2020 has been a year of reaction, of coping, but it has also been a year of reflection that has helped focus our agenda for 2021.
Where did people turn when lockdown began? To books and stories, to written, spoken and illustrated words, to recorded stage plays and musicals shared online, to Netflix boxsets and computer games. A few short weeks served to demonstrate what we have been saying since 1884: your work is vital.
Yet at the same time, we saw the precariousness of creative careers, and the lack of statutory support available. As some publishers reported phenomenal sales growth mid-pandemic, as the public devoured your work, many of you faced financial crisis after cancelled school visits and appearances, cancelled or delayed publications, the closure of bookshops and libraries and a further shift to the emphasis on celebrity.
What to expect in 2021
In 2021, it is more vital than ever that we support you and speak out for you, in Government and across industry.
We will continue our efforts so that, as we leave the EU, you can try to earn a living and share your work beyond our borders, with your rights in your work protected both at home and abroad. We have had more than four years of uncertainty as successive negotiations bounced us from possible deals to no deal back to (maybe) some sort of deal. We still cannot say how it will play out, but in our work with The Booksellers’ Association and others, we are at least beginning to understand some of the issues that must be overcome to ensure that what you do is portable.
The health crisis helped expose many historical inequalities across society, but also here at home in our creative industries. As the fallout from the pandemic progresses we will continue to lobby Government with our Six-Point Plan for Authors, campaigning for more targeted statutory support for creative professionals, an increase in funding for PLR, an end to VAT on audiobooks, a dedicated Learning Resource Fund for schools, improvements to learning resource funding for higher education, and ongoing support for the Authors’ Contingency Fund.
We will not stop lobbying industry for transparency in contracts, in royalties, in how you are credited, and your work exploited. This is our bread and butter campaigning work, and the ongoing issues with Audible that came to light in November are a perfect case study in why this is so important.
We will develop and amplify the re-launched Creators’ Rights Alliance – in partnership with the Association of Illustrators, the Musician’s Union, DACS and many others – to unify the voices of every type of creative practitioner to Government.
In 2020 we have seen evidence of the impact of inequality across the creative industries, with Goldsmiths’ ‘Rethinking Diversity in Publishing’ and Arts Council England’s ‘Reading for Pleasure’ reports, as well as a report from CLPE in November finding that only 1% of children’s picture books feature a main character who is Black. Opportunity and representation are not equal here. There is so much more to do. In 2021 we will continue to make good on our strategic commitment to inclusivity – not only in speaking truth to industry, but in our own communities too, in our events, our committees, on the pages of our journal and website – and of course among our staff team, because the most potent change begins at home.
2021 will be every bit as challenging as 2020.
But we’re ready. To work together. To support you. To make your voices heard.