Funding of the arts and heritage

Written evidence submitted by the National Association For Literature Development (arts 175)

1 Background

The National Association for Literature Development is the professional body for all those involved in developing writers, readers and audiences for new writing across the UK. Our membership of 450 is made up of freelance activists and producers, festivals and promoters, independent publishers, librarians, writer and reader development agencies, and arts officers.

2 Summary

2.1 Literature is the carbon factor of the arts – without writers there are no words, without stories there would be no books, theatre, film and TV drama, computer games.

2.2 Literature is a much more complex art form, than merely putting pen to paper, words to a screen, it has its own complex economic models.

2.3 Investment in literature creates great returns for individuals and the Exchequer.

2.4 The subsidised literature sector is essential to the commercial sector in developing new writers and product, and providing the mechanisms for the private sector to reach and grow its market.

2.5 Creative writing and reading are essential tools for building a literate, confident and effective communities, nationally and locally.

2.6 Writers strengthen senses of national and local, and writers associated with place drive prosperity by supporting leisure and tourism, and in some cases being the attraction themselves.

2.7 We also make points on the current funding structure, the National Lottery Share and the difficulty for our sector in securing private donations.

3 Literature is the carbon factor of all the arts.

3.1 Without writers there are no words.

3.2 Without words there would be no books, magazines, websites, newspapers. There would also be no plays, no opera, no TV drama, no film, no computer games, and we would lack the narratives that fuel many pieces of music and dance and much of the visual arts.

4 Literature is a complex art form

4.1 it is not just putting pen to paper, or typing words on a screen. It is time intensive: involving study, research, long intense periods of individual creation, then editing, rewriting, long intense periods of collaboration with agents, editors, directors ...

4.2 and resource intensive, literature has it s own complex economic models. Once written, it has to be published:

· by print publication and distribution through commercial, independent and online book shops

· through the increasing numbers of online publications

· through the broadcast or film industries

4.3 It is then consumed by readers and audiences

· through traditional print and broadcast, and new electronic, media

· by writers performing and speaking at readings and festivals throughout the country

· through libraries, book shop tours, radio, TV and print media interviews and features

4.4 To be successful literature not only needs investment in production and distribution, it also the same investment in marketing and promotion as any other cultural or commercial product.

5 T he rewards of investment in literature can be high.

5.1 The UK publishing industries generate more than £22bn in sales annually - around 30% of the UK's creative industries. Publishing employs some 140,000 people and generates a significant trade surplus from more than £2bn in export revenues.

5.2 Looking at the figures from the opposite end: in In 2008 Carolyn Jess-Cooke received a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North of £3,500 to help her develop her work. The awards programme is funded by Arts Council England and match funded by The Leighton Group, a commercial sponsor. With support from New Writing North, Carolyn’s first novel, The Guardian Angel’s Journal, went on to sell in the UK and in another 13 territories internationally. These initial sales generated sales worth 50 times the original modest investment of £3,500.

5.3 Despite such success, the current literature sector is underfunded, receiving just 2.7% of the total Arts Council England funding to the arts in 2009/10.

5.4 Much of the current debate about funding is predicated on an assumption of fifteen years of sustained development. While resources to literature have increased a little especially from Grants for the Arts, proportionally the increase has been much smaller than to those art forms that have received a larger share of the funding, simply entrenching the historic inequality in relation to high profile building based art forms which have always been resourced more adequately.

5.4 While we recognise that there need to be cuts in public expenditure, we would ask the committee to urge the DCMS and Arts Councils to use the current spending review to address the current inequities in arts investment across the art form portfolio, rather than merely apply cuts across the board.

6 We believe that investment in the literature development sector is not an option given the vital role it plays in:

· identifying and developing new talent for the commercial sector

· creating an audience for and increasing sales for the commercial sector

· creating a confident literate society

· celebrating national and local identity

· giving a voice to localism

7 identifying and developing new talent for the commercial sector

7.1 The commercial and subsidised sectors are symbiotic.

7.2 As illustrated in 5.2, the subsidised sector discovers and nurtures new writers, many of whom then go on to have commercial success. Writers do not have the established professional development paths enjoyed by drama, dance or the fine arts so there are few successful writers who have not at some stage received development support from the equivalent paths provided by the literature development sector – whether that be attending writers workshops provided by organisations such as The Writing Squad or the Arvon Foundation, receiving writers or time to write awards from organisations such as New Writing North, or being brought to public attention by an subsidised magazine like The North or Wasafiri or by an independent publisher such as Tindal Street Press or Bloodaxe books.

7.3 The subsidised sector also provides the space where established writers can try new things, develop new sk ills explore new opportunities. For example, in 2007, Writers Centre Norwich Escalator Literature supported journalists, academics, and commercial writers to develop literary fiction projects. One of the recipients has since had work published in the US and UK, and had a play developed from her work. Three have become full time writers and a war correspondent for a national broadsheet – has just signed a two book deal with Hodder & Stoughton. His novel will be published in 2011 and has already been sold – along with a sequel – to publishers in other countries.

8 Creating an audience for and increasing sales for the commercial sector

8.1 Once a writer is published, the subsidised sector provides a network of live events offered by promoters and festivals such as the Hay Festival or Ilkley Literature Festival. Readers groups also provide a means for publishers to engage with customers directly. Both increase the profile of writers and generate significant book sales. These circuits also provide the means for new and emerging writers to establish themselves and build a readership.

