Northumberland’s rich array of arts, culture and heritage assets remain largely intact, although there is an ongoing squeeze on funding for the arts. It remains important to ensure that they are accessible to residents from all social backgrounds, and that support is given to maintain the arts’ important role in helping individuals to overcome the challenges of social exclusion.
Creative businesses (e.g. arts organisations, the media, architecture, design and fashion businesses) still only account for around 1% of jobs. However arts, culture and heritage are key assets within the Northumberland economy, in particular given its reliance on tourism and the ambition to attract inward investment. More could perhaps be done to promote those unique aspects of Northumberland culture that could add to the tourism offer such as Northumberland piping and traditional dance.
Arts, culture and hertitage’s potential as an engine for economic development was highlighted in 2015 by the Weeping Window Poppies exhibition at Woodhorn Museum, which contributed significantly to the Northumberland economy. The central role of philanthropy in kickstarting this initiative provides a case study of its potential as a component of arts-focused economic development.
Winner of the Best Northumberland Event at the North East Culture Awards, the Weeping Window Poppies exhibition attracted over 120,000 visitors to Woodhorn Museum, and helped to boost the local economy of Ashington. The exhibition was brought to the North East by Woodhorn Museum in partnership with the Community Foundation as a key funder. Penny Wilkinson, Chair at Woodhorn Museum said:
“The Community Foundation understood the importance of bringing the poppies to the North East. As a hub for philanthropy, the Foundation was quick to respond, and securing funds from a variety of individual donors, as well as corporate support from its partners.”
“In 1996 I founded the Young Musicians Fund at the Community Foundation with a simple aim to develop the musical skills of young people in the North East. I support families in paying tuition fees and help young people purchase their own musical instrument. Music is very powerful and can provide opportunities and confidence that helps change lives. On the surface a small grant to help a young boy in Choppington purchase his very own coronet seems admirable, but when you dig deeper and learn how the boy has learning difficulties and uses music as a tool to overcome anxiety and support his development, then get a real sense of the importance in providing access to music for all.”
Kathryn Tickell, Founding Donor and Chair of the Young Musicians Fund