Freelances petition for retention of project grants

Letter to ACE demands reversal of emergency package

Hundreds of freelances have written to Arts Council England expressing concerns about plans for an income rescue package for self-employed arts workers.

In an open letter to ACE bosses, they say that the £20 million package will only cover 8,000 artists and could have devastating consequences for artists dependent on ACE’s project grants budget, which is being used to pay for the package.

ACE announced the scheme last week after thousands of arts workers lost their incoems with the closure of venues as a result of coronavirus measures. The arts funding body said that grants of £2500 for three months would be available to artists who applied. The current project grants budget would be scrapped to pay for the scheme, which would be in addition to the government’s support for the self-employed.

But more than 500 creatives, including choreographers, dancers, musicians and producers have signed the open letter urging ACE to retain their project grants system. They say that the emergency proposals would have "damaging consequences". The grants from the scheme would force artists to compete for limited funds and last for just a few months while scrapping project grants would have an impact on future workstreams for years to come.

Their letter adds that despite its good intentions, the ACE plan would "create much more hardship for individual artists in the long term". The government should be responsible for supporting short term incomes, says the letter "while Arts Council England should be looking at securing the futures of artists and their ability to produce new artistic product for the future”.

In response, ACE chief executive Darren Henley wrote to say that the £20m set aside for individuals in the rescue package will benefit a far greater number of people than the project grants programme for 2020.

He added that in the current crisis, the vast majority of projects would be unable to go ahead while normal life ceased. With venues closed, tours can no longer be performed or even scheduled; suppliers have been forced to shut down; match-funders are falling away. "For most artforms, there is no practical means of producing or experiencing work in the normal way at the moment, so continuing to fund projects that rely on our usual systems felt irresponsible” he said.

ACE also says that despite the temporary suspension, there is still £57 million unallocated for use in 2020/21 from the project grants budget and could be used later this year. “Our intention would be to use it for project grants unless these new and unpredictable circumstances dictated otherwise”.



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