Dear colleagues and friends,
2020 and the impact of Covid-19 will be forever watermarked in our consciousness. But we will also remember 2020 for the way in which artistic experience became something of a sanctuary for the whole nation.
It is now reasonable to anticipate that the arts will never again be taken for granted. The very welcome and significant increase in government funding for the Arts Council in 2021 will allow us to sustain and protect this precious reservoir of talent.
We’re now focused on making the best decisions to ensure we get these vital supports to the right places. As we look forward to the re-ignition of shared communal experiences, we wanted to share with you in ‘broad strokes’ how this additional funding will benefit you and your colleagues.
Updates on some new schemes will be shared with you in the weeks ahead. Announcements will follow in January and February of 2021, once all the details are in place.
We will be working tirelessly to ensure that we open wide the gates to the highest quality artistic activity. We will be working hard too to ensure that we provide practical assistance to people who may have found it challenging to access our supports in the past.
When Covid-19 first made its impact last March, our first concern was to reassure people about their funding commitments. We have proudly observed how the core infrastructure of the arts landscape found ways to reach people this year. Impressive levels of professionalism, grace and generosity have been evident all year and helped ensure that the arts occupied a central place in the national conversation. We look forward to continuing to support you as you plan your way back to full activity.
We are aware of the different ways people have made work this year and we will develop our capacity in this area, whether this is in the field of digital work or in the making of bespoke and intimate arts experiences.
We know that a great degree of flexibility has been required of us all across all areas of our lives. A new IT system will help to simplify our application processes and to improve our communication with you.
We will increase our investment in programmes to support young people and children. This important audience has suffered so much interruption and loss because of the pandemic. In our plans, we want to catch those at risk of falling through the net.
The way we live has already changed — it’s likely many more people may live away from cities. We now have a real opportunity to ensure that we encourage a civic forcefield of brilliant artists making powerful and compelling arts experiences across a very wide range of communities. In recognition of this reality —and following the successful pilot project in Tuam— we will introduce more Creative Places.
Freelance artists have been hardest hit this year and we’ve been able to support numerous new applicants through bursaries. Increased investment in bursaries will ensure that hundreds of artists across all art forms will be given time to develop work of the highest quality for audiences who will be hungry for the emotional urgency of good art.
At the heart of all our decision-making will be a commitment to our strategic plan — Making Great Art Work — and we will ensure that your work reaches the widest possible audience. In all our plans for 2021 we will remain committed to our two key policies in respect of Paying the Artist and Equality, Human Rights and Diversity.
We’ll have more information for you in the weeks and months ahead. For now, we hope that this update will give you a sense of the work underway for 2021.
I would like to acknowledge the sterling work of our team. In challenging circumstances, they have unstintingly dedicated themselves to support this wonderful profession.
And I would like to say a sincere thanks to you for your fortitude and support.
We look forward to working with you all.
Director of the Arts Council,
Wednesday 25 November 2020