A LETTER TO OLIVER DOWDEN

Arts and Heritage Emergency Funding Package

An open letter to Oliver Dowden MP, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport

Dear Mr Dowden

We write on behalf of the English folk arts sector to congratulate and thank you for securing £1.57billion for the support of the UK’s arts and heritage sector in these difficult times. The success or otherwise of such an intervention will be the application of those funds and to this end, we are writing to highlight the challenges in our sector.

The English Folk Dance and Song Society (EFDSS) and English Folk Expo (EFEx) are the two folk arts National Portfolio Organisation clients of Arts Council England and are dedicated to the promotion, preservation and development of the English folk arts. We are writing to you on behalf of folk artists, their agents and managers, independent record labels and producers, folk clubs, festivals and everyone that works professionally in the folk arts and its integral and extensive grassroots sector.

In common with the wider arts and heritage sector, the English folk arts have suffered from the closure of venues and festivals due to Covid-19. All performances and associated activities ceased in mid-March and are unlikely to begin again until the New Year. The impact on our own organisations is indicative of the wider sector. EFEx, which presents the only international showcase event for English folk and acoustic music in the UK, has had to cancel its annual autumn event. The revenue impact this event has for showcasing artists is significant – £8.8m of business over the five years to 2019 (£2.2million in 2019). EFDSS, the national folk development organisation, has closed its performance venue, Cecil Sharp House in Camden, and the Vaughan Williams Memorial Library, the accredited library and archive for the folk arts, and cancelled much of its national programme of learning and engagement. The significant income losses and the implications that brings to the future survival of our organisations is being experienced across the folk arts sector.

The folk arts infrastructure is reliant on hundreds of dedicated professionals promoting and producing performances at festivals, folk clubs and arts venues; it is reliant on dedicated artists touring, teaching and recording, many of whom take on all aspects of their administration in addition to their creative work. Our industry is lean and compact, but prior to March was thriving. More English artists were exporting their music overseas than ever before, media profile was significant through national and specialist media, our folk festivals and venue programmes were vibrant and bustling, and the sector was increasing its reach and its diversity. But we have now a genuine concern that without direct financial intervention, the impact of the pandemic could see England’s folk and traditional heritage decimated for years to come.

The benefit of such a dynamic and community focussed specialist arts sector is that comparatively small sums could easily be directed to support the entire genre through this crisis. Folk and traditional arts are, by definition, about linking communities with their cultural heritage, about promoting a positive message about our shared identities, providing contrast between regions and recording the stories and attitudes of the past, present and hopes for the future.

We urge you to ensure that appropriate provision and consideration is given to ours, and all specialist sectors of the cultural industries, and enable them to survive this crisis and thrive in its aftermath.

Yours sincerely

Katy Spicer
Chief Executive & Artistic Director Chief Executive
English Folk Dance & Song Society

Tom Besford
Chief Executive
English Folk Expo

cc Nigel Huddleston MP
Jo Stevens MP
Kevin Brennan MP
Darren Henley
Claire Mera-Nelson

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