The re-opening of the Bristol Beacon one week ago today was an amazing moment to reflect on and take pride in our city’s thriving creative sector. Bristol has always been an exciting hub for creative innovation and artistic expression, with a truly international reach.
Sadly, the spectre of the pandemic, and continuing austerity, still looms large over much of the arts and culture sector, with businesses and organisations still feeling the pinch as they continue to recover.
However, Bristol arts and cultural organisations are set to get a much needed boost from the council’s Cultural Investment Programme (CIP). With a fund of over £2.4 million dedicated to creative organisations both large and small, across three distinct funding streams (Imagination, Originators and Openness), the CIP is not merely an investment, it stands as a commitment from Bristol City Council to securing Bristol’s vibrant music and cultural scenes now, and in the future, through both funding and support.
The aims of the CIP 2023 to 2027 programme also aligns with our city’s key priorities around promoting diversity, inclusion and equality as referenced in the Bristol Council Cultural Strategy, the Corporate Strategy 2022-27 and the One City Plan. The organisations recommended for funding by an independent panel have all demonstrated that they are reaching into underrepresented areas; have embedded community partnerships, health, and wellbeing partners; and are investing into building a sustainable sector.
During this week’s Cabinet meeting, we stood by our commitment, by approving this further grant funding of over £1.4 million for two of the funding streams, giving even more organisations the opportunity to access this vital fiscal lifeline. Of the £1.4 million being allocated, 11 organisations were awarded Imagination grants totalling over £300,000, and a further 15 were awarded Openness grants totalling just over £1 million.
In this newest round of funding, we should be proud to see a positive shift towards the diversification of our grant recipients, with over 60 per cent of organisations recommended for both funding streams working with people from equality backgrounds. Bristol’s investment into these organisations over the next four years will offer new opportunities to communities who might otherwise miss out on grant-based funding rounds.
The Openness and Imagination funding streams have already played positive roles in supporting dozens of creative organisations across Bristol. One such group includes the Paraorchestra, an amazing organisation that not only works tirelessly to redefine the traditional orchestra through collaboration with disabled and non-disabled artists, but also shares their passion for music with the city, as those who saw their performance at the opening of the Bristol Beacon can attest to.
Local authorities up and down the country continue to face intense financial challenges, with councils struggling to support their cultural sectors at all, as they continue to grapple with the ongoing cost of operating crisis and a severe lack of central government funding support.
It’s in the face of these financial difficulties that I am proud that our city remains in steadfast support of the arts and understands the positive impact a healthy and sustainable arts and culture sector has on our communities. While remaining committed to diversifying this sector, providing opportunities for individuals and organisations that have continually lacked the necessary support to help them succeed. The CIP remains an essential component in ensuring that everyone can have access to, and benefit from the city’s successful arts and culture sector.