8.2 Festivals funded by local authorities, and readers groups run by libraries, will be under particular pressure from savings being made by local authorities. Without such networks, access to literature will be severely limited, with readers dependent on the limited range of high profile product covered by the mainstream media.

8.3 It is worth pointing out that festivals and readers groups are not just about selling books. Perhaps, uniquely among the art forms, literature provides the platform for the discussion of ideas, festivals and readers groups provide essential places where people can publicly discuss issues that affect their daily lives and thus provide vital forums for public debate.

8 Creating literate, confident and effective communities

8.1 A successful nation needs a literate population, confident in using words and ideas, knowledgeable about its own, and about other cultures. Reading is a muscle, if it is not used it wastes and becomes ineffective, and while the education sector teaches people to read, the subsidised literature sector plays a vital role in keeping them reading.

8.2 The Literature sector has a strong track record of working with people for whom reading and writing is a life line, and improved reading, writing and cognition skills leads from unemployment and social exclusion, to employment and self sufficiency. The efficacy of reading and writing centred projects has been proven by work such as that undertaken by Prison Writers in Residency represented by Writers in Prisons and supported by the Prison Service, or by work with adult learners and people with low reading ability delivered by the Reading Agency and their partners.

8.3 We believe that access to reading that is contemporary and relates to people's current experience is important, not just for the marginalised but for all of us.

8.4 A businessman seeking to export might be as effectively equipped with knowledge of the customs and mindset of his customers by reading a novel translated from their language, as he would be by market reports. A doctor might understand better the social pathology of her patients better if she was reading the stories being written by young people in her inner city neighbourhood or remote farming community.

8.5 Mainstream commercial publishing is limited in the range of titles it can produce, its products have to appeal to a national/international market which will generate significant sales. This militates against risk taking and diversity. Independent publishers and organisations such as Inpress, which specialises in bringing independent publishers to the market place, ensure that a wide variety of voices, including minority and peripheral voices continue to be heard. Independent publishing, and the support of new and emerging writers, is essential to the reflection of not only the rich tapestry of indigenous culture in the British Isles, but its rapidly changing demography – the way the UK relates to itself, locally and nationally, but also how the UK relates to the rest of the world.

9 Celebrating national and local identity and creating prosperity

9.1 Britain is known by its writers – from Shakespeare and Jane Austen, to Roald Dahl, J.K. Rowling, Ian Rankin, Antony Minghella, Monica Ali and Zadie Smith.

9.2 Just as Britain is known by its writers, so are it is regions. Try to imagine Yorkshire without the Brontes, Bram Stoker, Winifred Holtby, Willis Hall, J.B. Priestly, Alan Bennett, Alan Ayckbourne, Ted Hughes, James Herriot, Tony Harrison, Simon Armitage, Kay Mellor, Simon Beaufort, David Peac e. Try to imagine Yorkshire without Dracula's Whitby, the Bronte's moors, without Last of the Summer Wine, Herriott and Heartbeat country, Emmerdale.

9.3 Every region, every locality, has its own defining set of writers and imagined landscapes, who contribute to its sense of identity and shared pride, providing the narratives behind the social and built fabric of our society, and such identification, with real or imagined worlds, is a significant driver for the leisure and tourism industry – whether that is the fascination of the Japanese with the Brontes, shows in regional theatres moving to the West End and into international production, or coach loads of fans of TV series exploring the landscape and haunts of their favourite characters.

9.4 The subsidised literature sector has played a part in developing these writers, and/or making sure their work is still published and performed,

9.5 It would make an interesting study to compare the way the new Scottish Government has used writers and literature to foster and promote a sense of national identity, with the way literature is thought of and promoted in England.

10 Funding Structures

10.1 While dissatisfied with our cut of the cake, the literature sector does have a good relationship with literature specialists inside Arts Council England (as is true with regard to Creative Scotland and Arts Council Northern Ireland).

10.2 We value the current arms length funding system, based on specialist arm form knowledge.

10.3 We welcome the emergence of Arts Council England's national literature strategy, but value decisions being made at a regional level where the knowledge of regional cultural differences and an intimate knowledge of local literature ecologies is strongest.

10.4 While we welcome the cost savings made in the centralisation of Arts Council England's grant assessment processes, we are concerned that this seems to remove decision making from specialists with that intimate regional/local knowledge, and that final decisions will be made by cultural star chambers where like is not compared with like, the known will be favoured over the unknown, and the 'super-regionally' glamorous will win out over the locally significant.

11 The National Lottery

11.1 As the literature sector receives relatively small amount of support given to regularly funded organisations, currently 1.7%, Lottery funding from Grants for the Arts (6.8% of the total awarded) has contributed significantly to the growth of the sector. Therefore, while arguing for the necessity of increased support for a network of regularly funded organisations, we value and would argue for an increase in the share allocated from the National Lottery for cultural investment.

12 Private Donations

It is particularly hard for Literature to attract commercial and private donors. With the exception of festivals, there is little high profile activity yielding sufficient audience numbers or high profile locations to give benefactors the kind of return they are looking for.

September 2010