Our meeting with Arts Council England and the BFI, December 2015

We sent our letter to Arts Council England and BFI in July 2015. Amanda Nevill (CEO, BFI) responded immediately to say they’d get right on it, and a while later, we got a letter in the post from Darren Henley (CEO, ACE), saying they’d try and arrange a meeting, which they later managed to do.

They invited a small group of AAUK members to ACE’s headquarters in London on 8 December 2015. We were: Abigail Addison, Paul Bush, Emma Calder, Jonathan Hodgson, and Gary Thomas.

We met with: Peter Heslip (Director, Visual Arts & London, ACE), Anna Mandlik (Senior Relationship Manager, Visual Arts, ACE), Paul Glinkowski (Senior Officer, Creative Media, ACE), and Ben Roberts (Director, BFI Film Fund).

At the meeting, we got an outline of how the BFI’s support of animation has substantially increased in the last couple of years, including its Vision Awards to animation studios and development of features, though it was acknowledged that this support wasn’t addressing our specific concerns for independent work and short animation. The BFI’s focus seems likely to remain on development and support of feature length films.

ACE said that they received only a small number of applications to Grants for the arts for animation projects. We noted that there was a lack of clarity and conflicting statements from ACE about its remit. They told us that they were supporting animation through their Random Acts Network. We pointed out that there was that there is no obligation for the RAN organisations to support animation, and little indication that the Network Centres intended to support animation substantially, given their expertise. We reminded ACE that RAB funding is for 16-24 year olds, and noted that this £3million Lottery funding replaced ACE support for Random Acts commissioning that had previously supported professional animators and producers.

Following the meeting, ACE and BFI have agreed the following action points:

BFI will:

  • define its remit and responsibilities with regards to animation, and will do this as part of Film Forever 2 (April 2017)
  • do some further informal sector consultation as part of the wider Film Forever 2 consultation
  • will consider its ongoing support for animation as part of Film Forever 2.

Arts Council England will:

  • define its remit and responsibilities with regards to animation
  • do some sector consultation with animation practitioners and organisations (as part of its stakeholder consultation in 2016) in order to identify the needs of the sector
  • explore how they can support animation through our existing funds, namely Grants for the arts.

We’ve asked ACE if they could indicate what the timetable would be for their actions, or when they might have more detail of when and how those things will happen.

At the meeting we didn’t get a chance to say much ourselves, and it was disappointing that we couldn’t have any discussion of the broader points we raised in our letter: about the cultural and economic importance and value of independent animation.

In 2013, ACE and BFI had agreed on a joint objective ‘to develop a policy position for animation in England and the UK, providing policy clarity and funding information to artists, filmmakers and producers working in animation.’ They had planned ‘to undertake joint research and consultation to understand the animation ecology across film and arts and publish our policy position.’

At the meeting, it was explained that this won’t be happening because developing a policy for animation is against ACE policy. We suggested that they might instead develop a strategy to support animation. We noted that ACE had invested in a strategic review of puppetry that had led to the setting up of the Puppetry Development Consortium, and that ACE was investing £1,950,000 by way of a three year commissioned grant to bring together four dance organisations together to create a unified ‘go-to industry body’.

Arts Council England: ‘investment in animation’

In his letter of 10 August 2015, Darren Henley, CEO, Arts Council England, stated that ACE had invested £967,227 in animation over three years.

It was only after we had asked for a breakdown that ACE revealed that they had double counted some figures, and that the true amount was £614,730. We asked for a breakdown of this reduced figure and ACE gave us a list of projects awarded Grants for the arts (see below).

However, a quick Google revealed that many of these projects were for activities in other art forms (theatre, visual arts, literature, games, music) that had only an element of animation, or which use animation as marketing or education. Many of the ‘animation’ projects were exhibition or participatory workshop initiatives. Some projects didn’t involve animation at all. For example:

Ruth Fettis, Tales from a Forgotten City
ACE attributes £7,500, 100% of the total grant, to animation. This is a visual arts project using “print, costumes, books and models”, with no apparent animation or even a mention.

Creative Foundation, Quarterhouse Residencies and Families Programmes
ACE attributes £25,000, 25% of the grant, to animation. ACE explained that this grant was for residencies that would be showcased at the Folkestone Animation Festival, but no festival has taken place and there are no plans to stage one.

The Paper City, Odyssey Autumn Tour
ACE attributes £14,587, 25% of the total grant. This is a theatre project, with no animated moving image. 

Jamie Fletcher, The Dancing Bear R&D
ACE attributes £3,625, 25% of the total grant, to animation. This is a theatre project that doesn’t seem to involve any animation.

From the Gfta information, our estimate of ACE support for animators/artists to actually produce work is a total of £150k over the three years.

We told ACE that we consider the £614k figure to be inaccurate and misleading. ACE acknowledged our ‘scepticism’ concerning the figures they provided, but said they are satisfied that ‘they accurately reflect the data that we hold’. We don’t think we’re being sceptical, but that it’s a matter of fact that much of what ACE says as investment in animation isn’t any such thing.


