Search & Filter

  • Categories

  • Tags

  • Sort


New resources are being added all the time. Ideas for new resources are always welcome. Contact us with any suggestions.

Showing 27 items


25.05.2022 – 08:30 – 09:30

About this note

This is a note of a one-hour Zoom session which was delivered as one of What Next?’s contributions to the Freelance: Futures symposia:

The meeting was attended by approximately 180 colleagues from across the UK.

Meeting goal

Arts Council England (ACE): Supporting the Freelance Cultural Workforce

At this meeting, the What Next? team was joined by Michelle Dickson, Director Strategy at ACE, and Erica Campayne, Senior Manager, Combined Arts & Individuals to ask participants the following question: ‘As an individual, what do you want from your National Development Agency?’

Summary of the meeting discussion

The freelance workforce is diverse, and freelance practice can look very different in different professions, stages in career, or locations. Not all freelancers have similar experiences.

However, there are significant issues in the cultural and creative industries which mean that conditions for the workforce are not equitable. These have existed for a long-time and have been made more visible by the pandemic.

Attendees shared that they wanted the voice of freelancers to be more closely fed in when policies, strategies and funding programmes are being developed, or on sector governing bodies, because colleagues are not paid for their time and expertise, or are not asked to participate in ways that work around their employment. There are specific barriers to colleagues with lived-experience of discrimination.

Arts Council England is looking to make freelance participation in consultation and design of its programmes consistent and sustainable across the whole organisation and across its governance.

Attendees fed back that it can be difficult for freelancers to apply for Arts Council England project funding. Individuals have to spend time researching their project fully and are expected to have all the skills of a small business: from accountancy, to marketing and communications. The time spent applying for funding is unpaid. This is a problem for everyone, but especially for early career artists. The language used in the guidance is often geared towards organisations, and doesn’t make sense for individuals.

Arts Council England has just refreshed the project grant process, and is undertaking a review of the funding programmes to make them more accessible.  ACE is asking freelancers to get in touch with them on the e-mail provided to let them know what doesn’t work and what could be improved.

Most benchmarks for freelance pay are too low, are not transparent, and have not been adjusted for decades. Arts Council England does not suggest appropriate rates and many people don’t know where to look to find benchmarks. Organisations are not currently paying fees that cover holiday / sick / maternity pay, travel, insurance, training and office costs. The cost of living and inflation rises have made this disparity worse. There is no increase in overall money in the sector, but the cost of making work is much higher.

Arts Council England recognises the current economic reality and urges colleagues to submit funding bids which reflect the real costs of making work. It recognises that this will mean that there will be less work made overall.

Arts organisations can do more to support freelancers, both in clarity of contract, conditions and pay, but also in thinking through the needs of the workforce in their locality and offering training, development, workspaces, networking and support.  ACE has asked arts organisations who are applying for funding in this National Portfolio Round to clarify the kinds of support that they will offer.

Local authorities can help to develop creative clusters and are major employers. They would like more clarity on pay and on procurement procedures.

There is a real fear of recrimination for freelancers in calling out bad-practice or making discrimination visible. Colleagues feel that they will be seen as difficult and not hired again in future contracts, their career will be impacted negatively, and they will not progress. Collective action can help with this.

Networking and skills-sharing are very much needed by freelancers. Colleagues are calling for communities of practice, and for access to central support: from finance and marketing to HR and legal advice. Freelancers also need support to champion their freedom of artistic expression and manage reputational risk. Being a freelancer can be isolating and lonely. There is a recognition that most grass-roots networks and organisations are under-funded or are voluntary, and are not sustainable.

The pandemic has had a significant impact on the freelance workforce, with many individuals leaving the profession because they could not make it financially sustainable. This talent-drain is having real consequences for the sector now, as well as being extremely concerning for the future. Both long-term policy change and short-term solutions are needed to address this.

Offers from ACE:

  • To listen to freelancers about ways that Project funding process and application can be improved, and to make changes
  • To embed consistent, equitable freelance consultation and engagement across policy, strategy and programme development across all areas of the organisation
  • To hold a joint conversation with sector partners about talent-drain in the freelance workforce and its immediate impact on the sector


About What Next?

What Next? is a free-to-access movement that brings freelancers, policy makers, academics and small and large organisations together to debate and shape the future of arts & culture

Sign-up here to register for our UK-wide meetings: and here to join (or start!) a local chapter:

Resources from Arts Council England 

ACE has created a landing page on its website, where individuals can go and see the full range of support that it provides:

Arts Council England produces a ten-year strategy for the creative and cultural sector. The current one is called Let’s Create and runs until 2030. This includes the vision and priorities for its work and its funding.

To focus the work and achieve the strategy, ACE creates delivery plans for three-year periods. The current delivery plan runs from 2021 – 2024 This page breaks that delivery plan down for freelancers:

The ACE team has created this 10-minute video:  It sets out the ways that ACE currently works to support individuals and freelancers. The video is around 10 minutes long.

This information sheet sets out Arts Council’s expectations for all cultural organisations who work with creative and practitioners. It suggests good practice approaches to consider, and other resources organisations could refer to:

Chief Executive Darren Henley has written this blog explaining why the time is now to think about freelance equity,  and the role we all have to play in bringing about change:

Freelancers can contact the ACE team to talk about issues of freelancing in the arts, or make suggestions for changes by e-mailing .

(N.B. queries about funding applications will still go to the enquiries team).


