Emergency Funding

The current pandemic has raised important issues about emergency funding for artists with a number of sources of help including a-n Bursaries: Time Space Money; the Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund and the Freeland Foundation Emergency Fund.

These schemes are aimed at freelance creative practitioners based in England and Northern Ireland who work in the visual arts and who are experiencing severe financial hardship due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

While these are all wonderful initiatives offering valuable support to struggling artists, the problem is that limited funds just don’t stretch to meet the huge demand.

Part of ACE criteria during its short window of opportunity in April, was that applicants had to have previously received public funding – so if you are a self-funding artist, that ruled you out straightaway at a time when you probably needed it the most.

Also worth noting is that if ACE funding formed part of your income over the last three years, then a percentage of that will have come back round to you anyway courtesy of HMRC for a 3 month period with a second phase coming soon.

It’s true that all eligible freelancers will receive this but for those who put their own money back into their projects, exhibitions and outreach events – usually free of charge to the public – income will be lower as a result and that capital is the bit that’s now missing. It’s  the money needed to keep going until things change and to pay for the development of alternative strategies to reach your audience, through the creation of online selling platforms, for example, and other means of engagement.

Another important source of funding is the £1.5m Freelands Foundation Emergency Fund which was administered by a-n.

Again, creatives will be left wondering how the selection process actually works and what’s supposed to happen to those who go away empty-handed. How much is down to an ‘algorithm’ of some sort or does it simply hang on the views of those individuals on the selection panel. How relevant is your ability to create a strong narrative in two short 150-word answers, the strength of you cv or the look of your online presence – or are there other factors?

A-n weren’t too clear about this. What they did say was:

‘To give you some more details on the decision making process, we have received over 4,000 applications to date and the final deadline for applications is 18 June so we are expecting more. This is a rolling programme and we have put together a peer panel to look at applications on a weekly basis. We look at between 600-650 applications a week and make approximately 100 grants across England and Northern Ireland each week, as this is what the funding allows.’

That’s less than one in six. It’s terrific for the artists who get help but for those who are unsuccessful, many are left feeling ‘unworthy’. It really doesn’t help morale at an already difficult time.

So what does the future hold? What happens when the studio is gone and the tools of the trade have been sold off – non studio-based, ephemeral work which doesn’t cost anything to produce and which leaves you time to do your day job? Joking apart and on a more positive note, artists do tend to be resourceful, skilled at thinking outside the box and adept at surviving difficult times – after all, it’s something we’re forced to do all the time, never mind during a pandemic.

Further reading:


Time lapse work, Metamorphosis, part of Earth is Calling exhibition, Crypt Gallery Oct/Nov 2019

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