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CULTURE IN THE COALFIELDS A Call for Equal Funding for Former Mining Communities




Foreword by John Mann MP

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Executive Summary

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Funding for the Arts

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Funding for Sport

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Reasons to Act

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A Plan for Action

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Foreword by John Mann Member of Parliament for Bassetlaw

My research has revealed a huge disparity in Arts and Sports Funding between London and the former English coalfields. Since I first highlighted this issue to Parliament in 2007, it remains the case that some London boroughs receive more funding than entire regions of the UK. Indeed, Islington has received more Arts Council funding in absolute terms than large parts of the former coalfields, let alone on a per capita basis. For the last 10 years, I have repeatedly drawn Ministers’ attention to the deficit of culture spending on the coalfields. Whilst residents in some places are falling over dance studios, orchestras and operas, people in my area must travel miles to get anything like the same quality of provision. A lack of access to theatres, concerts and museums puts children in the former coalfields at a severe disadvantage compared to their peers in London. A lack of sporting facilities compound inequalities in health outcomes and deny vital opportunities to young people simply because of where they grow up.

I am calling on the government to act to make sure every child has the same access, wherever they grow up. That means Ministers immediately holding the Arts Council and Sport England to account over the public money they distribute and making sure that coalfield areas like mine get the funding they deserve. Those distributing public money have a responsibility to ensure fair access, and to work with communities to ensure that all share in the benefits.


Executive Summary

Image: The Playhouse Theatre in Nottingham (above)

There is vastly unequal spend in Arts and Sports spending in London versus the former coalfields

For every £8 spent by the Arts Council for England in London, just £1 has been spent in the former coalfields in the last decade

Some parts of the former coalfields receive no funding at all in some periods

A single London borough, Islington, has received £2 from the Arts Council for England for every £3 spent in the coalfields, despite having a population just a fraction of the size.

For every £4 spent by Sport England in London, less than £1 was spent in the coalfields since 2009/10

The lack of funding heightens socio-economic inequalities and risks worsening higher education progression, labour market ambitions and public health outcomes for young people.

This report recommends a strategy to Ministers in the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport to address the inequalities and ensure that every child has fair access to Arts and Sports facilities wherever they grow up.


Funding for the Arts

The Arts Council England is responsible for distributing public money, from the Government and National Lottery, to support artistic and cultural projects across England. Its stated aim is to make great art that has an impact on everyone’s lives. However, distribution of funding across England tells a very different tale. The Arts Council spends money in multiple ways: through its National Portfolio, Grants for the Arts, National Lottery Project Grants, Arts Council Development Funds and Other Funds. Combining the Arts’ Council’s own figures on its funded projects for the last ten years demonstrates that it has a long way to go to impact everyone’s lives equally.

Image: The London Sinfonietta (above), based in Islington, receive £499,565 in Arts Council National Portfolio funding per year

In total, from 2007/8 to 2017/8, the Arts Council has spent £4.2bn in London against less than £0.5bn in the former coalfields. Overall, coalfield areas have received just £1 for every £8 spent in London since 2007/8. Some parts of the former coalfields receive no funding at all in some periods. A single London borough, Islington, has received £2 for every £3 spent in the coalfields, despite having a population just a fraction of the size.

Image: DARTS, Doncaster Community Arts Centre (above), based in South Yorkshire, receive £130,881 p/a from the same fund


The National Portfolio, the main source of regular grants from the Arts Council, has some of the most striking disparities overall. The National Portfolio figures for 201518 show Islington receiving 95% of the amount received by the former coalfields, despite its population being just a fraction of the size. London as a whole received over eleven times more funding than the former coalfields. Some welcome progress has been made in recent years to address the funding disparities. Whereas the Arts Council spent £11.21 in London for each £1 spent in the coalfields in 2007/8, by 2016/7 this had fallen to £4.68 per £1.

Regrettably, this progress does not seem to be consistent. Nor does it go far enough. In 2017/8, the ratio of money spent in London to the coalfields had more than doubled from the previous year, rising to £9.27. Meanwhile, the National Portfolio for 2018-22 shows Islington still receiving 73% of the coalfield’s spend, whilst London continues to receive eight times more. Whilst the Arts Council is rightly proud to have begun rebalancing its portfolio away from London, the former coalfields have risen from just 4.1% of total spend in 2015-18 to 4.8% in 2018-22.

£4,199,365,831 Funding for London Population: ~9m 2007/8 to present

£497,967,216 Funding for English Coalfields Population: 4.2m (estimated) 2007/8 to present

£332,242,799 Funding for Islington Population: 225,000 2007/8 to present


Rebalancing the figures, and addressing the inequality in funding requires a new approach. The Arts Council must commit to moving not just out of London, but towards poorer, less connected communities. Whilst projects in urban centres outside London are valuable, they do little to address long travel times and the high cost of attending them. Assisting potential projects in such areas to apply for funding must also be a core part of the approach to bring new areas and projects into the funding mix.




