There are times when things happen in the sector, within our region, country or the World when Take A Part has felt the need to make a response. These responses might be directed at an organisation, towards a cause or to voice opinion about an issue. The responses take various forms to suit what is most appropriate. Below you can find response pieces from the team.
A letter from our CEO, Kim Wide: Arts Council Emergency Response Funding
This is where we celebrate that we have had some good news but acknowledge that our sector is struggling and that our small win is very humble.
We thankfully received funding from the Arts Council England Emergency Response Fund to bail us out of a tough place. A place where we thought we maybe couldn't keep going, but where we knew we needed to, because we know community members in worse places than us on the ground where we work. People in our communities and practitioners have lost jobs, work zero hour contracts, have no time or devices to home school, worry about food, have experienced social injustice all their lives and really ache now more than ever to connect and have responsive opportunity. To be heard. NOW.
We sort of ache too. We are fleet of foot; we have no venue and most of our staff are artists on freelance contracts. We chose that path because it felt right to us. To not buy into overheads and PAYE structures and put the money right where it was supposed to be spent - artists in communities. That meant we didn’t have many options when COVID hit.
Furlough? VAT exemption? Business grant? Nope. Nothing was an option in terms of government bailouts. As a new National Portfolio Organisation we held no reserves as we had formerly been project based. The communities we work with were asking what now, what next? We said we would be there before lockdown was announced, so we made sure we were there. We committed to pay everyone and keep paying - artists and freelancers. We did not cancel a single thing.
It felt very naughty. It was freeing. What do you need? We can do that! School art packs? YES. Social distanced community cleans? YES. Community newsletters? YES. But really, you can only go so far without a little more funding. Real community work is hard to count and number. Community work takes a lot of trust and time. TIME. So while we were pumping out relevant work that mattered, doing that for longer and longer without funding was not sustainable.
Could we make sure we rang our elder community members? Did we have capacity to work with the local schools? Did we have time to ask people how they were and ask them how they creatively wanted to express themselves? Could we offer enough support to see everyone through to the other side?
Now we can. For a bit longer. We work in a way that doesn't predict outcomes. That makes a lot of room for asks. That needs people to be there to ask and partner, support and care, and think, and sometimes go down routes that lead to nothing tangible but that comes out of it with trust. To support artists and ideas to follow us on the journey. A bit more time to test and try and work and amplify.
There are other organisations we hold very close as partners, confidants and similar souls that are honored by us as valued collaborators and that offer different approaches who did not get the funding support at this point. Places and spaces that make relevant work. Supporting pathways in and nurturing talent and holding their own communities close and who allow cultural ecology to thrive. We really hope they get the lifeline we did as soon as possible. Because they matter hugely. We all do.
So we receive this funding quietly. Shouting about a life raft feels inappropriate. It is our little place to live for a time. And we are pleased to have that. Our ecology as creatives is to keep considering and caring and partnering and moving. We cannot do it alone. We need a multitude of ways to support, offer, showcase and shareback. It is a very beautiful ecology we are part of. We are passionate about it.
Here is what we are going to do with that money. It is important we tell you that so you know:
1. Secure our precarious freelance team for longer. 4 artist/producers are keeping safe for longer and collaborating with us to think beyond this period and make new opportunities.
2. Employ a Digital Producer to help us share our approaches and our learning more widely.
3. Commission 5 online learning workshops for artists and communities on how to make new work and get funding during COVID times.
4. Employ an artist to support and lead on our new Social Art Network South West to help to grow and reflect the needs of the group so it is pertinent.
5. Resource training and support for our team on diversity and inclusion by working with Plymouth and Devon Race Equality Council to employ a person with lived experience to help us to make our equality policies and procedures better and steer us to be better at how we open up opportunities and our work to everyone.
6. Support evaluation and social impact development so we can evidence what we do better.
Thank you Arts Council England for funding. Not with outcomes but with care. It is exceptional and should be lauded right now when the world is moving and needs us all to consider how we move with it. We will let you know how we get on with the work we are doing. And how our communities and artists are faring. And you can always send us a message if you want to have a chat. We like those.
For future ideas on how to continue to fund work and keep the cultural sector alive and relevant, here are our top thoughts.
FUND TIME NOT OUTCOMES.
FUND IDEAS NOT RESULTS.
We are thankful.
Black Lives Matter, Statement and Action
Yesterday we met as a team to talk about the on the ground needs in our communities that are experiencing the harshest socio-economic divide they have experienced since the 2008 crash (and likely the implications of the COVID climate will run deeper than that). We plotted ways to be there right now (visits and community cleans), what do to to reach out and ask (phone calls and letter drops) and how we can support more.
Then we discussed the Black Lives Matter movement and our desire to support. We started by thinking about what we could commission to do more to support amplifying the issue. Podcasts, performances, virtual sit-ins? While asking around and testing the ideas in the water we swiftly began to understand the emotional labour that a call to action like the recent protests can take.
Were we helping in asking for more interface, dialogue, online presence? Is commissioning new work at a time when they have pushed their agenda outwards and needed care and space to heal right? It was humbling to think about how asking more now may not be the right thing. Putting money and time in to allow decisions to be made and actions to be taken by those who know how to best approach their stories is the BEST way of working. Not gatekeeping by paying for actions to be taken. Just giving the funding over to support people of colour to author their own narratives in their own way and in their own time.
So we are going to call time on that commission and instead directly donate £2K of our funding to Plymouth & Devon Race Equality Council to give those working at the forefront the capacity and resilience to keep doing it. To commission what they need. To build within them the ability to do more from their place of expertise and need. And to offer our support to platform what they chose to do with that funding. To invest in their time to do good work.
PDREC are trusted partners of Take A Part whom we have worked with in the past on our Reverberations Project in Teats Hill. We have plans together to co-commission work in the future, but right now, we are just giving some time. We will continue in the future to partner with communities of interest in the city as part of our practice and will commission Black artists to make more work when the time is right. This is about investing in organisations on the ground and who have reach in our areas of working to support their communities at a time of heightened need. So we are putting £1K to them now to support them to hold on and then will use another £1K as seed funding for a future partnership.
A very interesting lesson learnt.
PDREC Trustees would like to thank "Take A Part " for your very generous donation to our organization. Your donation will be of great assistance both in terms of acknowledging PDREC's work but also in sustaining some of the crucial responsibilities we share with you in challenging racism and supporting vulnerable communities.
We look forward to further work with you in the future.
Cyril Whittacker Chair of behalf of Plymouth & Devon Racial Equality Council Board of Trustees