on the other side, what might society be like if we changed the way a portion of that wealth is held or distributed?
  4. In what ways do these practices uphold the colonial project/the colonial/Victorian legacy that actually holds the entire society back?
  5. In what ways do these practices continue to explicitly support white supremacy?
  6. And what would it mean for all people to be liberated from that structure?
  7. Can we picture ourselves freed from it?
  8. What does that look like?
  9. What does that feel like? (So, so good.) 

Again, rough stuff, comments welcome, suggestions for direction or collaborators who are doing similar things even more welcome!

Arm’s Length Data?

I’ve spent today looking up the 2019 Annual Reports of all the Arm’s Length Organisations that DCMS gives grant-in-aid funding to. I’ve put some figures I think are involved in my learning about Who Needs It Less?

I’ve made a Google spreadsheet called DCMS Arm’s Length Orgs snapshot – 2018-2019, and anyone can view with this link. Please tread carefully! THERE MAY BE ERRORS. This is rough work, comments welcome!

These are big numbers. I’ve collated a few different fields per organisation I think are interesting:

  • Total income (for that year)
  • Total expenditure
  • Net income (which may be in the red)
  • Fixed assets (which likely include tangible, intangible, heritage, and certain types of investments)
  • Current assets (like stocks, debtors or cash)
  • Grant-in-aid figure if I could find it in the Annual Report (and there’s a second sheet in the spreadsheet that gets that number per org from a doc I found from Parliament, which is linked as the source)
  • Endowment if that figure is noted separately

From this basic by-hand aggregation, you can see stuff like the BBC’s Total Income in 2018 was £4,889,000,000 or National Gallery had the highest Net Income at £15,400,000.

Then I added two % calculations:

  1. Current Assets as a percentage of the Total Income for that year, and
  2. Grant-in-aid as a percentage of the Total Income for that year

Now, I’m not stating anything resembling an approach to trying to figure out which orgs to support and how, but, I’m wondering about these two percentage figures… could they be some measure of health or stability? As Frankie rightly commented on my previous post about this, the Fixed Assets held by our great institutions are probably basically irrelevant, since they’re practically priceless. But maybe if you can say something like the Imperial War Museum has Current Assets that could cover about 64% of its annual income, does that get us anywhere? Or that Royal Armouries has 12% coverage from its Current Assets?

What if we look for orgs that have current (or, more fluid) assets that cover less than 20% of their annual income for 2018 and help them first? Or 50%? Better yet, we could filter that list to deliberately favour BAME and LGBT and disabled-led orgs.

What if the government (and our society) is able to seize this moment to actively work against the preferential structures in its own system? It could actively generate assets for littlies. Grant them 1-3 years equivalent to their 2018 income, and give them an endowment equal to the average of the Arm’s Length orgs, which by my rough calculations is 47% of 2018 income in the bank. That would be a reflection of the healthy situation DCMS has built with their Arm’s Length program, would it not?

I thought I’d have a look at NPOs next, poking at that Current Assets idea. It can be enlightening to see who has no wealth, when that’s such a marker of systemic exclusion.

Notes on data creation:

  • I’ve left comments on cells if something odd or there’s extra info or detail
  • Sources are individual org’s annual reports, linked in Column B
  • If there’s an overarching group, I’ve used that number
  • Director’s Pay is the total package, salary + pension etc
  • DCMS grant in aid is as noted in the annual report
  • I’ve basically looked for what appears to be the same numbers across all the annual report documents – that’s mostly the Balance Sheet and Financial Statements
  • If I’ve left a cell (or row, in the case of the BBC) blank, that means it’s too hard for me to find or process or put into this structure

Cate Blanchett speaks at Gough Whitlam’s funeral


He said of his government: ‘In any civilised community the arts and associated amenities must occupy a central place. Their enjoyment should not be seen as remote from everyday life. Of all the objectives of my government, none had a higher priority than the encouragement of the arts; the preservation and enrichment of our cultural and intellectual heritage. Indeed, I would argue that all other objectives of a Labor government — social reform, justice and equity in the provision of welfare services and educational opportunities — have as their goal the creation of a society in which the arts and the appreciation of spiritual and intellectual values can flourish.

‘Our other objectives are all means to an end. The enjoyment of the arts is an end in itself.