Cultural Development

Published on: May 5th 2021
Last updated on August 23rd 2023

58% of Community Leisure UK’s membership has culture in their portfolio of work. They manage over 470 cultural assets – most commonly theatres, town or community halls/centres, libraries, museums, galleries, and archive centres. Community Leisure UK actively promotes the facilitation of cultural activity by charitable trusts and supports its members through projects, guidance and collaboration with partners on their cultural work.

Projects and Networks

Charitable Trusts Peer Network for the Arts in Wales

We are delighted to have facilitated the start of a new network for charitable trusts in Wales to discuss, share, and collaborate on their arts work. We are grateful to have received funding from the Arts Council of Wales for this important project through the Sharing Together Fund. The project took place between November 2020 – March 2021. Following the announcement of CTPNA, 19 charitable trusts in addition to two representative bodies joined this new network. The project has now completed, and the final report can be read here. For more information on this project or to join the network, please contact us.

Culture Seminars

In January 2020, we organised culture seminars in England and Wales. The purpose of the seminars was to give a platform to charitable trusts to discuss their work, share best practice and discuss challenges regarding the development and delivery of public cultural services and the management of cultural facilities. The seminar also meant to give the opportunity to discuss expectations for (future) collaboration and partnerships between
charitable trusts and national development- and representative bodies.

A summary of the discussion in Wales can be found here. A summary of the discussion in England can be found here.

Trusts in the Cultural Landscape

In September 2019, we hosted a webinar to share more information on what cultural delivery by charitable trusts looks like. A copy of the presentation can be found here.

Consultation Responses and Evidence Submissions

We will respond to any relevant consultations or calls for evidence on behalf of our members.

We submitted a response to the Scottish Parliament’s Constitution, Europe, External Affairs and Culture Committee on Funding for Culture in September 2021, which can be viewed here.

National Strategies

Let’s Create – Arts Council England’s Strategy and what it means for culture trusts

Our submission to ACE’s consultation on their 10 year strategy can be viewed here. After the publication of Let’s Create in early 2020, we also reflected on what the strategy means for charitable trusts, a reflection which can be viewed here.


Making the most of your museums: A handbook for councillors

In 2019, Community Leisure UK fed into the Making the most of your museums: A handbook for councillors published by the Local Government Association and Arts Council England. We welcomed the opportunity to share our views on the trust model. The guidance explains the trust model and presents trusts as a serious option for delivering public culture. As part of this new guidance, we highlighted the advantages of the trust delivery model, and affirmed trusts’ role in preserving cultural assets while creating access to local culture and history for communities.

While we welcome the presentation of trusts on an equal level to other public delivery models, we also want to comment on some of the guidance’s misrepresentation of the trust model. In particular, we feel the need to comment on the claimed disadvantage of trusts having “no obligation to respond to local agendas”. Trusts are all charities and non-profit-distributing organisations, which means that to exists, they need to have a charitable aim and objectives. They are community anchors, committed to being accessible to everyone in their community, and through their work and dedicated programmes contribute to community development. Trusts are therefore bound by their mission to respond to local agendas as considering the needs communicated by communities is part of their founding principles.

A further point made by the guidance is that a “new trust is at great risk of failure without the commitment of ongoing financial support from the council”. This is an unbalanced view and refuted by points made later in the guidance. Trusts are, in fact, well positioned to secure financial investment and funding from different sources – as mentioned in the guidance’s advantages of the trust model. There is, therefore, not a ‘great risk of failure’.

However, financial support from a council does contribute to the trusts’ financial sustainability. We therefore advocate for a continued partnership between the council and the trust. A council can be assured that the trust uses their independence to have an agile response to landscape changes with the best interest of the community at heart. Through their partnership, the financial support for the trust can and should be discussed as it will increase the trust’s effectiveness to deliver valuable services for their community.

I felt it was really important to highlight the benefits of our type of delivery model; safeguarding much loved services for the communities we serve in times of austerity; a reminder of the value for money and return on social investment we offer; the plethora of funding and sponsorship opportunities available to trusts that are not so easily accessed by local authorities or other delivery models; and our ability to flex and change in a timely manner as priorities and demand changes.

Emma Hutchinson, Managing Director of Culture and LiveWire Warrington, and Culture Representative on Community Leisure UK’s Board of Directors