Several independent publishers in the North of England will benefit from a boost in funding from Arts Council England over the next four years after the organisation announced a “significant increase” to investment outside London this morning (27th June) as part of its National Portfolio funding for 2018-2022. Meanwhile literacy charity BookTrust has received a £23m windfall grant.
The number of literature organisations to be funded over the next four years by ACE has increased from 46 to 49 and funding for the sector has shot up 11.7% to £7.6m. In addition seven libraries will receive funding for the first time, sharing £1.56m until at least 2019.
However, the four largest organisations in the portfolio - the Southbank Centre, the Royal Opera House, the National Theatre and the Royal Shakespeare Company - have taken an average 3% cut in funding after "conversations" with ACE, so that the council can focus on bringing in "smaller, more diverse" organisations into the portfolio.
ACE was given an increase in funding of £10m a year for the next four years to 2020 in the government’s Spending Review in November 2015 when George Osborne was chancellor.
The funding announcement released today revealed that literacy charity BookTrust has been awarded a £23m additional grant to deliver the newly-created Early Years Access to Literature for the period 1st April 2018 to 31st March 2022. The charity's universal and targeted bookgifting programmes, and the work it carries out to promote children’s literature throughout the country, mean it is "uniquely placed" to deliver against the Arts Council’s strategic goals, a spokesperson for ACE has said.
Literature organisations to receive funding for the first time include Culture Squared CIC, part of Bradford Literature Festival, which will receive £300,000 in 2018/19 and Culture, Learning and Libraries in the Midlands which will receive £249,999. Grimm & Co, another literacy charity based in Rotherham, has been awarded £115,000 while publisher Nine Arches Press in Rugby, Warwickshire, has been given £62,500. The Reader, a social enterprise engaging people in reading based in Liverpool, has been awarded £175,000, the same amount awarded to The Story Museum in Oxford. English PEN has had its existing grant of £229,984 per year maintained. Index on Censorship has also been given funding for the first time, along with Koesler Poetry Translation Centre and Writing East Midlands.
Library projects in Luton, Barking and Dagenham, St Helen’s in Merseyside, Suffolk and Exeter have received funding, as well as the Society of Chief Librarians as a “sector support organisation”.
One such project which operates in the north is called Get Loud in Libraries which is designed to “give people who love music, a damn good time in a library”.
As part of an “ambitious” investment of an additional £170m outside London between 2018 and 2022, northern independent publishers including Comma Press, Peepal Tree and And Other Stories have been awarded uplifts in funding from ACE. Overall funding for London-based arts organisations meanwhile has dropped by 4.6%.
Sheffield-based independent And Other Stories has seen its backing shoot up from £40,000 per annum to £74,000 a year. Stefan Tobler, publisher at And Other Stories, told The Bookseller the increase would support the press' "continuing [mission] to play a part to change publishing". In particular it will support programmes to encourage people from under-represented groups to work in publishing, including regular open days about publishing and yearlong traineeships. The press will also grow its list to 15 books per year.
“ACE's increased financial support provides us with a bedrock of support to continue to publish adventurous, quality literature, to improve authors' and translators' livelihoods, and to support routes into the publishing industry from all sectors of society", Tobler said. "Following recent years’ subscriber and retail sales growth, the increased ACE support is projected 16% to be of our income for 2018 to 2022. Importantly, it is guaranteed income, and provides the medium-term stability to let us choose books on literary merit alone and guarantee a minimum advance of £2,500 for British authors, and to work more widely with partners including libraries."
Peepal Tree, a Caribbean and Black British publisher based in Leeds, has been awarded £150,000 per annum, a rise of £38,000 a year.
Jeremy Poynting, Peepal Tree's managing editor, said the press is "delighted, relieved and thrilled" to be part of the new portfolio and to be awarded extra money. “We've had some great successes recently with a Felix Dennis Prize shortlisting for Nick Makoha and Jacob Ross winning the inaugural Jhalak prize, and the uplift will enable us to greatly expand our marketing operations and really move on”, he said.
Meanwhile Manchester-based indie Comma Press, which leads the Northern Fiction Alliance, a cohort of northern independent publishers, has also received a boost in funding and intends to continue the work of the alliance. The press has been awarded £83,160 per annum, up from £72,000.
Ra Page, founder and c.e.o. of Comma Press, told The Bookseller: “It's a huge honour (as well as a relief!) to see Comma's work recognised in this way - not just its publishing but also its writer development work, its investment in new ways of commissioning and collaborating, and its promotion of other publishers across the North. At a personal level, it feels like our most important step so far, having built up an incredible team, here in Manchester - one that I feel, for its size, can rival any publishing house in the UK.”
The funding decisions represent ACE's intentions to create the conditions for "cultural clusters of excellence" to grow in areas where investment has historically been lower, in cities such as Manchester, Bradford, Sunderland and Stoke.
Sir Nicholas Serota, chair of ACE, said: “Everyone deserves the chance to experience the sheer enjoyment, creativity and new horizons that culture can bring. We set out to deliver a significant increase in our investment outside London. We’ve done that, without detriment to the internationally renowned cultural offer of the capital. Alongside continuing support for our great national companies, we’ve funded inventive, pioneering arts organisations and a new range of museums across the country. We’ve also included libraries producing high quality cultural programmes. Working together these organisations will inspire a broader range of young people and audiences across England than ever before.”
ACE was given an increase in funding in the government’s Spending Review in November 2015 when George Osborne was chancellor. While the department of culture, media and sport’s funding was axed by 20%, ACE was given a small increase of £10m a year in cash for the four years up to 2020.
At the time Osborne described the arts sector as “one of the best investments we can make as a nation” and the then chair of ACE, Sir Peter Bazalgette, described the settlement as “astonishing”.
"This settlement means we can keep up our efforts to ensure everyone, everywhere in England benefits from Arts Council money,” he said.