£1m fund for arts freelancers ‘shows there are people out there who care’

A £1 million fund for freelancers in the creative industries will show them that “there are people out there who care”, according to the artistic director of the Young Vic theatre.

The Genesis Foundation’s Kickstart Fund was announced last month and is aimed at helping freelancers get through the coronavirus pandemic.

A number of arts organisations have previously highlighted the lack of financial support available to some freelancers in the creative sector.

It has now been announced Young Vic artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah is one of the leading figures from the arts world who is supporting the Kickstart Fund by becoming an advisory council member.

He is joined by others including actor Benedict Cumberbatch and artist Michael Armitage. James Bond producer Barbara Broccoli and artist Grayson Perry have signed on as special advisers.

Kwame Kwei-Armah
Kwame Kwei-Armah

Kwei-Armah told the PA news agency that the “freelance community have had a really hard time”.

He added that the fund is a “brilliant way of investing and signalling to the freelance community that we care, there are people out there that care”.

He said he “cannot overstate” the importance of freelancers to his industry, adding: “There’s no real theatre without freelancers.”

He said that while he is “overjoyed” by the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts his “heart bleeds for those who have fallen between the cracks”.

Kwei-Armah said he is concerned that the pandemic may mean the industry loses some of its workers.

“I’m really worried that we may have lost not just established talent but emerging talent, the people who were about to choose us maybe above television, maybe above going into podcasts,” he said.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch

He added he is also “very worried” about the potential impact on diversity in the sector and that work must be done to ensure the cultural industries do not become less representative of the population at large.

The Kickstart Fund, which was launched by John Studzinski, founder and chairman of the Genesis Foundation, will be rolled out next year.

It will pay freelancers to work on artistic projects which will receive grants of £10,000 and above to enable them to continue to work.

Cumberbatch said: “So much of the exciting work in the creative sector comes from young freelancers whose projects and income have been hit hard by the pandemic.

“The Genesis Foundation’s Kickstart Fund is a brilliant initiative to help bring some of this work to life and support the young creatives to thrive.”

Grayson Perry
Grayson Perry

Perry said: “Carved into the beam in my studio is the motto ‘creativity is mistakes’.

“It is still true even in these shockingly difficult times.

“Artists need to experiment and get it wrong, there is no right way to make great art.

“But another important aspect of being creative is to feel relaxed and current circumstances prevent this.

“Therefore I am very happy to be involved with the Genesis Kickstart fund.

“Artists, especially at the beginning of their careers, need support, and this fund will allow them to try new things, learn new skills and take risks even under the shadow of this crisis.”