In January 2020 Arts Council England (ACE) published its 10 year strategy, Let’s Create, with the underlying vision that ‘by 2030 we want England to be a country in which the creativity of each of us is valued and given the chance to flourish, and where every one of us has access to a remarkable range of high-quality cultural experiences.’
ACE has now published the first part of the delayed first three-year delivery plan for Let’s Create. This first document sets the context and five thematic areas of work, alongside detail on the investment principles that will guide ACE’s investment and grant-making decisions until 2030. Further information on grants and programmes will be published in June and July.
Five Themes of the Delivery Plan
The five themes of the delivery plan are:
- A ‘fit for the future’ cultural sector
- Supporting individuals
- Strengthening ACE’s place-based approach and contributing to levelling up
- Working internationally
- How the Arts Council will change
The Delivery Plan also states:
‘In applying these themes, we will also remain focused on the commitment to children and young people which we set out in Let’s Create. As the evidence begins to mount on the potential long-term impact of the pandemic on children’s mental health and educational attainment, we will redouble our efforts to help all our children and young people fulfil their creative potential and access the highest quality cultural experiences where they live, where they go to school, and where they spend their free time.’
ACE also commits to continuing to work with the Department for Education (DfE) and music hubs, and to highlighting ‘the importance of creativity in education, and of a rich curriculum that includes art and design, dance, drama and music.’
Detailed Actions and Area Plans published by July 2021
In the summer ACE will publish ‘a detailed set of Actions that we will take to support the sector to reset after the pandemic, to help our communities recover, and to contribute to the rebuilding of our economy.’ This Delivery Plan will be supported by five Area Plans published in July 2021.
Support for freelancers and the talent pipeline
The document acknowledges the extreme stress the pandemic has placed on creative freelancers with commitments to targeted support to increase the number of ethnically diverse and disabled freelancers. The Plan also acknowledges the need to improve the talent pipeline for young people.
‘We will work with partners to ensure that new pathways into the creative industries are opened up for young people everywhere, but especially Black, Asian, ethnically diverse and disabled creative practitioners, as well as those from lower socio-economic backgrounds.’
The Developing your Creative Practice grants which support individual arts practitioners will keep their increased pandemic budgets, and ACE commits to keeping ‘the design and criteria of the programme under regular review to ensure that it is able to support a wide range of creative practitioners – including … arts and cultural educators …’
Place based investment to benefit children and young people
Funds and development support will be focused on named priority places in which cultural engagement, ACE investment and opportunities cultural engagement are underdeveloped. These areas will be announced by July 2021 and ACE commits to particularly focusing on ‘supporting programmes that improve opportunities for children and young people in these places to access high-quality culture and realise their creative potential.’
Within the section on place-based investment the Delivery Plan also commits to a continued focus on working with schools and local cultural education partnerships ,and to refreshing the Artsmark programme, as well as working to implement the Durham Commission recommendations.
‘We will work with schools to reach as many children and young people as we can. To do this we will implement the findings of the Durham Commission, build on our work establishing local cultural education partnerships, and refresh our Artsmark programme to ensure it supports a wide range of schools to deliver an enriched arts offer.’
At a national level support will continue for Music Hubs.
Withdrawal of investment where Local Authorities cut funding?
The document takes aim at local authorities who are cutting investment in culture with the statement: ‘We will continue to work in places where joint investment in culture and opportunity is relatively high.’ which implies areas that do not continue to invest may not see ACE investment.
‘We will tie our future investment in those places to tangible evidence of improved collaborative working within the cultural sector, allied to a wider range of partnerships between the cultural sector and the education, healthcare, criminal justice, voluntary and commercial creative sectors. We will also use our on-the-ground intelligence, influence and networks to make the case to our local partners – local and combined authorities, higher education institutions, and local enterprise partnerships, among others – for the benefits to their communities of ongoing investment in culture.’
New and refreshed funding programmes
Details of new funding programmes to deliver the Plan, as well as any tweaks to the requirements of existing programmes, will be published in June.
Smaller National Lottery Project Grants increased to £30,000
The National Lottery Project Grants (NLPG), which include faster turn-around smaller grants of £3,000 to £15,000 at the moment, will have a refresh, be launched in September 2021 and have an increase in the smaller grant threshold to £30,000. Eligibility will be extended to include non-Accredited museums.
In line with the four investment principles in Let’s Create, ACE is clear that organisations will have to evidence the progress they are making to improve representation, including ethnic diversity, within their governance, staffing and audiences:
‘As we implement Let’s Create, we will tie more and more of our investment to evidence that applicants are embedding our four Investment Principles in their work. In relation to Inclusivity & Relevance, this will mean applicants providing evidence that their governance structures, leadership, workforce, volunteers, audience and programming are increasingly representative of their communities.’
Changes to the National Portfolio
The National Portfolio which receives around 75% of ACE’s investment funds will be expanded in the next round due to start in April 2023 to include the Creative People and Places (CPP) programme. Museums and Libraries will also be included within the National Portfolio rather than sitting alongside it.
Read the full Delivery Plan documents.
Image credit: Fuel Theatre The Little Prince 2020. Photographer Camilla Greenwell