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Libraries Unlimited introduce arts and culture programme to Devon Libraries after receiving Arts Council National Portfolio Organisation status

Posted on 27 Jun 2017

Libraries Unlimited will introduce a new programme of high-quality arts and cultural activity across Devon Libraries after Libraries Unlimited NPO statusreceiving National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status from Arts Council England (ACE).

As an NPO, the charity is set to host international artists, increase access to pioneering digital facilities, expand its live webcasting programme and partner with leading artists and arts and cultural organisations to deliver a diverse range of events and initiatives for people of all ages. The programme will be delivered in libraries across the county over the next 4 years with an initial focus on Exeter, Barnstaple and Bideford.

This year was the first year that libraries and museums have been able to apply for NPO status. Libraries Unlimited is one of only five library services in England to be awarded NPO status, joining 843 other high quality arts organisations across the country that are  also in the portfolio.

ACE have increased funding by £37 million per annum on the previous investment period (2015-18) to help in achieving a 4% uplift in the proportion of the NPO budget spent outside London and to bring new, small and diverse organisations into the portfolio.

Libraries Unlimited was successful in its bid and will receive just over £680,000 over four years (2018 to 2022) to support its cultural vision and ambition to increase arts provision for the people of Devon.

Ciara Eastell, Chief Executive of Libraries Unlimited said: “We are absolutely thrilled to be named as one of the Arts Council’s new National Portfolio Organisations.  As an NPO, we will deliver a high-quality cultural offer to library users and local communities across the county over the next 4 years.  We aim to delight and surprise people through the exciting work we will develop and deliver as an NPO.  Libraries are already regarded as community hubs, bringing people together in a safe and open space to benefit from access to a range of reading, digital, information and health and wellbeing services.  This new funding by Arts Council England means we can build on that to make libraries even more engaging, enlightening and inspiring spaces for everyone in the community.

“We aim to bring a more diverse range of people through our doors and to provide ground-breaking services and events through partnerships with leading artists. In bringing new people together, we hope to break down societal barriers and encourage collaboration, entrepreneurship and innovation. We already offer access to a wide range of information and resources, and it makes absolute sense that we complement our existing offering by embedding arts and culture across our organisation.”

Libraries Unlimited will be working with local, regional and national organisations such as the Wellcome Trust, Kaleider, the British Library, Knowle West Media Centre, the University of Exeter, the Bike Shed Theatre and the Burton Art Gallery as well as building new international partnerships.

Phil Gibby, Area Director, South West, Arts Council England, said: ““We are delighted to be welcoming Libraries Unlimited into the National Portfolio as part of our integration of museums and libraries into the Portfolio. This investment builds on the substantial investments we have made to them through our Research Grants programme and our Libraries Opportunities for Everyone Innovation fund.

“Libraries Unlimited deliver an exciting programme of accessible arts and cultural activities and have a national reputation for innovation and excellence. We are excited by their ambitious plans to build on existing strengths such as digital inclusion, health and wellbeing and work with children and young people. This investment will help to position libraries as non-traditional cultural venues taking great art and culture to the heart of rural communities across Devon.”

Devon is home to a number of leading arts and cultural organisations, many of whom have also been awarded NPO status. Successful funding bids have been announced for Devon-based organisations such as the Bike Shed Theatre, Beaford Arts, Kaleidar, RAMM, Exeter Northcott, Exeter Phoenix and Theatre Alibi.

Other library services who have also gained NPO status include Suffolk Libraries, St Helens Council Library Service and Inspire in Nottinghamshire. Investment in library NPOs will total just over £1.6 million per annum.  In addition, The Society of Chief Librarians (SCL) has been successful in securing Sector Support Organisation status, which means that it will be able to work with every library service across the country to drive innovation across the library sector.

Ciara continued: “We’re pleased that we are surrounded by so many likeminded and ambitious organisations, and would like to congratulate our colleagues that have also achieved NPO status in this round. It’s encouraging to see so many organisations within the south west that are dedicated to improving lives and communities through arts and culture and we very much look forward to working with our project partners on the delivery of this exciting work.”

David Lockwood, Director of The Bike Shed Theatre and trustee of Libraries Unlimited, said: “This is a remarkable achievement. For Libraries Unlimited to be recognised in the first batch of library services in Arts Council England’s National Portfolio is a testament to the phenomenal work of the team, from the hardworking frontline staff to the visionary management. With arts and culture running through each of the 50 libraries in Devon, we will be able to increase the offer for our regular users and attract more people to use our fantastic public spaces.”

Libraries Unlimited believes…

…in the unlimited potential of library services to make a positive difference to people’s lives and communities through a shared love of reading and access to high quality information and facilities.