The MERL secures Arts Council England funding
04 November 2022
Museums Partnership Reading, led by the Museum of English Rural Life (The MERL) is delighted to have been awarded funding as part of Arts Council England’s new national portfolio of funded organisations for 2023-26.
Museums Partnership Reading (MPR) is a consortium of Reading’s two leading museums The MERL and Reading Museum, a unique university and local authority partnership. This includes outstanding local collections and nationally significant and Designated holdings. Over the last five years, they have developed a strong partnership based on collaborative programming, sharing skills and resources to maximise collections expertise, community and volunteer engagement and digital innovation.
Both museums have an excellent track record, and the experience and commitment to deliver activities, events and exhibitions to engage Reading’s diverse communities. Its work is shaped by a shared commitment to Reading’s cultural renewal and an understanding of the role of heritage in placemaking.
Arts Council’s assessment summary highlights the current practice and contribution of Museums Partnership Reading to Reading within a national context, and to placemaking and stewardship of the town’s cultural heritage. It identifies a clear focus on widening participation and access to the collections through community focussed programmes and digital innovation.
Museums Partnership Reading is very appreciative of this investment from Arts Council England, and looks forward to offering more opportunities for more people to engage with creativity through heritage and build a sense of place and identity for Reading and its surrounding communities.
It also acknowledge that this is a very challenging time for the sector and the country and as a partnership we will maximise collaboration to build and share resources with communities, artists, and other partners.
Through uplift investment from Arts Council, we are really pleased to be able to extend partnership working to neighbouring Slough, a Priority Place and a place of historically low Arts Council investment. Connections have been built across both towns, and with Slough Museum and other local partners we will work formally together to deepen engagement in arts, culture and heritage. This builds on our strong collaborative ethos and history of shared programmes, skills, expertise, and resources.
Museums Partnership Reading Chair, Professor John Gibbs, Research Dean for Heritage & Creativity, University of Reading, said: “The University of Reading and Reading Borough Council are committed to working together to foster a sense of place and appreciation in Reading’s rich cultural heritage. The Museums Partnership Reading Committee and teams are absolutely delighted to receive investment from the Arts Council to increase and extend creative heritage experiences that connect people with their own and with others’ histories and identities
Arts Council England Chair, Sir Nicholas Serota, said: “As well as continuing our commitment to our many established and renowned cultural organisations, I am deeply proud of the support we will be giving to those new organisations which will help ignite creativity across the country. We are facing economic pressures at present but this funding is about an investment in our future. This portfolio will support the next generation of visionary inventors, makers, performers and artists. In particular, the growth of our funding for organisations that support and develop work for children represents a profoundly important long-term investment in our country’s talent.”
Arts Council England Chief Executive, Darren Henley, said: “Together, each of the 990 organisations that have been offered funding today will contribute to a portfolio that is rich, varied and truly national. This is our widest ever spread of investment across the country, ensuring that many more people will have access to a wider choice of exceptional art, culture and creative opportunities on their doorsteps. We are in tough times but we must remember creativity brings with it extraordinary dividends, boosting our country’s economic growth, creating jobs, bringing communities closer together, and making us happier as individuals. Everyone deserves to enjoy the benefits it brings, and with this investment, we believe we’ve taken a decisive step towards making that vision a reality.”
Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan said: "Thanks to this new government funding package, spreading more money to more communities than ever before, people living in areas from Wolverhampton to Wigan and Crawley to Chesterfield will now get to benefit from the deep economic and social rewards culture can bring.
"We continue to support our icons such as the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and Royal Shakespeare Company, but today's announcement will see organisations in places all too often overlooked get the support they need to transform access to the arts for everyone - no matter where they live."