Arts Council Funding change to affect Independent Publishers

Independent publishers are expressing unease over Arts Council England’s new national portfolio funding criteria with one publisher calling the funding uncertainty "dangerously destabilising".

The director of literature strategy at Arts Council England, Antonia Byatt, moved to reassure literature organisations seeking ACE funding that they will not lose out to other art forms. Se said that although there were no specific quotas, ACE would be looking to maintain a balance across the arts with "equally as much of an emphasis on literature as on other art forms."

The system put in place following the Comprehensive Spending Review’s 30% cut to ACE funding and the creation of ACE’s new strategic framework, means funding applications have been thrown open to new applicants, with previously regularly funded organsations asked to re-apply. Funding decisions will be based on how each organisation fulfills ACE’s five longterm goals, focused on promoting artistic excellence, reaching communities, the arts as sustainable and innovative, building a diverse arts workforce, and bringing arts to young people.

Byatt said ACE Literature would balance funding between literary organisations, but would prioritise poetry, translations and literacy programmes.

Jeremy Poynting, managing editor of Caribbean-writing specialist Peepal Tree Press, said there was an ongoing argument with ACE as to the value of independent presses publishing fiction when so much was available through the mainstream. "Publishers like us to do things that commercial publishers don’t," he said, citing regional publishing as an example.

Stephen Stuart-Smith, director of Enimarthon Press, expressed concern for publishers whose editorial programmes operate years ahead of publication. "It is dangerously destabilising. It undermines our confidence in our programme," he said.

Tony Ward, managing director of poetry specialist Arc Publications, said that although the new system could be seen as a progressive step, losing out on funding would be a huge blow.