Saving Dedalus Books – A Petition

British independent publisher, Dedalus Books, are, after twenty-five years in existence, threatened with closure due to the withdrawal of Arts Council of England funding. This is due to cuts announced recently which would see about two hundred companies across England losing their grant.

Dedalus Books, for the uninitiated, are a specialist literary publisher (more here) publishing both British and European names within their own niche market covering what they call “distorted reality, where the bizarre, the unusual and the grotesque and the surreal meld in a kind of intellectual fiction which is very European.” Some of the names on their list are recognisable Andrew Crumey, Honoré de Balzac, Eça de Queirós, and Nobel prizewinner, Luigi Pirandello. Of the greater unknown, they are, to me, a reading temptation.

In this Times article, a reason is given for the cut:

The Arts Council says the cuts are designed to concentrate its funding on organisations of excellence while penalising the average: “In the majority of cases this has been decided on the basis of . . . well documented issues with poor performance. It is the strength of artistic output.”

I don’t know about Dedalus’ performance over the years but it seems silly that they should withdraw funding from this niche publisher when, according to the Art Council of England’s literature policy for 2007-2011 (PDF), they list, amongst their priorities:

We want to increase the profile of international writing in this country by supporting those publishers committed to literature in translation.

And:

We want to increase the profile of international writing in this country by supporting those publishers committed to literature in translation.

The people at Dedalus Books must feel that their Arts Counci has failed them with such hypocrisy. What’s particularly galling is that the funding that has been withdrawn is, apparently, around £25,000. It seems like pocket change when you consider, according to this Observer article the Royal Opera House, over 2005 to 2008, stands to make £77m from Arts Council funding. In the Lords Hansard for May 2006, Lord Colwyn raised the point that “in 2005–06, jazz funding was £1 million; for 2006–07, opera received £62 million.”

While, in terms of audience share, both jazz and opera perhaps share parity, the funding is grossly weighted to opera, although that may be, as also noted in the Lords Hansard, the industry is worth £5billion. Since the bulk of the Arts Council funding goes to opera and that, as the figures would seem, is making enough to sustain itself, one wonders why they persist in funding such an art form when there are others, notably literature, that need the money.

Returning to Dedalus Books, they have a period of appeal which is coming up soon wherein they can state their case. What would be helpful to them is literature minded souls willing to sign their petition in order to get:

The Arts Council to reverse its recommendation not to fund Dedalus after January 2008 and to enter into a new partnership with Dedalus so the company can thrive and not merely survive.

The Arts Council of England also note on their priorities for the next few years that they “will create greater equality of opportunity for readers, writers and those in the publishing industry.” Well, as a reader, I would hope that the damning decision is reconsidered in order to give that “greater equality of opportunity” as I, for one, don’t want my only choices, in ten years’ time, being whatever Richard & Judy deem suitable for literary consumption. Okay, perhaps a tad extreme, but you know what I mean.

Further contact details and information can be found on the Saving Dedalus Books page.

January 7, 2008

9 responses to Saving Dedalus Books – A Petition

  1. gav said:

    I must admit that Art Council of England are being a right bunch of (rudewords) towards a lot of companies that have previously been supported. It’s like someone coming along and knocking your house down with no notice and all your stuff inside because they are turning your estate into an Olympic village!

    They are making some serious miss judgements. On my side I’ve been supporting The Rialto who had their funding removed at shockingly short notice!

    Being a Wales resident I’m in no position to complain :(

  2. Stewart said:

    …because they are turning your estate into an Olympic village!

    That may just be it. What does some small publishing company putting out unheard of texts matter in the grand scale of things when every city wants its time in the sun?

    I think we’ll see a lot more literary festivals popping up around the UK. In itself, it’s not a bad thing, but it will probably go the same way as music festivals in the UK where there are so many and the majority of them are all showcasing the same bands. It would end up boring to turn up at each location to find the same old authors signing books when they should be tucked up in their studies writing them.

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  4. Ricardo Sergio said:

    Blog is wonderful.

    Congratulations,
    Ricardo Sergio

  5. Stewart said:

    Why, thank you, Ricardo Sergio. I’m sure you won’t mind if I remove your link since, like the hundreds of other blogs you’ve posted the exact same message to, you wouldn’t want your praise to be considered as anything as low as spam.

  6. Litlove said:

    I also received this email and it was one of many attacks on support in the arts in this country that made my heart sink. Did you know that the number of graduates admitted to do a PhD will now be cut by half across the UK? And why? The Olympics. Arts and sports are funded by the same body, managed (if such a word can be used) by the same government department, and so with the Olympics coming up, sacrifices have to be made. And naturally by the arts. It stinks.

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