As the COVID-19 health crisis deepens across the UK, the incomes of self-employed workers from all sectors have been hit hard. Many writers, illustrators, journalists, translators, scriptwriters and other authors are among them. Book tours have been cancelled, along with lectures, talks, performances and school visits. Others face indefinite postponements of contracts as broadcasters, colleges and other commissioning organisations close their offices.
The Society of Authors (SoA) distributes around £95,000 each year to authors in need through its contingency fund charities. These grants of up to £1,500 are invaluable to authors but during the current health crisis, demand is already rising to a level that the Fund cannot meet.
But this week, the SoA has been approached by partner organisations who recognised an urgent need for an industry-wide coordinated response. The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), Royal Literary Fund (RLF), the T S Eliot Foundation in partnership with English PEN, and Amazon UK, have very generously contributed a combined £235,000 to the Authors’ Contingency Fund for the support of authors through the crisis. These donations have more than tripled the funds the SoA had expected to distribute this year, with the fund to be called the Authors’ Emergency Fund.
The SoA is talking to other partner organisations and funding bodies about the possibility of increasing this funding pot, to make it a truly sector-wide national initiative. The initiative has received widespread support across the sector with the Royal Society for Literature, the Writers Guild of Great Britain, the Association of Illustrators, Writing West Midlands, and the National Association of Writers in Education lauding the appeal.
Who can apply?
While money from some funders might have geographical or professional restrictions, the SoA aims to offer as broad a level of support as possible.
Applications are open to all professional authors who are resident in the UK or British subjects – including all types of writers, illustrators, literary translators, scriptwriters, poets, journalists and others – for whom author-related activities make up a substantial amount of their annual income. This applies to anyone eligible for Full Membership of the SoA although membership of the SoA is not a requirement.
Grants are likely to be up to £2,000 and designed to meet urgent need with the possibility of review as the situation continues.
An ‘agile approach’ to emergency funding
Commenting on the new funding, SoA Chief Executive Nicola Solomon said:
The financial challenges facing authors had become acute even before the current health crisis, with an increasing number approaching us for financial support. But now, they’re seeing unmanageable losses – some seeing thousands of pounds worth of lost contracts in a single day. It was clear that current levels of funding would fail to meet need. We are extremely grateful to the organisations that have contributed so far. We’ve been distributing emergency funds to authors since 1960, and our approach is far more agile than most organisations, aiming to turn around applications within weeks not months.
Philip Pullman, President of the Society of Authors, said:
At a time of crisis, when part of the crisis consists of not knowing enough about the crisis itself to be able to plan with any certainty, it will be enormously reassuring to many authors to know that this fund exists. It’s especially good to see these excellent bodies acting together to support the cause of authorship, in all the fields where authorship takes place. The work of a modern author consists not only of sitting at a desk thoughtfully putting words on paper, but also of speaking, lecturing, visiting schools, teaching courses and other activities that involve meeting groups of people, and these are the very things that the COVID-19 pandemic is making impossible. With the cancelled event or visit there also disappears, of course, the author’s fee. This is the situation that many of us now face, and which the Authors’ Emergency Fund will do a great deal to mitigate. I’m immensely grateful to all the organisations and individuals who have pooled their resources to support this Fund, and I’m sure that it will do great work. Let’s hope that it doesn’t need to do it for very long.
Tony Bradman, Chair of ALCS, said:
At ALCS we know just how hard it is to make a living as a writer at the best of times. The current crisis is extraordinary, and for many writers who depend on school visits and events for income, life has suddenly become very bleak and threatening indeed. But at ALCS we also know that writers have always helped each other – that spirit is part of the DNA of the organisations we have created and which look after our interests. So when we heard about the SoA’s Emergency Fund initiative we immediately agreed to make a donation. It’s the least we can do. As a nation we need to support the writing community, to make sure that it can thrive when things return to normal – as they will eventually!
Daniel Gorman, Director of English PEN, said:
English PEN works to support writers at risk wherever they may be. Writers, journalists and literary professionals across the UK are facing an unprecedented impact on their incomes as a result of Corona-19. We are hugely thankful to the T S Eliot Foundation for supporting this initiative, and are incredibly grateful to the Society of Authors for spearheading this industry-wide response.
The trustees of the Royal Literary Fund said:
The Royal Literary Fund has supported writers for over two centuries; it is in our genes to watch out for their welfare. The moment it became apparent that the side-effects of containing Covid-19 would have a devastating impact on authors’ livelihoods we were able to release some of our funds for this emergency project. One of the reasons we could do this so swiftly has been due to the generosity of several generations of writers supporting our work. Writers enabling other writers to work their magic with words. It is what the RLF is here for.
How to apply
The Authors’ Contingency Fund is open to applications now.
For full details on how to apply, eligibility and to download an application form visit societyofauthors.org/Grants/contingency-funds.
The support we can offer to authors in need is only made possible by the generosity of other authors and other organisations.