Letter to Arts Council England and BFI, July 2015

In July 2015, 23 animators, artists, programmers and producers – many of them members of AAUK – wrote to Darren Henley, CEO, Arts Council England and Amanda Nevill, CEO, British Film Institute, to draw their attention to the need for greater clarity around public policy and investment for independent animation, and asking them to urgently take steps to address these issues to help ensure British animation’s continued success.

You can read the letter and accompanying notes below. They responded with an invitation to a smaller group to meet with ACE and BFI in December 2015.

You can read the letter below, and notes of the meeting here.

15 July 2015

Dear Amanda Nevill and Darren Henley

We are some of Britain’s award winning animators, artists, producers and curators, working across and between ‘film’, ‘the arts’ and other creative industries. We are proud to have contributed to the growth, success and international renown of independent animation from the UK.

We are writing to draw your attention to the need for greater clarity around public policy and investment for independent animation. We ask that you urgently take steps to address these issues to help ensure British animation’s continued success.

We welcome the initiatives that have been introduced since 2011: the tax credits to support children’s television animation; the BFI Aardman Development Lab; the Vision Awards for animation studios; and the BFI Film Fund development support for animation features. However, our concern is at the lack of support for other forms of animation: for experiment, innovation and creative risk.

The UK’s international reputation for nurturing original and creative animation talent was achieved in the 1990s and came by way of a uniquely British model of consistent public support from public service broadcasters and from public film and arts funding bodies that facilitated creative production. Today, there is no dedicated funding for animation in England and the detrimental impact of that is startlingly evidenced, not least, in the diminished UK representation at the Oscars and international film festivals (please see our notes, below).

British animators have continued to make films, and the success of student work, studio and self-funded films – at the BAFTAs, Oscars, and international festivals – is testament to both the quality and determination of British artistic talent. But without public investment, other talent is not developed and is going to waste, or going elsewhere. The absence of public support means that the only people who can make animation are students, the few directors supported by the studios that represent them, and those with independent means. The art form cannot be expected to be wholly reliant on its practitioners’ resourcefulness: this is inequitable, unsustainable, and fails to promote diversity.

Why independent animation matters
Animation is a vital part of the UK’s culture and its creative industries; is has a public value that is intrinsic and instrumental, economic and cultural. Animation is the predominant digital visual form, inherently cross-platform, and an core component of digital form and culture. The Arts Council England funded Accelerate Animation Report (2013) notes how “digital technology and the explosion of screen-based culture mean that we all encounter animation in different forms many times a day.”

Animators make a fundamental contribution to much live action production. Animation is prevalent in contemporary visual arts practice; it is an increasingly integral component of theatre, opera and dance productions. The UK’s reputation as a centre for creativity in animation attracts international students to our animation schools.

Animation is a site of innovation, risk-taking and the development of new creative techniques that extend the potential of technologies. The UK’s reputation for creativity and innovation creates demand for animation talent; independent production is a test bed for advertising, video gaming and other creative industries, and for filmmakers and writers who go on to make feature length films and television series. Chris Robinson, artistic director of Ottawa International Animation Festival has noted how “almost all of the most successful and original industry animation voices came from independent backgrounds. It was their unique, experimental styles and voices that made them stand out.”

Contemporary practice and ways of working
The Warwick Commission’s report, Enriching Britain: Culture, Creativity and Growth, noted that “the points of connection between the Cultural and Creative Industries are where the potential for greatest value creation resides – culturally, socially and economically” and that “insufficient attention has been paid to the synergies between the interlocking sectors of the Cultural and Creative Industries Ecosystem. There is already a flow of talent, ideas, and public and private investment across and between the Cultural and Creative Industries.”

The Accelerate Animation Report amply evidences how animation practice sits at the nexus of this interchange. The Warwick Commission’s recommendation that “this flow needs to now be better identified and encouraged” and the warning that “not enough is being done to stimulate or realise the creative potential of individuals, or to maximise their cultural and economic value to society” could not apply more strongly, and critically, than they do to animation.

