Indies facing 'tough' market welcome ACE Culture Recovery Fund grants

Indies facing 'tough' market welcome ACE Culture Recovery Fund grants

Independent publishers including Carcanet, Comma Press and Otter-Barry Books say Arts Council England’s second round of grants from its Culture Recovery Fund are much needed as publishers negotiate a "tough" market. 

Publishers said they were grateful for the new grants and plan to use the money to pay staff, shore up online resources and invest in marketing. More than 2,200 organisations have been allocated funds from a pot of £261m, with 24 literary organisations among them. 

Poetry publisher Carcanet received £60,000 and m.d. Michael Schmidt said the industry as a whole would have suffered without ACE's support. “This grant is certainly welcome at a difficult time," he said. "Lockdown coincided with the celebration of our 50th anniversary.

"The funds have their urgent practical applications, but as important is the sense of a vote of confidence in our enterprise, coming after one of our most remarkable years for critical and award acclaim, and one of the hardest years we have weathered commercially. The Arts Council was enormously supportive from the very beginning of the crisis and our sector would have found life much harder without ACE’s initiatives.”

Ra Page, publisher at Comma Press, commenting on the assistance its £25,500 grant will provide, told The Bookseller the indie would be capitalising on lessons learned during the pandemic. "This is a great opportunity to carry forward many of the things we have learned during the pandemic, to apply them in a post-Covid transition period that will be critical to the industry as a whole. In particular, we will be building our writer development base in the north, offering free, online 'Writers' Days' to emerging and aspiring writers in towns and cities that have not previously been reached by our work, and redoubling our course provisions online," he said. 

Janetta Otter-Barry, founder of and publisher at the inclusive children's publisher Otter-Barry Books, said the £48,687 grant it had received would give the small press "real financial stability" and would safeguard freelance staff wages at a time when the market was tough. 

"It means we can pay our freelance staff, authors and illustrators, and beyond that, it enables us to invest in marketing, publicity and promotion to introduce our outstanding list of diverse and inclusive titles to a wider, more diverse audience," she said. "We can’t wait to bring our authors, illustrators and books to children across the country, helping to deliver ACE’s Let’s Create strategy."

Festivals have also benefited again this year. Tania Hudson, Hay Festival interim chief executive, said the festival would continue to fundraise, but its £596,000 grant meant it was now able to look forward to the Welsh online iteration “with confidence”, and develop hybrid models in the future. 

She said: “Arts Council England’s investment marks a welcome milestone for Hay Festival as we continue to rebuild from a year of transformation. We are incredibly grateful for this vote of confidence in our efforts to sustain our community of writers, partners and festival goers who make Hay what it is: a space to inspire, examine and entertain people of all ages.”

Other organisations to benefit include: Children's Discovery Centre (£75,000), CLPE (£90,987), Culture Squared (£552,446), Ilkley Literature Festival (£87,000), Jellybooks (£38,880), Kernow Education Arts (£40,104), Letters Live (£19,794), Little Green Pig (£28,162), National Centre for Writing (£85,389), NAWE (£42,000), New Writing South (£73,100), Nottingham, Unesco City of Literature (£32,521), Poet in the City (£32,947), Poetry London (£27,355), Saraband (£29,000), Settle Stories (£30,552), the Crick Crack Club (£27,086), Writerz and Scribez CIC (£36,000), Writing East Midlands (£28,890), and Writing on the Wall (£27,500).

The first round of the fund was allocated in October last year, and saw some indie presses receiving up to £200,000, with some festivals, including Cheltenham, benefitting by nearly £784,000.