At the Cultural and Creative Industries Plan launch event held on the 5th of February 2020 at De Montfort University, various Leicester based organisations and National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) funded by Arts Council England (ACE) presented the Leicester World-Class Arts and Culture prospectus; showcasing the city’s leading art organisations and launching their plans for the future. The event was hosted by City Mayor Sir Peter Soulsby and presenters included Arts Council England CEO Darren Henley, who talked about ACE’s new strategy and how they have invested in funding Leicester as a cultural city.
During the event’s interval Anil Bhanot, Chair of the Peepul Centre Leicester, had an opportunity to speak to Mr Henley. Mr Bhanot spoke to Mr Henley about the fact that we have received numerous rejections when applying to ACE for funding. Mr Henley attempted to be positive, stating that in order to be awarded larger sums of funding, smaller amounts must first be applied for, awarded and successful projects delivered. Mr Henley then introduced the Midlands Area Director, Mr Peter Knott, to Mr Bhanot; Mr Knott being the relevant person to speak to regarding projects in the Midlands region.
Mr Bhanot explained to Mr Knott that the Centre had already gone through the process of first applying for projects under the £15,000 threshold set by ACE for small projects. However, that it would appear that we are unable to move beyond this threshold; citing out recent attempt to apply for the Elevate fund which would have awarded us £50,000 a year for two years. This fund is specifically designed to capacity build organisations and assist them in becoming NPOs and thus would have been extremely beneficial to us; unfortunately we were unsuccessful. As this fund only open every three years it is a considerable set-back for us to have been unsuccessful, especially as ACE policy means that only one project fund application can be submitted at any one time and thus restricting the work that we can produce.
Mr Bhanot explained that he had built an Asian Arts Hub, a collective of arts organisations, since 2015. These organisations, though, have now stopped working with our Centre as they are instead partnering with NPOs like the Curve, the Phoenix, and the Attenborough Arts Centre. Mr Bhanot expressed that many of our Hub organisations no longer wanted to work with us as a result of ACE’s rejections.
Mr Bhanot explained that although there may have been issues between ACE and the Centre in the past, that this had happened under the Centre’s previous management by LHAsra – a Housing Association – over ten years ago. Mr Bhanot went on to explain that since the present management from the Ethnic Minority Foundation took over the Centre in 2012 they have funded the Peepul Centre by two million pounds, after the acquisition costs, purely for its working capital, and have reduced the deficit from £750k per annum at the time of acquisition to now under £200k. Mr Bhanot further explained that this deficit is solely due to the Theatre and Bars and adjoining Restaurant, all of which are linked to the Theatre. None of our other activities, including a children’s nursery, gym, ethical business rental and conferences and weddings make losses. Thus, the remaining deficit is the result of the halt to our arts development.
Mr Knott was dismissive of our pleas; and so Mr Bhanot went on to tell him that we feel discriminated against and that our staff and community are suffering as a result of the lack of support from ACE in our aims to become an arts centre.
It appears to us that there are significant barriers in place when it comes to our funding applications which are not in place for our competitors. As an Asian owned and managed theatre, we have continuously supported Asian artists and art organisations such as our Hub members. However, we are seeing these same individuals being directed away from us as a result of ACE supporting them to perform in their NPOs.
Peepul Centre (insurance valued @£25m) is in the Belgrave area of Leicester, the heartland of the local Asian community, and thus we are ideally positioned to deliver work to the local community. This community, though, is instead being denied the opportunity to experience the arts. Whilst we have several arts and performing arts projects at hand and are thus more than ready for NPO status, we feel we are being discriminated against by the Arts Council Midlands.
Peepul Centre Management
Belgrave Baheno Peepul Centre: Charity number 1092389