A Chat with David Culter – the Baring Foundation


In August David Cutler, Director, Barings Foundation, joined the ACHWS working group to outline the work of foundation, areas of interest and topics they are currently exploring.

The Baring Foundation was set up in 1969 by Barings Bank. In 1995, when the bank collapsed, the foundation became independent with an endowment which sits around £100 Million, managed by Baillie Gifford.  This gives an annual budget of around £5 Million. It has focused on three core grant programmes: ArtsInternational Development and Strengthening Civil Society.

The Arts Programme has an annual fund of around £1.5 – 2 Million. There has been a focus on a number of areas over this time but since 2020 they have had a focus on creative opportunities for people with mental health problems across the UK.

They look for areas where there are limited funding opportunities available and where a small amount of money can be used strategically to make a real difference. They aim to work primarily with arts and cultural organisations as well as other organisations that create participatory arts opportunities for creative expression rather than specific health gain.

The Baring Foundation believes everyone has a right to be creative and to take part in what the arts and culture have to offer. The arts have long played a role in giving a voice to people with mental health problems, including to challenge aspects of the mental health system. Society is experiencing a shift towards greater understanding and awareness of mental health problems and the arts have a role in this too. The arts are also a route to recovery, building self-confidence and new skills and they can also simply be pleasurable, relaxing and fun.

They carried out research into work already happening in this area across the UK and found a huge number of fantastic examples but also became aware of issues around visibility, profile and fragmentation. They recognise priorities in different regions vary but all generally cover similar areas and have specific focus areas including e.g. inclusion, ethnic diversity and refugees.

David raised a few areas they are looking into at the moment including best practice when working with men and mental health, not just men only projects but anyone working with men. If you are working in this area or are aware of projects that might be of interest, then get in touch with David. He has a blog on their website with more information.

They are also exploring what ‘supporting the artist’ means as it is a topic often talked about but rarely unpicked which causes confusion and in many cases, it can cover a number of areas. He also called for the Scottish Government to consider the importance of the mental health of all artists and practitioners in the Culture Strategy and talked about a wide range of research projects they are supporting in this area across the UK.

The foundation works in partnership across a wide range of organisations across the UK including the recent Participatory Arts and Mental Health Fund, managed by Creative Scotland which closed in July this year. We know this fund was hugely oversubscribed and we await details of the successful projects so watch this space for more details.

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