York Art Gallery bosses are considering reintroducing charging for entry, a meeting heard.

Entry to the permanent collections was made free in the summer of 2020 in a bid to attract visitors after the first Covid lockdown – but the move is costing £200,000 per year in lost income.

York Museums Trust’s (YMT) chief executive Kathryn Blacker said: “Clearly, we would wish that all the museums didn’t have to have a charge against them – that’s not the cultural landscape that this country occupies, nor is it likely to be in the immediate future.”

Charges still apply for temporary exhibitions, some of which are from the gallery’s own collection, as well as for high-profile touring exhibitions.

Charging at the art gallery was first introduced in 2015.

York Press: York Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte GrahamYork Art Gallery. Picture: Charlotte Graham

Asked by Cllr Tony Fisher whether YMT would reintroduce charging, Ms Blacker said the organisation would have to be “pragmatic".

“We haven’t come to a conclusion on it at the moment,” she added. “We’re still doing the work to think about whether that £200,000 is something that we can justify on an ongoing basis, or whether there are other ways that we can bring that revenue back into the organisation.”

Scrapping entry fees has also made people spend less in areas like the cafe and shop as visitors spend less time in the building as they are free to come and go.


YMT was created in 2002 as an independent charitable trust to manage the museums and gallery service previously run by City of York Council.

It runs York’s Castle Museum, the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens and the Art Gallery.

A report produced by YMT for a council scrutiny committee said the organisation as a whole was due to lose £300,000 in 2022/23 and £500,000 in 2023/24.

The report said it was “not a sustainable financial position given the pressures are not going away.”

YMT receives £300,000 per year from the council, though this has reduced from £1.1 million in 2014/15.

The focus had been on “survival” since Covid, Ms Blacker said.

YMT head of finance Paul Lambert explained that there were ways the trust could generate extra income, from things like renting out conference space, improving the retail offer and increased donations from patrons.

Cllr Bob Webb said: “Having free, open public spaces where we can explore our history and our culture is so important and something that we should do everything we can to keep.”

Ms Blacker said YMT was also the custodian of some of the city’s finest listed buildings and that, without capital funding, making them accessible for the 21st century and carbon neutral would be “very difficult”.