Arts Council England offers:

Note of Freelance Futures WN ACE Meeting 25.05.22-3

#BAMEOver – A Statement for the UK-2

Throughout August more than 1,000 people took Inc Arts’ #BAMEOver survey, and on 4th September 2020 over 250 people came together to reset the terms of reference for people with lived experience of racism.

We set out to answer the question, ‘What do we want to be called?’

Through our discussion we’ve come up with a guide to terminology, for use by everyone who wants to be an effective ally and wants to avoid causing further harm through the use of casual and inaccurate language.

Here are our preferred terms of reference for people in the UK. We urge you to use them and share widely.

Seven Inclusive Principles for Arts & Cultural Organisations working safely through COVID-19 (1)

Campaigning cultural organisations We Shall Not Be Removed, Ramps on the Moon, Attitude is Everything, Paraorchestra and What Next? have joined together to create a new guide for the arts and entertainment sectors to support disability inclusion.

Here are Seven Inclusive Principles for Arts & Cultural Organisations working safely through COVID-19 to complement the suite of guidance documents already issued by UK Governments and sector support organisations. The Seven Principles offer practical guidance to arts and cultural organisations to support disabled artists, audiences, visitors, participants and employees.

The Bacc for the Future campaign, the Cultural Learning Alliance and What Next? has launched Arts in Schools, an advocacy toolkit designed to inform, help and inspire advocates to take action against the downward trend of the arts in schools.

Arts in Schools is a useful toolkit for arts activists and teachers to refer to and use when advocating and championing arts education. The pack includes vital information and advice to help make the case to keep arts in schools, including how to write letters to local MPs and Councillors, the National Schools Commissioner and members of the Education Select Committee.

Download the arts advocacy toolkit using the link at the bottom of the page or visit for more information.

Britain has a rich and varied cultural offering: it is known internationally for outstanding arts and heritage attractions, from world class museums, galleries and theatres, to heritage sites and attractions which are the focal point of local communities. Our national treasures range from old masters and West End shows, to contemporary dance and cutting-edge festivals. In the last Parliament, our predecessors considered the work of the Arts Council England, and concluded that there had been an arts funding imbalance in favour of London at the expense of tax payers and lottery players in other parts of the country. We wanted to follow up on this inquiry to examine how the culture sector throughout the country is coping with the current difficult economic situation.

A resource by the New Local Government Network about Local Authorities supporting local art and culture.

This toolkit was created in 2014 to highlight some of the challenges and opportunities of working more closely with Local Authorities.

Our focus on engaging MPs continues but this time with a focus on the local picture. This resource is about engaging your local MPs with top tips, step by step guidance and some useful key facts.

An ambition to achieve, throughout England, both equity in access to opportunities for participation and learning locally and excellence in training, production and presentation.

Understanding the value of art & culture presents the outcomes of the AHRC’s Cultural Value Project which looked at how we think about the value of the arts and culture to individuals and to society. This report sets out the often striking findings of the Project’s work. Some 70 original pieces of work collectively make up the Cultural Value Project – a mixture of new research, critical reviews of the literature and specialist workshops.

This document details the case for culture and the arguments, asks and priorities that the National What Next? movement presented to the Treasury in 2015 in the run up to the Spending Review.


This briefing from the Cultural Learning Alliance covers all aspects of the Department for Education’s English Baccalaureate consultation Nov 2015 -Jan 2016. It details the main arguments as to how the planned reforms affect the teaching and learning of the arts in schools, and links to evidence on the current picture.


This guide includes some simple ideas about how the arts, culture and creative industries can engage with the democratic process. It includes a ‘how to’ guide to holding a hustings in a cultural venue and ways to contact your MP.

It was produced by What Next? Young Vic in partnership with UK Theatre in 2015.



Following a conversation at a What Next? meeting about the difficult situations cultural organisations can find themselves in when an action sparks controversy – for example, the presentation of a divisive piece of work, or a contentious sponsorship deal – What Next? has produced some practical guidance on ethics. The guidance responds to contributions from organisations across the UK to a What Next? survey on the subject of ethical and reputational challenges and is intended to help leaders meet such challenges with a greater sense of confidence.

“In working to sustain a thriving, vibrant and at times challenging cultural sector, there will be tricky decisions to make and the need to handle difference of opinion. In an increasingly complex world, the more that can be done to approach contention with courage and a zest for debate, the healthier our cultural and civic life. This guidance has been compiled to encourage bold, yet measured decision-making…”
Régis Cochefert, Director, Grants and Programmes, Paul Hamlyn Foundation

Many of the ideas in the document come from survey contributions and the content has been discussed and tested by an advisory group. It has been further informed by interviews across the sector and more widely. It does not attempt to offer definitive answers and every organisation will want to use it in different ways, taking and embedding what is useful to them. We hope the prompts and suggestions are useful and welcome feedback via email.

A Right to Culture for Every Child is the manifesto document of the Cultural Learning Alliance (CLA).

“The right to culture for every child must be a cornerstone of our national cultural and educational policy. We must ensure equal access for all children and young people to quality arts, cultural and creative learning opportunities.

Nearly 25 years ago the world made a promise to children. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child – to which the UK is a signatory – states that all nation signatories shall ‘respect and promote the right of the child to participate fully in cultural and artistic life and shall encourage the provision of appropriate and equal opportunities for cultural, artistic, recreational and leisure activity’…”