While a number of charitable organisations are able to provide discreet funding for creators, including the Authors’ Foundation managed by the Society of Authors, there is a great need for ongoing support via national and international bodies.
Emergency funding during the health crisis
In 2020, the financial impact of the health crisis was felt immediately by authors, as school visits, festivals and other appearances were cancelled, theatre, film and other projects postponed, and publications delayed.
From our Authors in the Health Crisis research we know that two thirds of professional authors saw a loss in income between March and September 2020, with almost half saying this represented a loss of over a quarter of their income. Less than a third of survey responds had received any form of Government help.
We rallied the support of partner organisations – including ALCS, Royal Literary Fund, Arts Council England and Creative Scotland – to raise over £1.4 million to be distributed as small hardship grants to authors through our existing Contingency Fund. We made a difference, but could not fully replace the income lost by the writers, translators and illustrators we helped.
More than anything, the health crisis highlighted the precariousness of creative careers. It made clear the need for developmental funding to nurture individuals, alongside the assurance of a robust safety net to support them in times of crisis.
Arts Council & Creative Scotland
We work closely with Arts Council England, the Arts Council of Wales and Creative Scotland to ensure that funds are made available to authors and to support literature. However, between 2015-2018, Arts Council England spent just £46m on literature from a total budget of over £1.3bn – only 3.5% of its budget. We believe that the Arts Council and Creative Scotland should do more across the UK to support authors in order to increase the supply of quality writing for everyone. We support Arts Council England’s aim, as expressed in Models of Support for Literary Fiction, to provide greater support for authors and independent publishers, boost readership and increase diversity across the sector.
In April 2018 we responded to Arts Council England’s ‘conversation’ about its plans for the next ten years. We highlighted a number of areas where we believe ACE could provide greater support to authors, including grants for work in progress, skills training, mentoring schemes, funding for prizes and supporting authors to make school visits.
We are concerned about the loss of EU funding for the arts now that we have left the EU. The Creative Europe funding scheme provided important funding for the arts across Europe, and brought an average of £18.4 million a year to the UK. Creative Europe was particularly important for literary translation, and since 2014 its funding has enabled 147 books by authors from or based in the UK to be translated into other languages. It also helped distribute 145 British films in other European countries.
One of Creative Europe’s key aims is to “promote the transnational circulation and mobility of cultural and creative works and artists to reach new audiences.” This is a laudable goal, and public funding of the arts must continue to support such an aspiration. Membership of Creative Europe is not restricted to EU states, and we are urge the Government to either commit to remaining within Creative Europe following our departure from the EU, or to increase domestic funding for the arts via the Arts Council or another equivalent body.
Authors have benefited both directly and indirectly from EU research funding. The UK is the second largest recipient of EU funding for science and research, and it is vital that our excellent reputation for research is not damaged by Brexit. Losing this funding would also have a knock-on effect on the £1.1bn journal market. The Government should commit to securing continued access to EU research funding schemes, or putting in place a domestic replacement.
Funding for skills training
Most authors are self-employed workers, and it is crucial that continuing professional development is available to them and not just to employees. One way to reach this often overlooked workforce is through professional organisations and trade unions, including the SoA, which offer members access to training, mentoring and updates on industry developments. Government funding would be well directed to such schemes in place of traditional apprenticeships.