Big Giver: The Foyle Foundation

Jenna Pudelek finds out why a change of focus means the foundation funds more than just the arts

Cafe Crucible: Sheffield cafe was built with a grant from the Foyle Foundation
Cafe Crucible: Sheffield cafe was built with a grant from the Foyle Foundation

The Foyle Foundation was launched at the behest of the eccentric bookshop owner Christina Foyle after her death in 1999. It awards funding to UK charities involved in the arts and learning.

The grant-making trust, which in December 2010 had funds totalling £76.8m, has a broad definition of 'arts', covering everything from the visual arts to music and theatre.

The foundation gives about £2.5m in grants each year, with £1.2m going towards the arts and £900,000 to learning projects.

David Hall, chief executive of the foundation, says the economic downturn has caused the foundation to move away from funding one-off projects, such as plays and exhibitions, to more mundane work such as restoring cafes or meeting rooms.

"We want to make a difference on things that have a longer-term benefit or legacy," he says. "That has been a change of focus in the past few years."

In 2011, major grants, which range from £10,000 to £500,000, included just one grant for performances.

This was £100,000 towards two new ballets, Carmen and Cinderella, at the Northern Ballet Theatre. The majority of the grants went towards refurbishments and capital projects with long-term objectives. These included £250,000 towards a new building for Scottish Opera in Glasgow to overcome the limitations of the current space and transform the operation of the building.

Hall mentions the example of the Sheffield Crucible theatre, which was awarded £75,000 to create a 40-seat cafe last year.

It initially asked for funding towards a production, but after meeting the foundation it decided to invest in the cafe, which could generate some £35,000 a year, according to Hall.

Small grants, which range from between £1,000 and £10,000, are also available and the budget for them has been increased to £500,000 from £400,000 in 2011. Hall says this was because of an increase in demand.

Details about how to apply for grants can be found on the foundation's website: www.foylefoundation.org.uk.

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