1 Investment in literature 2015-18 Literature in England is part of a

Investment in literature 2015-18
Literature in England is part of a commercial publishing industry in which books are
distributed through booksellers and public libraries and increasingly through the
Internet. Writers, too, now often connect with their readers online, as well as through
a network of festivals and live events of both local and international significance.
Despite a thriving commercial environment, it is a difficult time for new writing. The
industry is dominated by a handful of multinationals, while the majority of publishing
businesses – some 80 per cent – are small, with a turnover of less than £499,000.
Since 2008, writers’ advances have been falling and most revenues from poetry are
minimal. It is now rare for a publisher to nurture a writer for life.
Libraries have always played an important role, but are now feeling the pinch from
reduced local authority funding. Lending of e-books is increasing, but many
publishers continue to be nervous about this. There are important changes at the
educational level. English language and literature remain core subjects but a revision
of the GCSE syllabus may reduce the requirement to take English literature and new
curriculum requirements could diminish young people’s knowledge of international
Many new creative writing courses and workshops have sprung up, but their cost
puts them beyond most students and there is a danger that they are swamping an
already over-supplied environment.
Arts Council funding is a small but essential part of this changing picture. We
champion poetry and literary translation and provide funding for writers at various
stages in their careers – particularly in the first years. Our funding enables writers to
work in new forms, and to connect with readers through live and digital events. And,
crucially, our funding puts writers together with young people, to deepen their
enjoyment in reading and creative writing.
Our work supporting reading and writing for children and young people is ever more
important. The National portfolio includes organisations such as The Reading
Agency, Pop Up and Booktrust, that are strong promoters of reading, and we have
given an increase to Ministry of Stories – but we know that young people’s creative
writing needs more support. Strategic funds will help develop partnerships so that
more young people can work with writers and we will use Grants for the arts to
support closer working with higher education institutions, libraries and smaller
The new portfolio provides a strong poetry infrastructure, supports the development
of writers and literary translators, and helps fund a network of festivals that introduce
new writing, poetry and international work to audiences. The portfolio also promotes
partnerships across a touring network of arts centres, theatres, libraries and other
live venues.
We are continuing to support small publishers. These play an essential role in finding
new writers and taking risks with writing that has often proved to be prize-winning
work of extraordinary quality. We are pleased to have taken on two publishers (And
Other Stories and Penned in the Margins) that publish new writing and have new
business models. We have also given an increase in funding to Comma Press to
support Comma Labs, a programme to help independent publishers become more
digitally aware.
We are aware of the need to reinforce the literature network where we are not seeing
new entrepreneurial and energetic organisations – especially in the North and South
West. We will use strategic funds to help independent publishers adapt to the digital
environment. Encouragingly funded presses are showing increased commitment to
making their work available in digital format, with Carcanet Press in the North West
planning to provide e-formats for their entire backlist.
We want our portfolio to help us support writers to develop high quality applications
to Grants for the arts and the Artists’ international development fund.
In particular, we want to encourage more applications that enable writers to work in
new media. The Space, our digital platform relaunched in partnership with the BBC,
offers significant opportunities. Literature festivals are increasingly capturing work
and using live streaming; Ledbury Poetry Festival has had recent successes with
interactive poetry cycles.
Online resources are playing a larger part. Last year the Poetry School launched
CAMPUS – both a poetry-focused social network and an online learning tool. The
Poetry Archive, in the South West, has been a valuable digital resource and
organisations like Writers’ Centre Norwich are exploring ‘born-digital’ literature with
plans to commission new online work, and run online writing courses in partnership
with the University of East Anglia.
This may be a challenging environment for traditional publishing, but there will be
exciting opportunities. It emphasises the significance of our commitment to
promoting talent and our mission to bring the joy of reading and writing to children
and young people.
For more information about our 2015-18 investment visit: