15 January 08 | Chad W. Post

There have been a few interesting things happen since last week’s post on the Arts Council England funding cuts to almost 200 organizations.

First off, I got a message from Arcadia that the protest letter we posted about was signed by over 500 people, including Doris Lessing, John Berger, Alan Hollinghurst, James Kelman, Graham Swift, and Lisa Appignanesi, President, English PEN. Which isn’t bad.

Although one would hope thousands of people around the world would come to the defense of a literary press as reputable as Arcadia . . .

Nicolas Lezard echoes this sentiment in his blog about the lack of outrage about funding cuts for literature.

On Radio 4 last Thursday, Sam West made an eloquent defence of the principle of funding small arts groups. Cut off the flow at the small end, he said, and eventually the big companies will starve. There then followed a despicably inadequate rebuttal from Peter Hewitt, ACE’s chief executive, which I will not bother to recapitulate, as I do not wish to type out intellectual nullities, even in précis.

But what bothered me more than anything was that not once in this discussion was any mention made of the cuts to literary operations. It was all theatre, theatre, theatre. And my first inclination was to write, here: like anyone gives a shit.

OK, people do give a shit about theatre, but what is accurate is that literary people aren’t nearly as vocal, as public, as engaging as theatre people.

It’s time for literature to stand up and make its own noise. Writers have to eat, and, yes, drink; they also need to have the outlets available for them. Independent publishers like Arcadia, Dedalus, and the London Magazine keep writing honest. They keep the life of the communal mind ticking over.

Interestingly, there’s a letter from Antonia Byatt [note: not A.S. Byatt as was incorrectly reported yesterday] in today’s Guardian basically implying that the outrage over funding cuts to publishers is a mountain and molehill situation. (Specifically this is in reference to a claim in a previous letter that “27 regularly funded publishers face either a complete or partial reduction in their funding.”)

Our funding proposals for literature are part of Arts Council England’s current review of funding to all 990 of its regularly funded arts organisations; 75% of those organisations have been told to expect increases in funding of inflation and above and these include publishers with a specialisation in translation. Under the proposals, 27 funding agreements for literature will be reduced or not renewed. Only a minority are publishers – many are relatively small co-funding agreements with local authorities [. . .]

The most recent awards info online is from 2005/06, so it’s hard to figure this out. But during that funding period, at least ten presses that do a lot of literature in translation were funded: Norvik, Dedalus, Harvill Secker, Arcadia, Banipal, Bitter Lemon, Serpent’s Tail, Saqi, Peter Owen, and Bloodaxe. (I couldn’t find Carcanet, although I know they’ve been funded in the past.) At least 2 of these presses had their funding reduced—I’ll be interested to find out what happened to the others.

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