Museums in talks to win vital £1.5m arts funding

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MUSEUMS Sheffield could be in line to receive £1.5 million in funding - which would allow it to continue hosting major touring exhibitions and preserve more of its current work.

The Star understands talks were ongoing yesterday about the funding, which would be paid in three £500,000 instalments over three years from September.

The idea is believed to be looked on ‘favourably’ by the Arts Council - which only weeks ago prompted public outcry in Sheffield by rejecting a bid for £1.4m a year over the next three years.

Artist Pete McKee, Chocolat author Joanne Harris, Jon McClure from band Reverend and the Makers and politicians of all parties all spoke out against the decision to give Sheffield the lowest funding of any large city - and a fifth of the sum Leeds will get.

Pete McKee held a ‘Shefftopia’ picnic in the Millennium Gallery to highlight the need for continued funding and to protest over the Art Council decision.

Museums Sheffield chief executive Nick Dodd said today a new grant would be ‘great’ - but added he was ‘cautious’ about any proposed offer.

“It would improve the things we can do for the people of Sheffield,” he said.

“It’s good to know the Arts Council is taking all the protests seriously and prepared to come to the table.

“But because we don’t know the rules, we don’t know whether things like exhibitions, events and programmes will be included.”

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg, who last week attended a meeting between the Arts Council and Museums Sheffield to help lobby for funding, added: “I know how important Sheffield’s museums and galleries are, that’s why I made sure we got the Arts Council back round the table with Museums Sheffield last week.

“I wanted to ensure Sheffield is treated fairly in comparison with other cities. We got a very positive reception from the Arts Council and I hope we will see real progress soon.”

Museums Sheffield’s current £800,000 a year Arts Council funding runs out in March, leaving a grant from Sheffield Council as its main income - enough to cover only heating and lighting, and wages of front of house staff, at the Millennium and Graves galleries and Weston Park Museum.