Arts Council England Grants for the Arts 2012 – 2015
Investment attributed to animation

Staffordshire Housing Association, History Animation Workshops, West Midlands, Stoke-on-Trent, Visual arts, £9,220, 03-Apr-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

Stoke-On-Trent City Council, For One Night Only 2012, West Midlands, Stoke-on-Trent, Visual arts, £28,375, 04-Apr-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Ruth Catlow, Playing Platform Southend, East of England, Southend-on-Sea, Visual arts, £55,000, 03-May-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Play Torbay, Go Adventures, Stop Motion, South West, Torbay, Visual arts, £9,780, 08-May-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

Richmond Fellowship, 5 Ways to Wellbeing Animation, North West, Liverpool, Visual arts, £5,000, 15-May-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

The Paper Cinema, The Paper Cinema’s Odyssey Autumn Tour, South West, Poole, Visual arts, £58,348, 28-Jun-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Light House Media Centre, Animating Wolverhampton with Audience Engagement, West Midlands, Wolverhampton, Visual arts, £26,582, 09-Jul-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Animated Exeter Ltd, Animated Exeter 2013 Events: The Exeter Game, South West, Exeter, Visual arts, £51,040, 19-Sep-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Jordan Baseman, 971 Horses and 4 Zebras: Artists Apply Animation, London, Waltham Forest, Visual arts, £6,893, 11-Oct-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

David Blandy, Anjin 1600: Edo Wonderpark, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £30,000, 16-Oct-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Bombastic Ltd, THE MAGIC DOORS, London, Kingston upon Thames, Theatre, £20,690, 14-Nov-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Nicola Lumley, Enchantment, North East, Newcastle upon Tyne, Visual arts, £9,974, 04-Dec-12, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Ruth Fettis, Tales from a Forgotten City (Working Title), Yorkshire and The Humber, Bradford, Visual arts, £7,500, 22-Jan-13, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

Fiona MacPherson, GUTS: the Play, a multi-media project, North East, Newcastle upon Tyne, Theatre, £9,000, 05-Feb-13, 2012/2013, Animation, Part

Borbonesa, Timequake ? stop-frame animation project, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £9,589, 06-Feb-13, 2012/2013, Animation, Whole

Screen Archive South East/Cine City, Jan Svankmajer – Research & Development, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £9,890, 04-Apr-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Tracy & Hobbs, Water Folk, London, Hackney, Visual arts, £10,000, 10-Apr-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

JAM ARTS MANAGEMENT, SMEOP – Simply Made Electronically Operated Poems, South West, East Dorset, Visual arts, £8,425, 07-May-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Joseph Norman, ‘Chat Up!’ serious computer game, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £10,000, 07-May-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Martha Orbach, This skin we’re In, London, Tower Hamlets, Visual arts, £6,970, 14-May-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Jane Couldrey, Ka’iulani. A Hawaiian princess in Hove., South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £10,000, 22-May-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Michael Trainor, The Universe: Explained., North West, Manchester, Combined arts, £9,865, 11-Jun-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Beacons Music and Arts Festival, Beacons 2013 Arts Programme, Yorkshire and The Humber, Leeds, Combined arts, £9,990, 16-Jul-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Kim Stewart, ANIMATE EXPERIMENT at Brighton Digital Festival, Scotland, Glasgow City, Visual arts, £1,101, 23-Jul-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Animate Projects Limited, Animation Full Throttle, East Midlands, Derby, Visual arts, £84,430, 20-Aug-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Shona Davies, Surprise!, London, Hackney, Visual arts, £1,560, 27-Aug-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Black Dog Arts, Me and The Black Dog, South East, Chichester, Visual arts, £50,000, 04-Sep-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Pump House Gallery, Hetain Patel: Exhibition and Commission, London, Wandsworth, Visual arts, £15,000, 17-Sep-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Animated Exeter Ltd, Animated Exeter 2014 – More than Zero, South West, Exeter, Visual arts, £46,700, 01-Oct-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Rowbot Street CIC, First World War : Images from the Frontline, North West, Hyndburn, Visual arts, £10,000, 02-Oct-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Whole

Rebecca Waite, Matchbox City, North West, Liverpool, Visual arts, £14,800, 13-Nov-13, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Creative Foundation, Quarterhouse Residencies and Families Programmes, South East, Shepway, Combined arts, £100,000, 03-Mar-14, 2013/2014, Animation, Part

Peter Bearder, Pete the Temp Verses Climate Change, London, Haringey, Literature, £14,065, 23-Apr-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Susanne Adebayo, Stage 2: Asara and the Sea-Monstress, London, Greenwich, Theatre, £15,000, 18-Jun-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Stratford On Avon Music Festival, MUSIC FESTIVAL STRATFORD SCHOOLS CLUSTER PROJECT, West Midlands, Stratford-on-Avon, Music, £2,000, 14-Jul-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Mustapha Aminu, Animation Workshop, London, Wandsworth, Visual arts, £2,544, 29-Jul-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Whole

