In common with most organisations, this annual report is being published some six months or so following the end of our financial year in March 2020. In any normal year, the narrative of this executive summary would have been to capture the key events and impacts achieved during the year under review, as well as signalling our plans and ambitions for the year ahead.
But this year is not a normal year. Just as 2019/20 came to a close, the country went into lockdown, and the scale and severity of the global coronavirus pandemic started to become startlingly clear.
It is in this context that, as we take the opportunity to celebrate everything we achieved in 2019, we do so with the painful realisation that so many of the people and places that underpin the strength and diversity of our creative sectors have been devastated by the impact of Covid-19, and the damage wrought is likely to be long-lasting. In that sense, this report serves as a reminder of how strong things were in 2019 and the importance of doing everything we can to protect, rebuild and invest in the artists, musicians, performers, producers, venues, museums, galleries, heritage sites, and other elements that make up our uniquely rich and diverse cultural ecology here in the UK.
As a Sector Support Organisation, Creative United is committed to helping the creative economy to recover as quickly as it can. With the support of our funding partners, we will be working hard to ensure that the individuals and organisations we work with are equipped to face the challenges ahead, as well as to take advantage of the opportunities to work differently and better, that have started to emerge as a consequence of the hard stop imposed by Covid-19 on all our lives.
Our track record in developing and delivering business support programmes that are responsive to the needs of organisations across the arts, heritage and wider creative industries puts us in a strong position in this regard, and we are looking forward very much to continuing to work with our incredible network of advisors to ensure that specialist business advice is available to those that need it.
A major strategic focus for Creative United in 2019 was the research and development of our ‘Future of the Art Market’ Report and Unconference, through which we sought to identify the changing dynamics of the UK art market and predict how these might change in the future – for good or for bad. As our 200 guests gathered at Somerset House on 13 November 2019 to discuss issues, such as the environmental impact of art fairs, use of digital technologies in buying and selling artwork, and the lack of diversity within the market, who could possibly have predicted that within a few short months we would see such a dramatic acceleration of change across our industry.
2019 was also an important year for the Take it away Consortium; the partnership structure through which we are driving forward our Inclusive Access to Music Making (IAMM) initiative. We are delighted to have forged such a strong alliance with our colleagues at The OHMI Trust, Youth Music, Open Up Music, Drake Music and Music for Youth and to see the positive results that this partnership has generated. This includes our groundbreaking pilot programme, in partnership with Nottingham Music Hub, and the publication of our Guide to Buying Adaptive Musical Instruments.
Despite the obvious challenges, we look forward to building on the successes of 2019/20 with an even stronger sense of purpose and commitment in the year ahead and to ensuring that the arts, culture and creativity remain accessible to all.
Mary-Alice Stack, Chief Executive
Highlights from 2019/20
Business Support Programmes
Creative United devise and deliver a range of business support programmes tailored for freelancers, artists and creative businesses across the arts, creative and heritage sectors. Our national, regional and local programmes are designed to support participants to increase their growth and impact and to define and reach their personal and business goals.
In 2019-20, we were delighted to launch two major new business support programmes, Forge and Prosper North, providing a total of 852 hours of business support to over 80 creative businesses and freelancers across the UK.
With the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic, the need to support creative businesses and freelancers became even more important than ever, and 2019-20 saw Creative United work with funders and partners across the country to develop each of the programmes to respond to the evolving needs of participants and the wider creative sector. This included support for building business resilience, and help with planning and rebuilding for post-lockdown.
Click here to find out more about the businesses we supported in 2019-20.
Making contemporary art and craft accessible to all
Own Art is a national initiative that makes buying contemporary art and craft more affordable, by providing interest-free finance for the purchase of original work.
With the support of our funding partners Arts Council England, Creative Scotland and the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, Own Art aims to reduce the financial barriers and perceptions of elitism that commonly exist within the art market, by making it easier and more accessible for people to purchase and enjoy original art and craft, regardless of their income and socio-economic background.
Since 2004, the scheme has enabled more than 64,000 customers to get access to the art they love, supporting over £56 million of sales of contemporary art and craft.
Own Art works with a network of over 300 member galleries from across England, Scotland and Northern Ireland to offer the scheme, including commercial and not-for-profit galleries, museums, art fairs and artist-led organisations.
Click here to find out more.
Key Figures for 2019/20
Average loan value
Customers that would recommend Own Art to others
customers have used the scheme more than once
“Own Art is a very valuable sales tool and has helped me clinch numerous sales in a testing sales environment"
Take it away
Take it away provides interest-free loans to individuals for the purchase of musical instruments, equipment, tuition and software.
Take it away is a national initiative supported by Arts Council England and Arts Council of Northern Ireland, designed to make it more affordable for people to get involved in making music.
We work with a network of over 130 music retailers and specialist shops across England and Northern Ireland to offer interest-free finance for the purchase of musical instruments, equipment, software, accessories and tuition.
Since its launch in 2007, over 94,000 customers have bought more than £67 million worth of instruments from our retailers.
Together with our partners, we look to enable and inspire a life-long love of music, ensuring that musicianship is a key skill for life that everyone has the opportunity to develop, regardless of socio-economic background.
Click here to find out more
Key Figures for 2019/20
Average loan value
loans went to supporting children under the age of 18
customers that would recommend Take it away to others
"[The scheme] enables the buying of a more expensive instrument. Fantastic facility for those on a limited budget"
IAMM: Inclusive Access to Music Making
Improving access to music making for disabled players of all ages
In 2019-20, Creative United and Take it away were delighted to launch the first edition of its Guide to Buying Adaptive Musical Instruments, distributed in partnership with the Musicians’ Union and Normans Musical Instruments.
The guide forms part of the wider IAMM (Inclusive Access to Music Making) initiative, launched in 2018 and led by Creative United and the Take it away Consortium (a partnership between Creative United, Drake Music, Music for Youth, The OHMI Trust, Open Up Music and Youth Music). The initiative was founded to ensure that disabled people are given the same opportunities to access and enjoy music-making through the provision of adapted instruments and new music technologies.
The guide was created in response to research undertaken by the Take it away Consortium in 2018, which identified that a significant barrier to participation in music for disabled children was a lack of access to, and knowledge about the existence of adaptive musical instruments and assistive equipment.
63% of music retailers said they were not aware of any specialist products or adapted instruments. Only 55% of music educators and less than 25% of parents with disabled children agreed with the statement “I know how and where to source an adapted musical instrument”.
Compiled between 2019-2020, the guide includes details of more than 80 products, from batons and bows to one-handed clarinets and saxophones, that have been specially designed to make learning and playing musical instruments of all kinds as accessible as possible for disabled players of all ages.
The guide was published with the aim of raising awareness of the extraordinary range of adaptive instruments that are currently available, with the hope that this will inspire and encourage many more disabled people to be confident of their ability to learn and play music.
Click here to download a free copy of the guide.