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Brighton & Hove Museums to head up new museum development service with Norfolk Museums Service

Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Photographby JJ Waller

Arts Council England has announced today that a partnership led by Norfolk Museums Service with Brighton & Hove Museums has been awarded £1.7m over the next two years (2024-2026) to deliver museum development programmes across the South East.


The new team will be called Museum Development South East (MDSE) and will be managed and governed by two partners, Norfolk Museums Service (NMS), part of Norfolk County Council (NCC) and Brighton & Hove Museums (B&HM) with support from an independently recruited Advisory Panel.

The new Museum Development South East Area reflects the existing Arts Council South East Area geography and covers: Bedford Borough, Central Bedfordshire, Luton, Bracknell Forest, Reading, Slough, West Berkshire, Windsor & Maidenhead, Wokingham, Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes, Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, East Sussex, Brighton & Hove, Essex, Southend, Thurrock, Hertfordshire, Kent, Medway, Norfolk, Oxfordshire, Suffolk, Surrey, and West Sussex.

MDSE merges two existing experienced museum development providers – SHARE Museums East and South East Museum Development. The partnership will build on the excellent track record of both providers in supporting the wider museum sector, capitalising on the current strengths of their museum development programmes, while increasing connections between museums across the country.

Museum Development South East recognises that museums are a vital and valued part of the cultural economy, providing people and communities with cherished cultural experiences and creative opportunities.
Our aim is to support and develop a thriving, inclusive and dynamic museums sector which reflects the diverse heritage of the South East.

The MDSE programme will frame its programme around the delivery of the outcomes outlined in the Art Council’s Let’s Create 10-year strategy for the museums’ sector and will support the development of:

  • A skilled and well-connected workforce and a networked, outward-facing museum sector.
  • High quality and ambitious museums, with collections that are enriched, secured, well-managed, accessible, and shared.
  • Inclusive & representative museums, workforce, practice, and collections.
  • Environmentally responsible museums.
  • Dynamic and resilient museums.
  • Museums able to articulate and evidence their social and economic value.

Museums across the new South East Area will have equal access to programmes and grants, enabling this vital sector to face the future with confidence, and supporting them in creating memorable experiences for visitors.

As well as the changes to the delivery area, 20% of the new Arts Council England funding will be ringfenced for small grants to museums. This money will directly support museums’ ambitions and priorities so they can best serve their communities.

Congratulations also go out to Bristol County Council who have been successful in their application and will be taking on responsibility for Hampshire, Solent and the Isle of Wight museum development support in the South West area from April 2024.

CEO for Brighton & Hove Museums Hedley Swain said: “We are delighted to be working in partnership with Norfolk Museum Service in delivering the museum development service in South East England for the next two years. This is an essential and highly valued service to the museums sector. We are looking forward to working with Arts Council and all museums to bring real value to communities. This will also provide important continuity for the team that has provided the service for the South East in previous years”.

Cabinet Member for Communities at Norfolk County Council, Cllr Margaret Dewsbury said: “This welcome announcement is good news for the museum sector across the East of England and South East. By joining forces with our colleagues at Brighton & Hove Museums, we can offer museums of all shapes and sizes an even greater depth of experience when it comes to supporting their work, our combined expertise providing both continuity and innovation. We are very grateful to Arts Council England for this funding and look forward to working as one team to deliver the new programme.”

South East Area Director for Arts Council England Hazel Edwards said: “We’re thrilled to be supporting the South East with a further £1.7 million in funding for phase two of our Museum Development Programme. This investment, as well as the business-to-business support that this programme fosters, will allow the region’s museums to face the future with confidence and continue to offer great cultural experiences to visitors.”

Emmie Kell, Director of Museums and Cultural Property, Arts Council England, said: “We know how important museums are to their communities and all they do to help tackle isolation, build connections, foster creativity and instil a strong sense of place. The Museum Development Programme is an essential part of the Arts Council’s development offer for museums.

“We are delighted to be announcing our Museum Development partners across England who will help to deliver a refreshed Museum Development programme from April 2024.

“All the partners within the programme have extensive skills, local knowledge and on the ground relationships which will be vital in helping museums respond to challenges and opportunities to face the future with confidence.”

About Brighton & Hove Museums
B&HM is a charitable trust responsible for the management of the iconic Royal Pavilion and four other museums in in Brighton & Hove.

Formed in October 2020, B&HM cares for its historic buildings, gardens and collections while offering a vibrant and inclusive service to local communities and to visitors from around the world.

The Trust is an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation, and also receives financial support from Brighton & Hove City Council and other charitable organisations and from public donations as well as income from admissions and commercial activity.

B&HM oversees the Royal Pavilion and Garden, Brighton Museum & Art Gallery, Preston Manor and Garden, Hove Museum of Creativity and the Booth Museum of Natural History.

About Norfolk Museums Service
Norfolk Museums Service is a multi-award-winning service comprising ten museums and a study centre, ranging from the Norman splendour of Norwich Castle to the beautiful 50-acre site of Gressenhall Farm and Workhouse and the restored herring works at Great Yarmouth, home to the atmospheric Time and Tide Museum. All NMS sites are Accredited museums under the Arts Council Accreditation scheme and many of the collections in our care are Designated of national importance.

NMS is now regarded as one of the leading museum services in the United Kingdom, and since April 2018 has been an Arts Council England National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) tasked with providing leadership to the sector, including through our SHARE Museums East Museum Development programmes. NMS has also received major investment across a number of projects and sites from The National Lottery Heritage Fund, most recently a major grant for the Norwich Castle: Royal Palace Reborn project to transform Norwich Castle’s Norman Keep and funding for the 5-year Kick the Dust youth engagement programme. Norfolk Museums Service is a partnership between Norfolk County Council and Norfolk’s district councils, funded through council tax, earned income and grants.

About Arts Council England
Arts Council England is the national development agency for creativity and culture. We have set out our strategic vision in Let’s Create that by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish and where everyone of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences. From 2023 to 2026 we will invest over £467 million of public money from Government and an estimated £250 million from The National Lottery each year to help support the sector and to deliver this vision.


Brighton Museum & Art Gallery. Photographby JJ Waller