Creative industries shocked by UK withdrawal from £1.3 billion EU arts fund

Last week the UK’s withdrawal from the European-Union-funded ‘Creative Europe’ scheme sparked outrage amongst the creative industries, declaring that the decision “threatens an impoverished future for British creativity“.

In an open letter addressed to the newly appointed UK culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, more than 700 cultural figures and institutions collectively expressed their concerns about leaving the scheme. Whilst the UK left the EU on 31 January, the scheme is crucially not restricted to EU member states; currently 13 non-EU member states are either partially or fully involved with Creative Europe.

There was no need to take the programme off the table, as it is entirely possible to participate as a non-EU state,” explained Fiona Hyslop, Scotland’s Culture Secretary. “The UK Government is erecting barriers to continued cultural exchange and sending the message that it is closing itself off to our nearest neighbours.”

Signatories of the open letter hail from across the UK and Europe. They include the renowned conductor Mark Wigglesworth, director of the Liverpool Biennial Fatoş Üstek and director of the Whitworth Art Gallery Alistair Hudson.

Artsadmin initiated the letter “with deep dismay, frustration and alarm” in response to the UK Government’s announcement. The London-based agency supports artists to create artwork without boundaries for national and international audiences.

Since Creative Europe was first established in 2014, the fund has provided €1.46 billion (£1.27 billion) investment for the creative industries of its members.

Reporting on the scheme’s financial benefits, the open letter noted “it is well established that Creative Europe grants have delivered a net benefit back to the UK creative economy on both soft and hard measures (worth €74 million (£64 million) since 2014, benefitting 334 organisations), leveraging additional funding, helping to create employment.”

Chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, Caroline Norbury, is now rallying the UK government to guarantee that the creative arts will receive the required financial support going forward. “[The scheme] is an integral part of the success of the UK’s £111.7 billion creative industries…we call on government to ensure that equivalent, replacement funding and support is committed as a matter of urgency,” said Norbury.

The UK’s participation in Creative Europe will cease at the end of this year, although the government has confirmed that projects currently funded under the programme “will receive funding for their full duration under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement, including projects that continue after 1 January 2021”.

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