Statement on changes to Arts Council England’s policies for regularly-funded organisations

 Howard Lake 

We share concern about changes to Arts Council England’s policies for regularly-funded organisations – new cautions about activity that is

  • done by individuals ‘in a personal capacity’
  • ‘overtly political or activist’ 
  • ‘likely to be in breach of your funding agreement’  

As the Arts Council acknowledges, freedom of expression is essential for a thriving cultural sector in this country. So too is the ‘arm’s length principle’ that ensures public money for the arts is given independently of government, allowing for pluralism and challenge.

It has always been part of an artist’s job to question, disturb and be a thorn in the side of established ideas. The UK’s tradition of arts funding follows an arms-length principle that is designed to interfere with that vital role as little as possible.

The Charity Commission has robustly upheld charities’ right to engage in political activity, even where this risks triggering controversy. We hope Arts Council England can do the same for those it funds, and be supported in this by the Government.

We all benefit, as do the arts, from a more open and expressive democracy and society.

UPDATE (15 February): Arts Council England has issued an updated statement saying they are ‘looking again at some of the language’ in these policies and will ‘publish an updated version of the Relationship Framework as soon as possible’.

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