So, Arts Council England, where’s Rishi’s money?

So, Arts Council England, where’s Rishi’s money?


norman lebrecht

October 08, 2020

The ACE was due to make an announcement this week on how it was distributing the Chancellor’s £1.57 billion to desperate ensembles and artists who have been unable to face live audiences during Covid.

The shareout has been postponed to next Monday, barring further cancellations.

Could be too many people have applied.

£1,570,000,000 may not go as far as you might think.



  • Mark Pemberton says:

    To clarify, ACE is not distributing £1.5 billion. Its allocation from that money is £500 million.

  • Reggie Denny says:

    More needs to be said about the fact a third of this money has been assigned to TV and film production, which are often private companies. The way it is framed mirrors the government’s false portrayal that only cultural organisations and artists are recieving this cash.

  • UK Arts Manager says:

    Organisations desperately waiting for this announcement last week – organisations big and small who had spent many, many hours getting detailed applications in on time, including proof of their existance, audited accounts etc – were dismayed that Arts Council England [ACE] could not, in turn, get the results of their deliberations out on time.

    Having previously tweeted that they were expecting lots of applications, ACE’s generic email to applicants last week said that “due to the volume and complexity of applications we received, many from organisations that are new to us” they couldn’t announce their allocations. “We have been undertaking additional due diligence” (those familiar with ACE’s work might unkindly wonder if that was code for “we’d worked our quota of hours this week so were knocking off on time, even if it leaves the arts starving for another week”).

    ACE does have a bit of a reputation for not always knowing its arts from its elbow, but presumably for them to discover that there are organisations which aren’t on their list of usual suspects to whom they regularly dish out the dosh seems to have caught them on the hop.

    On this showing, no-one who applied from beyond those usual suspects will be waiting with too much bated breath to see how ACE allocate this £500 million handout. It may look a lot, but the UK music industry alone annually generates £5.2 billion for the UK economy (and Theatre UK annually generates £2.8 billion in taxes), so less than 10% of this, but now spread across the entire arts economy is not going to save a lot anyway. And then Rishi Sunak last week caused deep insult in the freelance arts world by stating that arts jobs aren’t “viable jobs”.

    So on this showing by ACE, perhaps we could go further and save the £50 million that ACE spends administering itself each year and replace the whole organisation with a single person, provided with a chequebook, a small wooden hut and a 2kW electric fire. That would save a lot of money and probably result in some equally decent artistic choices.

    • The competition for Arts Council support is fierce at the best of times. Using terms like ‘viable’ or ‘viability’ is a nonsense because the way we are all funded is almost medieval and we spend most of our time raising cash from elsewhere other than ACE in order to work, not survive, but work. In the current climate, the country would miss the 100 billion plus the Creative Industries combined generate…not achieved this year sadly. We matter; we are not an optional extra.

  • Charles Clark-Maxwell says:

    >>£50 million that ACE spends administering itself each year
    Incredible. How many people on their payroll ?

  • The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group wrote to the Oliver Dowden MP the Secretary of State for Digital Culture Media and Sport on the 15th August and are still waiting for a reply on the 19th September 2020. Attached to the letter was a document “Jazz Musicians and volunteer promoters – falling between the cracks”. The letter and the document can be found at:

    This paper reinforced the findings of the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS Sectors: First Report by the select committee for Digital Culture Media and Sport. MPs say the response of the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has been hampered by the Department’s fundamental misunderstanding across Government of the needs, structures and vital social contribution of sectors such as the creative industries. The Report finds the loss of performing arts institutions and cultural workers would put at risk the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda and reverse decades of progress in cultural provision, diversity and inclusion.

    APPJAG welcomed the £1.5 billion recovery fund along with the lowering of VAT to 5% for concerts. which should be retained. Regrettably, there were concerns about the delivery of the fund and the criteria that have been set by the DCMS. The fund is designed to support the survival of cultural and heritage organisations that are of international or national cultural significance, or that contribute to the levelling-up agenda, and that are at risk of no longer trading viably by the end of this financial year. Swathes of individuals and volunteer organisations crucial to a healthy music seen will fall through this particular crack. Bands and musicians do not suddenly arrive at the O2 Arena there is an infrastructure that assiduously works to get them there and if that infrastructure is left to flounder through a lack of investment, the UK will lose its competitive edge, in terms of music development, music exports and “soft power”.

    Who determines who is of national cultural significance? As the Arts Council is delivering the fund, there is a potential for a conflict of interests between Arts Council funded National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs) and all the many organisations who do not receive funds from Arts Council England who will all be applying to the fund. The Arts Council to its great credit has produced full reports on the expenditure of their emergency funds to date of £64.8 million invested in 9,666 people and organisations plus £33 million to 196 National Portfolio organisations. However a “snap” audit is essential of those individuals and organisations who have received funds plus the title of the emergency funding scheme that provided these funds. This audit is crucial in order to identify those people and organisations that are falling between the cracks.

    There is a problem with the ministerial task forces – they are not joined up. The arts are in the hands of the DCMS, whilst pubs and restaurants are with the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy. Pubs and restaurants enable a great deal of music making, entertainment, maturing circuits, comedy clubs. A prima facie example is the Pizza Express restaurant chain.

    There is a flaw in the Entertainments and Events Working Group comprising 49 organisations. 69% of the organisations are based in London and 31% outside of the M25. Of the 49 members only two organisations are representative of diverse communities.

    There will be more of the same if Arts Council England continues with its 10 year strategy “Let’s Create” which is utterly unsuitable and is the intellectual equivalent of chewing rubber spaghetti. My response to Let’s Create can be found at:

    It is crucially important that with a new post-Covid and Brexit landscape a national arts plan is developed that ensures that the arts and culture play a part in healing the nation and drives the export of arts and culture. To make this happen the arts requires a reformation in arts funding with an organisation that can deliver a rolling, realistic and coherent national plan for the arts, entertainment and culture where under-represented musics and art forms finally get a place in the sun.
    Jazz London Radio
    Pure Jazz Radio

  • Tribonian says:

    It’s probably a safe bet that the money will be allocated by reference to factors other than artistic merit. So the taxpayer will ensure that the diverse and vibrant artists that nobody wants to see/hear now will still be on the public payroll when vaccinated audiences continue to stay away.