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Equity responds to Arts Council England’s updates to their Relationship Framework on Political Statements & Activism

Responding to Arts Council England’s new guidance on political statements and activism, the performing arts and entertainment trade union Equity has today (Thursday 15 February) issued the following statement:

“We are deeply concerned that the effect of Arts Council England’s new guidance for funded organisations will be to censor the work that organisations produce and present, and most worryingly, attempt to silence artists both on stage and in their personal lives - especially those working in the activist or political space. The confused statement issued on the 14th February by Arts Council England does little to allay those concerns, and indeed singles out Artistic Directors as being legitimate targets for censorship by organisations.

The updated Relationship Framework places an undue burden on artists, warning that "activity that might be considered to be overtly political or activist ", including activity by “individuals associated with the organisation acting in a personal capacity” can cause "reputational risk" and breach funding agreements.

Far from protecting artists, it sends a clear message to discourage the creation of art that is political, and to avoid full participation in civil society if you are an artist who wishes to work with Arts Council funding.

Arts Council England is subject to political pressures from the government of the day, and its new guidance will allow it to divest and disassociate itself from artists who speak truth to power.

Artists and arts organisations should be free to critique institutions of power or bring attention to issues without fear of losing their funding. Rather, the Relationship Framework should clearly state that attempts to censor artists and their work presents a substantial risk to organisations and their funding, alongside enhanced guidance on protecting best practice in areas of equality & diversity, and dignity at work.

We have written to Darren Henley, Chief Executive of ACE, to raise these concerns, asking for this section of the update to be immediately withdrawn, and for the Arts Council England to work with the relevant unions on suitable guidance in this area.”

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