Thursday, 14 April 2011

Fine words

There is a lot of material on the Arts Council of England website. Not just the mission-statement stuff (‘Arts Council England works to get great art to everyone by championing, developing and investing in artistic experiences that enrich people’s lives’) and the topical stuff (‘a transformational Olympics opportunity’) and some literature priorities (‘Our role in relation to production is to focus on areas that are not commercially viable, such as contemporary poetry and literary translation’) and a press release on the recent funding decisions (‘In making its decisions, the Arts Council has endeavoured to support and protect . . . poetry, new writers and literature in translation (eg Faber and Faber; Arvon Foundation)’). There is also a 47-page ‘review of research and literature to inform the Arts Council’s 10-year strategic framework’, whose 5 pages of references include a report on ‘UK Music Industry Greenhouse Gas Emissions for 2007’. There are probably enough statistics to argue any case you want. You could get lost in there.

For at least the past decade, mainstream publishers have been narrowing down: taking fewer risks, offering fewer openings to new or neglected talent. A number of the ACE cuts – the PBS, Arc, Enitharmon, Flambard and certain others – abet and collude with this process. If one of the purposes of ACE is to offset the effects of purely commercial interests on the distribution of literature, and to enable good work of minority interest to thrive, then these cuts betray that purpose.

There are ways to respond. For example, a book fair that brings together some of the independent poetry presses. Anyone interested, get in touch.


John said...

All these letters clumped up together, dizzying the eye, I got stuck for a while on how *strategic* has *tragic* in it.

Great idea about the book fair for small presses. What would happen at that? Forgive my ignorance on these matters, I don't know what goes on at the *big* fairs either.

charles said...

About the big fairs, I really don't know. I went to the London Book Fair last year and wandered around thinking What am I here FOR? This year I realised I could do that quite happily without having to pay entry to a trade fair. About the fair for poetry presses: a hall or room is hired for a day (probably a Saturday) in central London (doesn't have to be, but that's where I live); free entry to the public; maybe ten publishers (plus the Poetry Book Society) show what they publish, talk, sell some books, then go for a drink.