Arts Council England: Not so 'ace' after all?

Arts Council England announces shocking new guidelines regarding the funding of organisations

Imogen Smillie
4th March 2024
Image Source: WikiCommons
In recent weeks, Arts Council England (ACE) have announced updates to its guidelines, shocking the artistic community. ACE told arts organisations that “overtly political or activist” statements made by their artists, or those they work closely with, could see funding cuts.

For those who are unaware, ACE are the main funding body for arts and culture in England and therefore have the power to make these funding cuts, if and when they feel it necessary.

Understandably, this news has sent shockwaves through the artistic community, with anger and confusion from those who use their art as a way to communicate their feelings. Particularly in recent years, with all the horror seen across the world, art may be the only medium some can use to express their anger with the world. However, now due to the new regulations in England, some organisations may have their funding withdrawn if pieces are to include such political statements, leaving artists nowhere to present their work.

Due to this backlash from the country’s creative types, ACE have assured that this new regulation is due to a matter of miscommunication, and promise to update the language of the new guidelines soon. Laura Dyer, their deputy executive, said that that ACE still believe “in the freedom of expression of all artists”. Retracting such a statement may seem contradictory for such a large organisation. But, we have to trust in their word that they are to change the language of such an important document.

However, this type of incident, perhaps, appears to have occurred before with ACE, as well as other cultural institutions – including the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS). Such creative institutions have taken a knock with budgets, therefore begging the question, where is the money going?

In the current cost of living crisis, there is no need to argue that money is tight. We all need to budget, whether that be for the weekly shop or the next set of acrylic paints. Either way, when funding is drawn due to freedom of expression, there may be (and should be) cause for such outrage.

On a personal level, I am currently studying a creative based masters, mainly for my love of writing, and with that, all other creative art forms. Therefore, I understand the need for art as a way of expression, whether that be emotional or political, through writing, painting or any other creative means (but I still prefer writing!). For myself, and other creative types, it feels disheartening that the main funding body for arts and culture, appear to be clamping down on the guidelines of how we express ourselves through the medium we love!

And as Senior Editor for Culture here at The Courier, I only hope that our writers and editors feel they can express themselves creatively – we wouldn’t want it any other way!

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