Arts Council vow to offer more funding for young creatives

Emerging artists and writers need more public money says Arts Council England’s chairman.

by Douglas Greenwood
02 January 2020, 11:30am

Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images

At some point in our adolescence, we’ve all sat across from a career advisor whose job it was to tell us that our ambition to become a musician, writer, actor -- just about anything creative -- was a load of BS, and that we should go through life with a back-up plan, just in case those dreams didn’t pan out. It’s easy to say the ones who succeeded were simply the most resilient, but that’s not the case: there’s a financial privilege that put plenty of young people from wealthy backgrounds ahead of the pack.

So, it’s encouraging to hear that in their new 10-year-plan -- set to be announced in the coming weeks -- Arts Council England are vowing to provide young artists in the early stages of their career with bursaries and funding to help them get where they want to be.

In an interview with The Guardian, the arts council’s chairman Sir Nicholas Serota (who nabbed the job after a stint looking after the Tate galleries), said that there was “obviously an idea about the arts which is about it being elitist. In sport they don’t have any difficulty at all in recognising the difference between a knockabout game and the Premier League. They recognise there is the professional game and something they can be involved with on a Sunday morning.” That mentality seldom strays over into the art world. “If we could get to the same position in the arts we would be well placed,” he added. “[Arts and culture] is just something that is part of life rather than something which is over there and separate.”

The announcement of the Arts Council’s plans coincide with the fear of Boris Johnson’s government planning a scaling down of departments within his cabinet, which could force the Department of Culture to merge with other departments.

For now though, opportunity for those who need it most is looking a little more optimistic. The Arts Council’s funding vows are exciting, not only because they’ll hopefully help cultivate more younger talent from less privileged backgrounds, but they’ll help those who haven’t been properly exposed to the arts -- either in school or their local community -- to engage with it fully. Nicholas Serota points out that a huge number of past winners of the Mercury Music Prize have directly benefited from support from the Arts Council in their early years. Maybe, with this kind of help, we’ll get a new star of film, music or the stage that might have otherwise slipped under the radar?

Learn how to apply for Arts Council Funding here.