Museums and art galleries in the North East struggle to cope with rising bills

Museums and art galleries in the North East fear for their future as “crushing” energy bills bite and the impact of the pandemic continues to hit.

The boss of Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums (TWAM), which represents nine cultural sites in the region, told MPs there was “great concern” about future cash flow.

TWAM director Keith Merrin said his organization, which draws millions of people to the North East each year, was on the verge of “coping” for the time being.

Read more: Energy bosses warn some customers could pay £1 out of £6 on bills by October

Mr Merrin, appearing before the Commons Culture Committee, said: “At the moment we have a huge problem with our utility costs, which are crippling.

“Our Arts Council funding remains the same, our local government funding remains the same, but our electricity and gas bills have doubled.

“Something must give.”

Mr Merrin told MPs cultural institutions in the North were more vulnerable than those in the South due to central government cuts, less philanthropy and Covid hitting communities harder.

He said: “In the North, cultural organizations are very dependent on funding from local authorities which has been under pressure for many years now and after the pandemic we expect this to be even more the case.

“So obviously that’s a big concern.”

He added: “Nor do we have the same levels of philanthropy or the same access to corporate sponsorship as other parts of the country.

“Our communities have also been disproportionately impacted by Covid and the cost of living crisis and as a result their ability to buy tickets for things has been badly affected.

“Our business models are already under pressure following the past two years and while we are extremely grateful to the government for the cultural stimulus funds, the real problems are starting this year and beyond.”

Mr Merrin welcomed the glitzy investments under Michael Gove’s ‘Leveling Up’ scheme, but said he would like to see more emphasis on ‘long-term sustainable’ investments in his sector.

Mildred D. Field