The awardees include a range of live performance artists and creatives ranging from dancers to DJs, aerialists, composers and singers representing a broad selection of individuals and collaborative groups blurring boundaries across music and the performing arts including theatre, circus, live art and dance. The awards were made based on track record and potential, with applicants setting out their vision for the future and how they will contribute to the recovery of their artistic communities. The awardees plan to use their grants to underpin the development of their practice in different ways, from re-imagining the creation and performance of work kiboshed by the pandemic, to building new artist networks, to researching and learning new interests and skills.
Awardees include creative producer Nassy Konan, producer of BAC’s Beatbox Academy hit Frankenstein, who seeks to develop a project based on growing gentrification in South East London; actor, musician and songwriter John Pfumojena, Obie Award winning composer for the multi-award winning production The Jungle, who plans to develop his project ‘Meet My Ancestors’ which puts Mbira and Marimba music of Zimbabwe at its core; and female-led performance company Figs in Wigs, who will be creating a new interdisciplinary performance project about cycles, science, the death of theatre and the end of the world. The fund has also opened-up different ways for artists to innovate, experimenting with the new limitations and opportunities, such as singer and songwriter Eliza Shaddad wishing to work with East City Films to develop her live streaming using VR headsets.
In an alternative to traditional project funding and much of the Covid-19 hardship funding available, the independent consortium of funders has given individuals £20,000 core grants, simply to support them to navigate this crisis and find new ways forward for live performance. Following a year of severe limitations on gathering artists and audiences together, the funding will be crucial to ensuring the awardees can fulfil their potential and contribute to the wider reimagining of the arts.
Demand for the fund highlights wider concerns about the lack of financial support to freelance artists during the pandemic. To fund all 1283 applicants would have required £25,660,000, demonstrating the gap in support and a marked increase compared to previous funds run by Jerwood Arts.
A survey of over 1200 applicants reinforces this: 50% reported their main source of income as emergency funding from national arts councils, private funders and unions, while only 45% cited the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).
The survey highlights the stark impact of Covid-19 on all areas of early-career freelance artists and producers’ professional lives: over half (53%) said they have been less active creatively since Covid-19 hit, and are experiencing slower career progression because of reduced opportunities (52%). Most thought they were unlikely to abandon their artistic practice, but the survey suggests that their ability to be creative due to financial and sector constraints has been seriously hindered. Over a third (34%) reported less time to practice due to having to seek income elsewhere, 23% said they were less able to pursue their career due to impact of Covid-19 on their mental health, and 17% due to its impact on their friends, family and community.
The survey also suggests where artists are experiencing the greatest change to their practice. There is a marked shift towards digital, with over half (55%) taking a more ‘blended’ digital / in real life approach to both making and sharing their work, while peer support networks (58%) have become the most critical non-financial source of support, and over a third (34%) say they have greater involvement and awareness of sector-wide issues.
Jerwood Arts developed the Live Work Fund, with substantial contributions from the Wolfson Foundation (particularly to support those working with music), the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and The Linbury Trust. The £660k Live Work Fund awarded £20,000 to 33 outstanding artists and producers and will also provide mentoring support. Through a specially designed decision-making process, Jerwood Arts worked with 13 of its Artist Advisors to create a peer-led, artist-centred approach that focused on identifying the most promising artists who had both imaginative ideas for the future of their own practice, and a demonstrable commitment to contributing to their wider artistic community.
Lilli Geissendorfer, Director, Jerwood Arts, says on behalf of the four funders:
The Live Work Fund clearly demonstrates both the huge financial need experienced by freelance artists across the UK whose careers have been put in limbo by Covid-19, and the significance of flexible funding for individuals. By being bold and entrusting substantial amounts of funding, we are delighted that the Live Work Fund is able to offer 33 visionary artists the time and space to develop their practices with fewer financial concerns. Covid-19 has highlighted how valuable collaboration between different funders can be to create new ways to support the arts ecology. We look forward to seeing the awardees play their part in the future of the arts.
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