Screen Archive South East/Cine City, CINECITY AMI 2014 and Organisational Review, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £30,850, 04-Aug-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Feral Studio (SW) CIC, Orchard Works, South West, Taunton Deane, Combined arts, £14,946, 05-Aug-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Cecile Evans, Hyperlinks, London, Tower Hamlets, Visual arts, £8,100, 26-Aug-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Woodhorn Charitable Trust, On Record (working title only), North East, Northumberland, Visual arts, £12,740, 03-Sep-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Hannah Sawtell, RE PETITIONER III, London, Camden, Combined arts, £12,000, 09-Sep-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Semiconductor, Where Shapes Come From, South East, Brighton and Hove, Visual arts, £39,026, 16-Sep-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Cornwall Council, Loop the Loop – Phase Two, South West, Cornwall, Visual arts, £14,980, 23-Sep-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Sam Thorpe, On The Fringes of Architecture (R&D), North East, Newcastle upon Tyne, Visual arts, £2,000, 24-Sep-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

IMT Space Limited, Alternative 23, London, Tower Hamlets, Visual arts, £7,488, 04-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Mark Jobe, Clarisse iFX Research and Development, North East, North Tyneside, Visual arts, £5,000, 05-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Alexa Wright, Artist in Residence in Mental Health Recovery, London, Islington, Visual arts, £15,000, 11-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Tim Crump, ‘The Rebellious North’, North East, Northumberland, Visual arts, £13,120, 19-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Lucia Cox, Cuckoo, North West, Manchester, Theatre, £15,000, 19-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Tom Cross, Drawing out Voices, South East, Cherwell, Visual arts, £14,680, 26-Nov-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Emma Brown, My Subject Is War – WW1 commemorative project, North West, Manchester, Visual arts, £9,037, 10-Dec-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

May Abdalla, Avian Avenue, South West, Bristol, City of, Visual arts, £14,810, 17-Dec-14, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Jamie Fletcher, The Dancing Bear R&D, Yorkshire and The Humber, Leeds, Theatre, £14,500, 12-Feb-15, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Aaron Angell, Aaron Angell at Studio Voltaire, title TBC, London, Hackney, Visual arts, £14,000, 17-Feb-15, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Verity Quinn, Story Development for new show Under the Microscope, North East, North Tyneside, Theatre, £14,993, 04-Mar-15, 2014/2015, Animation, Part

Animate Projects Limited, Animate: Parts and Labour, East Midlands, Derby, Visual arts, £89,850, 18-Mar-15, 2014/2015, Animation, Whole

Awards made through other funding streams are as follows:

Managed Funds Project, London, Art Public Ltd, Bus Tops Bronze Arts Award, £15,000, 19-Jun-12, Animation, Part

International funding, North East, Paul Miller, R & D Hong Kong, £5,000, 11-Nov-13, Animation, Part

Update: Arts Council England’s commitment to animation

To recap…back in 2011, in one of her webchats, Liz Forgan, then Chair of Arts Council England, answered an AAUK query about their support for animation. She told us they were having discussions about an ACE/BFI partnership “as work crosses over… particularly in animation…”. And last November we were very pleased when ACE Chief Executive, Alan Davey, said (in his webchat) that the Arts Council is “committed to supporting animation” and that they would work together with the BFI “to further support animators in both development, production, networking and knowledge sharing in 2014/15”.

He promised that more details would follow in early 2014, but things went a bit quiet…so in August we asked Alan for an update. He told us that ACE continues to be engaged in detailed conversations with the BFI but that a discussion about animation has yet to take place and that it is now not going to happen until 2015/16. That’s disappointing, but could be simply because it’s part of much bigger discussions, rather than animation falling off their agenda.

At least a partnership finally exists and ACE has shared with us their new ACE/BFI Public Value Agreement, to run from 2013–2017, which recognises that the two organisations share “a strong commitment to increasing public engagement in culture, supporting excellence, developing creative talent and contributing to the vibrancy of the UK’s creative economy”.

ACE tells us that initially an Action Plan was being developed alongside the Agreement, but they found that, given “the range and scale of work on which [they] could focus, more work was needed to produce a jointly agreed and targeted action plan”. So, the first year of the partnership will be a foundation year “to allow our teams to become more familiar with each other’s activities and plans and use 2014/15 to scope a programme of work with the BFI to cover 2015-17”.

Again, whilst this delay might be frustrating, it could be sensible: the draft plans were seriously ambitious, and it will be important to get right things right. For film and moving image generally, they intend to “map the territory… increase public engagement” and to set out “to support innovation in creative talent, content, audience engagement and business models across our sectors”, with a new fund and a professional skills development and mentoring programme to support new creative media, art and film innovation”. For animation specifically, the draft plan stated their intention “to develop a policy position for animation in England and the UK, providing policy clarity and funding information to artists, filmmakers and producers working in animation” and committed “to undertake joint research and consultation to understand the animation ecology across film and arts and publish our policy position”.

So it seems, overall, a positive and steady step in the right direction. We will continue to monitor how this progresses and keep the Alliance informed!

[We’re not aware that Arts Council England has consulted anyone in the sector. If they’ve been in touch with any members, we’d love to hear about the discussions.]

You can read the ACE BFI Public Value Agreement here (this version has the Action Plan that was shelved before the agreement was signed): Final Draft BFI-ACE PVP