New specialist fund for Bath’s army of artistic freelancers aims to boost city’s creative sector

May 15, 2024

Freelancers working in Bath’s creative sector can access grants of up to £2,000 to develop their skills or create new work.

The payments have been made available under a special £200,000 fund launched by the West of England Combined Authority (WECA). 

With freelancers making up 47% of workers in the region’s world-leading creative industries – compared with 15% of the wider regional workforce – supporting them is crucial for the future of the sector.

Metro Mayor Dan Norris, who leads WECA, said while freelancers were at the heart of the region’s creativity they had suffered from a disproportionate lack of investment and government support, with many leaving the sector, especially since the pandemic.

As a result, he is on a mission to support talented local artists, technicians, designers, curators, producers, writers and other freelancers. 

Creative freelancers can apply for grants of up to £2,000 to support activities ranging from research and development, professional development, creation of new work, collaboration, training and more.

Projects can span up to nine months and should be completed by June 2025.

Mayor Norris, pictured, said: “One of the very first decisions I took as mayor was to back freelancers who had been hammered during the pandemic.

“Without talented freelancers across the arts, our region’s theatres, high streets, buildings, film and TV and museums would be sorely lacking in creativity.

“But we know that trickle down of investment in organisations and support doesn’t always flow through to freelancers. That’s a big problem – not least in terms of limiting access to our world-class creative industries. 

“This new funding underlines my commitment to actors, fashion designers, artists, animators and many others to grow, and get on in our creative industries.”

WECA has invested more than £1m supporting 800-plus of the region’s creative freelancers since Mayor Norris was elected in May 2021.

Among those to benefit from the scheme is Bath-based children's author and illustrator Tessa Cobb, pictured, who said it had enabled her to take risks and try new processes.

“Since receiving it I've created four books that are far more expressive than previous work,” she added.

“I've completed an MA, and secured agency representation. My books are currently out on submission with 25 global publishers.

“I'm really grateful to have had this time to try new things that really enhanced my work which is taking me into new markets. "

Arts Council England South West is supporting the scheme through the joint Culture West programme.

Director Phil Gibby said: “From actors and set designers to photographers and producers, self-employed creatives can be found in every corner of the cultural sector. Yet we so often hear they feel like an invisible workforce.

“This cash boost goes some way to recognising their dedication and retaining specialist skills, so that culture can continue to flourish in the West of England for the good of all audiences."

Applications to the fund can be made here

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