Tuesday, 19 June 2012

What is The Ostrich Group?

The Ostrich Group is an coalition that has come together to improve the conditions of arts workers in the UK. More specifically, The Ostrich Group has been formed to look at how to make paying artists within the publicly funded arts sector standard practice. We want to host an open and frank debate around this issue with the intention of shaping guidelines that all parties within the arts can agree upon so that they may then be implemented. We want to do this because there appears to be a consensus between Arts Council England and arts worker's Unions, like Equity, that artists should be paid and yet this is not happening as a matter of form. We want to understand why this is the case and what is holding things back. We also want to see if the existing policy is sufficient and whether there are gray areas in its implementation that require clarifying. If that is the case we want to arrive at workable solutions so that paying arts workers in publicly funded projects is considered a matter of course rather than it being relegated to being merely 'good practice' which is a way to say, it is a luxury that can increasingly be done without during times of shrinking budgets.

A good place to start then is with the 2011 policy document itself, available on the Arts Council's website:


I for one would like to know why adherence to these guidelines is not a necessary condition for ACE support. The term "should ensure"  is not the same as "must ensure". Does anyone know why it was never made binding? During I'd also be interested in hearing about how things are outside of the Grants for the Arts scheme.


Grants for the arts – how to pay artists

Arts Council England is committed to ensuring proper and fair payment to artists and those who work in the creative industries is in recognition of their professional status, skills and experience. We require that artists’ fees for projects funded by us should be in line with recognised codes of practice set by the relevant lead bodies (some contact numbers are given at the end of this sheet).


Whilst we recognise that there is a great value in people having access to work experience where it is offered and arranged properly and is a mutually beneficial arrangement, but this should not be used as a means of attempting to circumvent the Minimum Wage Regulations.  We require organisations receiving funding from Arts Council England to ensure that salaries, fees and subsistence arrangements are as good as or better than those agreed by any relevant trade unions and employers’ associations



1       Grants for the arts

Applicants to Grants for the arts should make sure they can provide proper and fair payments to artists they will be working with when considering their budget. Applications for grants for touring should ensure that, in addition to adequate fees, subsistence payments are in line with the relevant trade union agreements.  We will not support applications from organisations that use artists’ time donated as in-kind support.

2       Daily rates

Nationally recognised minimum rates are set by the entertainment unions and the appropriate employers’ bodies. Entertainment union members can access information about rates from their union.  Where entertainment union rates exist, we expect at least the minimum rate to be applied. There are at present no national professional organisations for some sectors (including visual artists).

Following a ruling by the Office of Fair Trading on competition law, we are not able to offer guidelines on rates of pay for artists. We are exploring how we can offer some guidance on actual rates without breaking the law and will update this information as soon as we can.

The National Minimum Wage Act (1998) and the National Minimum Wage Regulations (1999) (as amended by the National Minimum Wage Regulations 1999 (Amendment) Regulations 2001) place obligations on employers to pay their workers at least the national minimum wage.

For more details:

visit the HM Revenue and Customs site at http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/paye/payroll/day-to-day/nmw.htm

or the Department for Business Innovation and Skills website at http://www.bis.gov.uk/policies/employment-matters
DBIS also runs a Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368

3       Useful Contacts

a-n The Artists Information Company – for visual artists
First Floor
7–15 Pink Lane
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 5DW
Phone: 0191 241 8000
Fax: 0191 241 8001
Website: www.a-n.co.uk

BECTU – for technical staff
373–377 Clapham Road
London SW9 9BT
Phone: 020 7346 0900
Fax: 020 7346 0901

Equity – for actors, singers and dancers
Guild House
Upper St Martins Lane
London WC2H 9EG
Phone: 020 7379 6000
Fax: 020 7379 7001

Independent Theatre Council – for theatre practitioners
12 The Leathermarket
Weston Street
London SE1 3ER
Phone: 020 7403 1727
Fax: 020 7403 1745

Musicians’ Union – for musicians
Has regional offices in

See website www.musiciansunion.org.uk for contact details
For general industry enquiries
Phone: 020 7582 5566

Writers’ Guild – for writers
40 Rosebery Avenue
London EC1R 4RX
Phone: 020 7833 0777


Arts Council England
Grants for the arts
The Hive, 49 Lever Street
Manchester M1 1FN
Phone: 0845 300 6200
Textphone: 020 7973 6564

© Arts Council England June 2011


  1. thanks to Bill and everyone who has put the work in to organize and give structure to the process of getting the reasoning for a fair deal out there, and then winning that deal with the funding bodies...... Our Art is our work.

  2. I think one of the things that I feel about the current guidelines on paying artists is that the principle is more or less right but that it should not just be applied to grants for the arts but rather, it should be a more general condition of public support for the arts. The recent cases of events within the Olympics trying to get musicians to work for free when there was even an agreement that they should be paid is the sort of thing that should just plain not happen. There is a type of producer out there who just doesn't get it and will try it on at every opportunity. If the rules were clear and enforced then we would not have to endure them and be protesting in this way while the standard of professionalism dwindles as fewer and fewer can make a living as artists in whichever discipline they have chosen.