Arts Council England has declared its commitment to animation: most recently, in November 2013, then Chief Executive, Alan Davey, said that ACE and BFI would work together “to further support animators in both development, production, networking and knowledge sharing in 2014/15′′. We believe there is no time to lose in acting on these intentions. The sums of money required to underpin a vibrant independent animation sector are relatively very small indeed, especially in relation to the potential cultural and reputational returns on any investment.

Our hope is that you will appreciate our concerns and be open to further conversation with us on how independent animation can best be supported, and as a first step, we hope you might consider a meeting.

Yours sincerely

Will Anderson, BAFTA winner
Kieran Argo, Encounters Short Film and Animation Festival
Paul Bush, animator, awards include Tampere, Hiroshima, Zagreb, Melbourne
Emma Calder, animator
 and artist, Pearly Oyster Productions. Awards include Bradford, Zagreb, Chicago, Dresden, Cinanima
Sarah Cox, BAFTA winner
Gaelle Denis, BAFTA winner
Keith Griffiths, producer, BAFTA nominee, Cannes Palme d’Or nominee and winner
Jonathan Hodgson, BAFTA winner
Phil Mulloy, animator, three time Best Feature award winner at Ottawa International Animation Festival
Ian Francis, Flatpack Festival
Iain Gardner, animator, animation programmer Edinburgh International Film Festival
Karolina Glusiec, winner Jerwood Prize for Drawing
Stephen Irwin, animator, awards include Grand Prize Ottawa International Animation Festival
Ruth Lingford, animator, Professor of Animation at Harvard, McLaren Award winner
Maria Manton, producer, BAFTA nominee
Mikey Please, BAFTA winner, awards include Annecy, BAA, Los Angeles, AFI, Clermont Ferrand, SXSW
Sally Pearce, animator
Timothy and Stephen Quay, animators, BAFTA nominees, Cannes Palme d’Or nominees
Chris Shepherd, animator, BAFTA nominee, awards include Rotterdam, AFI, LFF, Fantoche, BAA, Ann Arbor
David Shrigley, artist
Gary Thomas and Abigail Addison, Animate Projects


Notes on UK Animation

In the 1990s:

  • BBC and S4C have dedicated animation units
  • Channel 4 supports around 15 short films a year through its innovative open call schemes, in 
partnerships with the BFI, the Arts Council of Great Britain/England and the National Media 
Museum, as well as single films
  • Between 1995 and 2000, National Lottery funding for film supports animated shorts and artists’ 
animation with grants of up to £50,000 Now:
  • No dedicated funding for animated shorts in England
  • Creative England’s iShorts is effectively off limits to animators, as was the BFI’s Shorts scheme
  • ACE support for animation through Channel 4’s Random Acts now supports training of/production by 
young people, and the availability of slots for professional animators/producers and other filmmakers is as a consequence substantially reduced

Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film

1990   Nick Park wins with Creature Comforts
1991   Daniel Greaves wins for Manipulation
1992   3 of the 5 Oscar nominees are British
1993   4 of the 5 Oscar nominees are British
2000   Michael Dudok de Witt’s Lottery funded Father and Daughter wins

In the ten years from 1992 to 2001, there were 19 Oscar nominations for British films. There have been only nine nominations 13 years since, including two children’s television specials, Nick Park’s A Matter of Loaf and Death (made for the BBC), three NFTS graduation films, and three independent productions with no UK public investment.

BAFTA Award for Best Short Animation

Since 2007:

  • 21 British UK independent nominated
  • 12 were student films
  • only 3 had any public investment 

British representation at international festivals

Stuttgart Animation Festival           1998: 13 films          2011: 1 film
Hiroshima Animation Festival         1998: 18 films          2011: 4 films
Annecy (competition)                     1998:   8 films          2011: 2 films

Despite the lack of public investment, British animators have continued to make films and find success. In 2011, at Ottawa International Animation Festival – the biggest of its kind in North America – animators from the UK took seven of 15 international prizes, including those for best short (Stephen Irwin) and best feature (Phil Mulloy). At Sundance in 2012, five out of seven in the international Animated Short category were British, and another two British animations were selected for the International Narrative Short category, with Kibwe Tavares’ Robots of Brixton winning the Special Jury Award for Animation Direction.


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