Disability arts organisations have missed out on a huge increase in funding that has been handed to other diverse-led groups by Arts Council England (ACE).
Although there has been a significant increase in the number of disability-led arts organisations that will be funded for the next four years – from 23 to 35, according to ACE – the total amount of annual funding has fallen by about £140,000 a year.
The figures were released as ACE announced the arts and cultural organisations that would receive funding as part of its national portfolio for the four years from 2018-19 to 2021-22.
The ACE report shows that funding for LGBT-led organisations has risen from £3 million to £26 million a year (compared with 2017-18), with grants for black and minority ethnic-led groups rising from £12 million to £19 million a year, while disability-led funding fell from £7.169 million to £7.029 million a year for the next four years.
Three years ago, after a fall of 30 per cent in the number of disabled-led arts organisations funded through the national portfolio programme, and a fall of nearly 15 per cent in annual funding, ACE had pledged to take action*.
It pledged to invest £7.5 million to build capacity among black and minority ethnic and disabled artists and organisations in the next three years.
Although that investment has helped lead to an increase in the number of disabled-led organisations represented in the national portfolio, it has not had the same impact on the overall level of funding.
An ACE spokeswoman said: “The investment reflects the level of ask made by different organisations. We did offer a number of uplifts as part of our investment.”
These uplifts are included in the final figure of £7.029 million.
But she also said the figures for 2017-18 included funding for organisations that no longer self-defined as disability-led by the 2018-22 application stage.
She said one of the “wider challenges” ACE faced was the low number of disabled people working in the arts and cultural sector, which has “a direct impact on the number of disability led organisations”.
She said ACE was encouraging organisations to address this, including through new requirements for some future funding agreements.
She said: “If we see an increase in the number of disabled people working in the sector we will likely see an increase in the number of disability led organisations too.”
She said there was also a high number of “prefer not to say” responses to questions on diversity, particularly in relation to disability, and ACE wanted to reduce this.
One of the actions it plans to take is to “better identify the barriers disabled people face in the future to working in the sector”.
In all, ACE will invest £409 million a year in its national portfolio, funded by £338 million of government money and £71 million from the National Lottery.
Some of the disability-led organisations that will benefit from the national portfolio funding announced this week have spoken of how important that money will be for their work over the next four years.
Dr Ju Gosling, artistic director of Together! 2012, which is based in Newham, east London, said she was “quite shocked” by the drop in funding for disabled-led organisations, when other diverse-led groups had seen ACE funding increase significantly.
But she said her organisation’s ACE funding – £60,000 a year for the next four years from April 2018 – would provide Together! 2012 with guaranteed funding and “security”, and added: “Critically, it is about having our value recognised, that endorsement from the Arts Council to say we are creating great art for everyone, endorsing that that is exactly what we are doing.”
Together! 2012 runs a free, year-round programme of creative workshops for disabled people, and free disabled-led exhibitions, events, performances and screenings.
Gosling said: “Our position as a national portfolio organisation will enable us to continue our work to create an international centre of excellence for disability arts in the main [London 2012] host borough of Newham, which at the beginning of 2012 had the lowest level of cultural engagement in the UK.
“The opportunities we will be able to provide for disabled artists from across art forms will also benefit disability arts across the country.”
Another disabled-led organisation to join the portfolio for the first time is Disability Arts Online, which will receive £100,000 a year.
Colin Hambrook, its editor, said: “As part of a cohort of new diverse-led organisations, we look forward to working towards an arts sector that appreciates the richness and diversity of disability arts and culture.”
The user-led Attitude is Everything, which campaigns for better access to live music for disabled people, has been awarded nearly £250,000 a year by ACE, an increase in funding that will allow it to create a new artist development programme for Deaf and disabled artists and promoters.
Suzanne Bull, chief executive of Attitude is Everything, said: “Their commitment ensures that we can further raise our profile; ensuring that we can support even more music venues, festivals and events to meet the requirements of disabled and Deaf people.”
Other disabled-led organisations to secure funding for the next four years include Graeae (£564,399 per year); DaDaFest (£193,052 per year); Deafinitely Theatre (£212,110 per year); Disability Arts in Shropshire (£120,000); Extant (£156,000); and Shape Arts (£286,551).
*The number of disabled-led organisations receiving funding is not directly comparable with the last announcement in 2014 because ACE now uses a different definition of “disabled-led”.
Picture: Participants at Together! 2012’s annual festival