AUE Statement on ACE updated Relationship Framework

Updated: Mar 07, 2024

On Friday 9 February, we wrote to Arts Council England (ACE) to share the concerns of our membership following the introduction of new guidelines around reputational risk for National Portfolio Organisations (NPOs).

ACE’s updated guidance emerged within a context of growing authoritarianism in response to our current political moment. Art is political by nature, and as the union for artists in England, we strongly oppose any threats to artists freedom of expression.

Both ACE’s written response to our letter (which you can read here) and their public responses, which followed widespread alarm within the arts community and beyond, were vague and evasive, however they did include a promise to ‘revise the language’ of their guidance.

A new update to the guidance has now been published and can be reviewed here.

The AUE NEC has made the following statement on the changes, and will continue to monitor the situation with our fellow creative unions and other groups within our sector:

We welcome the announcement that as a result of the outrage that their wording had caused ACE have been forced to retract their attempts at censoring artists.

Arts Council England should never have included in their new guidance to National Portfolio Organisations that making statements “on matters of current political debate” could breach the terms of their funding agreement with ACE.

Whatever the intention, the impact of these guidelines would have censored artists' freedom of expression. Artists' Union England welcome their new statement, that they “expect all organisations they invest in to support freedom of expression."

They have been forced to retract their original guidance by the huge backlash that their initial wording caused.

Artists' Union England was one of many Trade Unions, artist organisations and individual artists that called for an immediate retraction of any threats to freedom of artistic expression.

We will continue to call them to account to ensure that they fulfil the new pledge to:

“not remove or refuse funding to an organisation or an individual purely because they make work that is political.”

This once again calls into question, how the Arts Council operates and whether the people appointed to its board really do reflect the values of our diverse communities, artists and arts organisations.


Further Reading

Artists’ Union England is an active union and is constantly campaigning, producing resources and signposting opportunites for its members:




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