At 23:59 tonight, the government consultation will close on funding for higher education in 2021/2022. Why should we in publishing care about that? Because it proposes to cut the funding to arts courses by 50%, from £120 million to £60 million and included in those cuts will be illustration and design courses across the country.
The government proposes that these courses are not among its “strategic priorities”. Our designers and illustrators are world-renowned, our books are exported and the rights sold across the globe, our revenue as an industry amount to £5.5 billion. And still maintaining the current funding of two vital elements of book publishing are not seen as a priority.
Historically publishing has not always credited illustrators where they should (and don’t get me started on awards that credit editors but not designers), but recent strides forward have seen changes in that area. Most publishers recognise the vital role of the designers who make our books accessible and desirable, and the illustrators’ visual storytelling. Now it’s time that publishers large and small get behind the institutions that are going to bring us the next generation of incredible illustrators and ground-breaking designers. Here is a voice from one such institution, Pam Smy, Senior Lecturer Practitioner on the MA Children’s Book Illustration course, Cambridge School of Art:
"The books our children play with in the bath, learn to read with, want to hear at bed time over and over, study from, talk about and share are illustrated. Those illustrators are trained in art schools where they will undergo the same rigorous training and development as students of non-creative subjects. To undervalue the role of art and design education in our universities is to risk suffocating many of our most successful industries and to threaten our international reputation for excellence in the creative arts.
Do government ministers not read books with their children? Have they not picked up an illustrated novel, a non-fiction book or a graphic novel? There are multiple creatives from a variety of creative backgrounds working to produce each and every book, and most of these specialists have had an education in the creative arts. This proposed reduction of 50% in funding is short-sighted folly."
It is time for publishing to support the institutions that we have benefitted from for so long. Make sure the government knows the real cost of cutting this funding by filling in the consultation at: https://survey.officeforstudents.org.uk/s/RecurrentFundingConsultation2021-22/.
Libby Hamilton is editorial director of picture books, Andersen Press.
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