Category: Flexible Working, Arts Council England, creative, Arts council, Arts and culture, Careers at Arts Council England, Freelance, Freelancers, Creative Freelancers
Now, more than ever, our cultural sector is recognising its dependency on freelancers. Our Director, Strategy, Michelle Dickson, gives us the details about how our Delivery Plan for 2021–24 is helping individuals.
Freelancers are at the heart of creative production. Without talented artists, technicians, designers, curators, producers, writers and other practitioners, our buildings, fields, streets, shelves, walls would be sorely lacking in creativity and culture.
So, how best can we retain this vital talent at a time when many are leaving to work elsewhere. How can we attract new talent that reflects England’s diversity, and work sustainably and fairly with those who aren’t on salary, as well as those who are?
There are no easy answers, but we believe the actions set out in our Delivery Plan for 2021-24 will bring positive change, both through investing more time and money and by partnering with others who are making change happen.
One of the clearest things our sector has heard both before and throughout the pandemic is that the trickle down of investment in organisations doesn’t always flow through to freelancers.
The Sixth Festival of Thrift. Photo © Tracy Kidd Photography.
As projects were postponed or cancelled at the outbreak of the pandemic, income sources for many freelancers disappeared overnight. At the Arts Council, we launched our Emergency Response Fund, making £20 million directly available to individuals, as well as investing a further £6.25 million to support practitioners through benevolent funds. And in December 2021, we made a further £1.5 million available to a-n, Theatre Artists Funds and Help Musicians in order to provide emergency support to freelancers facing fresh cancellations due to the Omicron variant. This support for individuals has sat alongside the Government’s support for organisations through the Culture Recovery Fund and the wider measures of the Self-employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS) and the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (furlough).
We’ve also improved our key funding programmes to ensure that they offer better support for individual creative and cultural practitioners.
Designers in Residence at the Design Museum. Photo © Felix Speller for the Design Museum.
This includes a refresh of our National Lottery Project Grants programme, which provides funding to individuals for arts, museums and libraries projects. It now has a more streamlined application process, designed to help us support individuals to deliver more ambitious activity, more quickly. It will also help to support creative and cultural practitioners who are right at the beginning of their careers.
We’ve also invested more in our Developing your Creative Practice programme, increasing the available funding for 2021/2 to £22.4 million, enabling more creative and cultural practitioners to take time to focus on your development.
New resources to come
We also want to help you find the right training and resources so that you can continue honing your craft and improving the way you work.
Something that we’ve heard from many freelancers is that it’s challenging to find training opportunities and resources relevant to you – if they even exist. So, we’re working with freelancers to identify gaps in training provision and support to signpost individuals to those opportunities and resources. And where there’s a gap, we’ll look at commissioning new training.
Complementing this, we’ll be developing a toolkit to support bodies such as Local Authorities to consider how best to work with and get value from local creative and cultural practitioners.
We’re also working in partnership to produce a symposium with, by and for creative and cultural practitioners, which will take place later this year. It will bring together individuals, organisations, funders and policymakers to enact real change in the creative and cultural sector.
And, as we begin the process for the 2023-26 Investment Programme, we’re making sure that the next cohort of National Portfolio Organisations and our new Investment Principles Support Organisations will provide more equitable and transparent support to creative and cultural practitioners. We committed to this in our Delivery Plan, and we’re starting this work by ensuring applicants understand how we’ll expect them to improve their support for freelancers if their application is successful. This is set out in a new information sheet which provides guidance, good practice and signposting to further resources, and which we hope will be useful for individuals and organisations across the cultural sector.
Alongside all these actions, we want to improve your experience when you come to us. Take a look at our new webpage, which focuses on what we can do for you, as well as signposting to other resources. We’ll update this page regularly to reflect the latest funding and resources available for freelancers.
Tell us what you think
We’re already in contact with many of the freelancer networks that were set up during the pandemic and those conversations have been invaluable to our thinking so far. But we want to make sure that all individuals working in the culture sector are able to share their thoughts with us if they want to.
Inspire Libraries - Jess Fisher. Photo © Culture, Learning and Libraries: Ralph Barklam.
To make sure we can hear from anyone who wants to reach us, we now have a dedicated email address for this strand of our work: [email protected]. You can contact us directly with suggestions for how we can support individuals, share examples of good practice in the sector, and give us feedback on how we’re doing so far. We’ll make sure that any feedback is considered in our wider planning and delivery for individuals.
We believe the work we’re doing will make a difference, but we also know that we can always do more to help. We’re continuing to develop more Delivery Plan actions for next year and beyond, and continuing to test our thinking with individuals, and against data, evidence, and research, along the way.
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