The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group urge Arts Council England to reinstate National Lottery Projects Grants
When Arts Council England announced its £160 million emergency rescue package to deal with the coronavirus crisis in March 2020, arts organisations and individuals alike were rightly delighted by such a swift and positive response.
However, an important creative cause is in danger of falling through the cracks. Jazz music, an increasingly dynamic cultural force, and a renowned and invaluable stimulus to many kinds of musicmaking beyond its own borders, has in recent years been significantly dependent on the National Lottery Projects Grants Scheme for the planning of tours and creative projects. The scheme has now been suspended to release funding for the emergency measures – but no provision for its jazz commitments has been suggested in Arts Council England’s responses to queries.
The All-Party Parliamentary Appreciation Group (APPJAG), the influential jazz enthusiasts’ lobby group of MPs and Peers, is now urging Arts Council England to restore the National Lottery Projects Grants Scheme at the earliest opportunity. Individuals and bands seeking to organise tours 12 months or longer ahead cannot wait for the present crisis to be resolved and need to begin approaching promoters and venues now.
On March 28, APPJAG co-chairs John Spellar MP and Lord Mann, and deputy chair Chi Onwurah MP wrote to Darren Henley, Chief Executive Officer of Arts Council England, to raise these concerns. Following an exchange of correspondence on the subject, Darren Henley’s closing response on April 20 observed that protecting the infrastructure of venues used by performing artists required the Arts Council’s full capacity at present, and that although future planning would be difficult for some time, ‘our view is that wider and much greater uncertainties remain, such as what government restrictions may be in operation in the future, and the economic consequences of the intervening period on culture’s infrastructure.’
APPJAG is of the opinion that this response is particularly unhelpful in the jazz context, and will continue to urge Arts Council England to expedite the restoration of the National Lottery Project Grants Scheme with urgency, if ACE is not to make worse an already bad situation for jazz music in the culture-funding pecking-order. It would be ironic if bands and musicians whose current live work has been cancelled, should also find themselves with no work next year – hopefully in post-Covid-19 conditions – due to the withholding of a relatively modest investment that would enable them to set up their 2021 bookings now.
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Notes to editors
The All Party Parliamentary Jazz Appreciation Group (APPJAG) currently has over 116 members from the House of Commons and House of Lords across all political parties. Their aim is to encourage wider and deeper enjoyment of jazz, to increase Parliamentarians’ understanding of the jazz industry and issues surrounding it, to promote jazz as a musical form and to raise its profile inside and outside Parliament. The Group’s officers as at the inaugural meeting on 26th February are Co-Chairs, John Spellar MP and Lord Mann, Vice Chairs, Alison Thewless MP and Chi Onwurah MP, the Secretary, Sir Greg Knight MP, the Treasurer is Ian Paisley MP. Officers are: Lord Colwyn, Baroness Howe and Baroness Healy. APPJAG run the Parliamentary Jazz Awards that celebrate and recognise the vibrancy, diversity, talent and breadth of the jazz scene throughout the United Kingdom. The awards have been running since 2005.