Funding story Northern Rock Foundation

The foundation has reopened its grants programme for culture and heritage projects in the north east and Cumbria.

The first grants from the Northern Rock Foundation's recently reopened programme for culture and heritage projects in north-east England and Cumbria will be made this month.

The region has responded enthusiastically to the resurrection of this grant stream, perhaps because of the role the arts have played in the extraordinary regeneration of Newcastle and Gateshead over the past few years.

"The explosion of cultural infrastructure in the north east over the past 10 years can't be paralleled in any other European city," says Jim Beirne, chief executive of new writing company Live Theatre. "The foundation's effect has been really significant. It's fantastic that it's come back on stream."

Roma Yagnik, company development manager of Newcastle-based women's theatre group the Open Clasp Theatre Company, says: "Northern Rock has been responsible for a huge amount of development in the region, especially in the arts. When the programme was cut, there was a feeling of real sadness."

Yagnik's company also receives funding from other Northern Rock streams. "We're very clear about our own social benefits," she says. "But we appreciate how hard it can be for a lot of arts organisations that might not have such demonstrable social benefits."

Mark Robinson, executive director of Arts Council England, North East, says the foundation has played a crucial role in funding collaborations. "It's been a key partner in funding lots of organisations that the Arts Council has not been able to fund completely," he says. "A lot of people in the sector were very nervous about what was going to happen when the programme shut."

Robinson adds: "The Northern Rock Foundation acknowledged the role culture could play in the broader regeneration of the region, but it also acknowledged the value of culture itself. The foundation has supported a real range of arts practice, from community based activity right through to some challenging arts projects and groups."

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