Monday, 9 August 2010

Shades of grey

Usually, when I start a post, I have a clear idea of what I want to say or at the very least some semblance of a point I want to make. Not so today. I haven't even figured out where I stand on the following situation, but it grabbed my attention and now it's all yours.

On Radio 4 today, there was a short piece about cuts to the Arts Council's budget. I missed the beginning, but I gather from other sources that the Arts Council has to reduce its overall budget by £19m. This will mean a direct cut of £1.8m of funding, affecting around 800 arts organisations.

The radio interview was with one of the owners of Flambard Press (http://www.flambardpress.co.uk/) - I'm afraid I didn't catch her name. Flambard Press has a reputation for innovative authors and I've submitted material to them this year without success. That's not relevant to this post; it's just some context.

So, the owner explained that Flambard Press has been going for 20 years and has received Arts funding since its inception, and currently receives £21,000 a year. She made a convincing case for the importance of independent publishers like Flambard and that £21k is a small sum in the great scheme of things. (I was reminded of the £78m of National Lottery funding given to the Royal Opera House, back in the 90s.)

I came to the arts arena after leaving my corporate job, with two unpublished novels in hand and the promise of publication within a year. Over a year later, I'm come to see the arts world in an entirely different light. Different rules apply and it is a hand-to-mouth environment. Success, it appears, is judged by other criteria. It seems to be more about fulfilling a niche need and it definitely helps to tap into the right networks. Some things have changed though. There are people will go out of their way to help you while there are others will smile as they pull up the ladder behind them and make sure that window of opportunity is securely locked.

So the idea that a publisher can be funded for 20 years was something of a revelation. I wish them every success and I'm flabbergasted, all at the same time. Mainly, I started to wonder. Could a writer get that kind of patronage?

5 comments:

  1. Derek, I'd give you my last pound.

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  2. OK, maybe not my last pound. But definitely my second to last.

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  3. That's very kind - you must have some currency left over! Spookily, I've been trying to get a novel published for 20 years.

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  4. Could a writer get that kind of patronage - Not in a million years.

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  5. Brian, that was my first thought too. Part of me has admiration for them in that they have managed to publish writers who might never have got into print. And part of me wonders how a business can depend on sponsorship for 20 years and yet still be considered a business. The Arts is a strange and wondrous place - they do things differently over there!

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