Birmingham Museums Trust, which runs several high profile public attractions, is facing “a very uncertain future” today after an application for crisis funding during the coronavirus pandemic was turned down by Arts Council England.

There is mounting criticism of this controversial decision as the Arts Council England (ACE) issued a total of £33million emergency response funding and approved 196 applications from various UK organisations but denied the desperately urgent Birmingham Museums Trust application.

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to impact on businesses and organisations across the country there is worrying news about the future of some high profile public attractions which are under the wing of Birmingham Museums Trust which has been denied emergency funding by ACE.

Birmingham Museums Trust runs a number of important public attractions including Aston Hall, Sarehole Mill, the Museum of the Jewellery Quarter, Soho House, Weoley Castle, Thinktank, Blakesley Hall, and the Museum Collections Trust.

Aston Hall, Birmingham Museums Trust.BMAG
Aston Hall, Birmingham Museums Trust.

A spokesperson for Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery released a statement after ACE confirmed there would be no funding: “Unfortunately, we have been unsuccessful in our application to the Arts Council England (ACE) Emergency Response Fund.

“The impact of closing our doors and the decreased footfall expected over the coming months ahead leaves us in a very difficult position.

“This industry makes a significant contribution to the economy and impacts many people’s lives – it must be protected.

“At this stage we face a very uncertain future.”

Sarehole Mill, Birmingham Museums TrustBMAG
Sarehole Mill, Birmingham Museums Trust

The recipients of the Arts Council England grants included:

  • Geffrye Museum of the Home (£145,000)
  • Black Country Living Museum Trust (£1.17m)
  • Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust (£500,000)
  • Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (£900,000)
  • Beamish Museum (£425,000)
  • Cumbria Museum Consortium (£553,806)
  • People’s History Museum (£25,922)
  • The Bronte Society (£133,000)
  • York Museums Trust (£362,000)
  • Chatham Historic Dockyard Trust (£243,000)
  • Luton Cultural Services Trust – Wardown House (£51,471)
  • Museum of East Anglian Life (£88,950)
  • ss Great Britain Trust (£435,998)
  • Design Museum (£997,111)
  • Institute of Contemporary Arts (£289,368)
  • South London Gallery (£150,000)
  • The Photographers’ Gallery (£280,000)
  • Whitechapel Gallery (£150,000)
  • The Lowry Centre Trust (£1.29m)
  • Centre for Chinese Contemporary Art (£16,868)
  • The Hepworth Wakefield Trust (£40,000)
  • Yorkshire Sculpture Park (£350,000)
  • The Story Museum (£210,797)
  • De La Warr Pavilion (£375,000)
  • Firstsite (£250,000)
  • Hastings Contemporary (£67,013)
Thinktank, Birmingham Museums TrustBMAG
Thinktank, Birmingham Museums Trust

Darren Henley, chief executive at ACE, said:  “Since the outbreak of Covid-19, our main priority has been to ensure that as much of our country’s cultural ecology as possible survives the summer – from individual artists and freelancers, to museums, libraries and arts organisations, both large and small, located in every corner of the country.”

James Smith, a Birmingham resident, shared his views about the ACE decision on the Birmingham Museum and Art Gallery Facebook page: “Ridiculous – one of the most important museums in the country in the second largest city and the ACE don’t provide a grant, especially in the light of how stretched Birmingham City Council’s budgets are.

“Birmingham is already really poorly served in terms of funding per head and BMAG has international significance and importance. What more did they need to convince them?”

Birmingham Museums Trust has appealed to the public to support the trust by giving donations.


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