Chart 1: Total Arts Council Funding to London and the Coalfields 2007/8 to present 2017/18

2016/17 2015/16


2014/15 2013/14 2012/13


2011/12 2010/11 2009/10 2008/9 2007/8







Chart 2: Arts Council National Portfolio 2015-18 (above left) and 2018-22 by region (above right)




Funding for Sport

Sport England invests money from the Exchequer and the Lottery for projects which seek to ensure that everybody can benefit from sport or physical activity. Their stated goal is to ensure that age, background or ability present no barrier to becoming involved. Whilst Sport England’s figures do not show quite the same disparity between the coalfields and London as the Arts Council, there remains deep inequality in the areas awarded funding. From 2009/10 to 2017/8, for every £1 spent in the coalfields, just over £4 was spent in London.

This is around twice the disparity in headline spend that a fair per capita funding formula would create.

Image: Stockton Splash Leisure Centre (above), in the North East, received £82,000 in Sport England Exchequer Awards in 2009/10

Funding for London Population: ~9m 2009/10 to present

Funding for English Coalfields Population: 4.2m (estimated) 2009/10 to present Image: Fulham Football Club Foundation (above) in West London received £34,760 in Sport England Exchequer Awards in 2009/10

£779,681,270 £194,417,246 8

Sport England has recently updated its objectives to include prioritising under-represented groups and using behaviour change to guide decisions and boost physical activity.

Chart 3: Spend in coalfields versus London and rest of UK

Coalfield areas receive just 8% of Sport England spend. London receives 33%.

Both of these objectives should lead Sport England to concentrate on the former coalfields as key areas for increased funding. With public health poorer and average income lower, there is a real case for extra investment here. There are several ways this should be carried out. For young people in coalfield areas to have access to the same opportunities available to those in cities like London, more funding needs to be made available to projects. Sport England should work with community organisations, schools and local authorities to develop competitive bid. Where sporting facilities are limited and the cost and time of travel high, Sport England should work to waive entrance fees to enable all to have fair access.





% with general health bad or very bad 8.6

% with a lot of limitation on day-to-day activity 12.6

North Staffordshire West Cumbria

7.9 7.7

11.8 11.8

North Derbyshire Northumberland Lancashire Yorkshire Nottinghamshire GB-average SE England

7.6 7.6 7.5 7.4 7.1 5.6 4.3

11.6 11.1 11.3 11.2 11 8.6 6.9

Chart 4: Obesity in coalfields vs London and rest of UK Source: Sheffield Hallam University (2014), ‘State of the Coalfields’


Reasons to Act

The figures on inequality in funding for cultural activities in the former coalfields demonstrate plainly the grotesque inequality between the regions of England. This alone should be reason to act. This inequality has real consequences which are felt in our communities. A lack of cultural activities mean that far too many young people in the coalfields can grow up without ever having visited the theatre or a museum. Schools facing chronic funding shortages find it hard to justify the cost to parents and the loss to teaching time needed to travel long distances for cultural activities. Young people with a passion for the Arts in the coalfields find it harder to get involved in activities that interest them. This can hinder their chances of pursuing careers in the Arts, or of attending universities or colleges to study their chosen courses. Public health in the former coalfields is much worse than the national average.

Image: School visit to the British Museum, London

A lack of sporting facilities to get people active makes it more difficult to get fit, raising the cost to our National Health Services and increasing the likelihood of chronic health problems. For all of these reasons, now is the time to address the funding inequalities that are leaving our coalfield communities behind.


A Plan for Action

Image: School visit to the Natural History Museum, London

Now is the time for Ministers to act. This report calls for: •

Fair funding for the Arts and Sport for all regions of the UK, ensuring that London is not unfairly advantaged in per capita terms

Moving funding away from the Cities to towns and rural areas, making sure that no one is unfairly excluded from Arts or Sports activities because of where they live

Funding bodies to work hand-in-hand with local stakeholders to encourage and develop competitive bids, helping community organisations, sports teams, schools and others to get access to the funding they need and deserve

Making access truly equal for all, by considering the costs of travel and the time lost by long journey times for cultural activities. Subsidising travel to cultural and sporting events outside of the cities should be a key part of this.

Ensuring that every community in England has high quality Sports and Arts provision, by making it government policy that no town, constituency or local authority area should lack provision. This should be a the forefront of the minds of those making funding decisions in the Arts Council and Sport England.



This report uses data from government sources of approved grants in the Arts and Sports. This data is broken down by parliamentary constituency.

The data used was requested from the Arts Council and Sport England. The full datasets are available on request.

By defining a set of parliamentary constituencies as ‘Coalfield Communities’ it is possible to analyse the proportion of cultural spending allocated to coalfield and to other regions.

Parliamentary constituencies are used to distinguish coalfield areas from others in this report. This report has made a judgement on each constituency based on lists of coalfield communities from the Coalfield Communities Campaign (now the Industrial Communities Alliance), government reports and other sources. The full list of constituencies assigned to each group are available on request.



Original datasets from the Arts Council for England and Sport England

‘The State of the Coalfields: Economic and social conditions in the former mining communities of England, Scotland and Wales’ by Mike Foden, Steve Fothergill and Tony Gore at the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research Sheffield Hallam University, June 2014

‘Updating Coalfield Areas’ by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, 2003

Analysis by the Office of John Mann MP


Culture in the Coalfields  

A Call for Equal Funding for Former Mining Communities by John Mann MP

Culture in the Coalfields  

A Call for Equal Funding for Former Mining Communities by John Mann MP