Oddsocks "disappointed" not to get Arts Council funds

Published: 14 July 2020
Reporter: Steve Orme

Oddsocks’ artistic director Andy Barrow as Macbeth in a comedy version of Shakespeare's play live streamed from the company’s home in Derby

Derby company Oddsocks Productions says it is “bitterly disappointed” to have been turned down by Arts Council England for emergency funding.

Oddsocks, which was looking forward to celebrating 31 years’ touring in summer 2021, went into lockdown in March and all income stopped. The family business “fell through the cracks of all the governmental financial packages”.

Company owners Elli Mackenzie and her husband Andy Barrow, who are shielding their severely at-risk daughter, applied to the Arts Council for emergency funds to help them through the crisis but were turned down “without explanation”.

Creative producer Mackenzie said, “the fact that our application was rejected with no feedback came as a bitter blow. We’ve contributed to the economy, employing professional creatives without direct arts funding for more than 30 years. We’ve always paid our teams a legal living age with holiday pay and subsistence and paid our taxes and VAT bills on time too. This felt like a real slap in the face."

An appeal for donations began on social media and the company's audiences responded. Mackenzie added, "we were bowled over by the support and made sure that we shared out the income with our freelance actors who were also suffering from a sudden end to their work and we’ll continue to do that as donations come in. We have no work; the future is still very uncertain."

Artistic director Barrow added, “we take good-quality, professional theatre across most regions of the UK and entertain thousands of people from all walks of life on their doorstep.

“Our following and the fact that we’ve survived unfunded for 31 years speaks for itself, which is why a little bit of help at a time of emergency from the arts establishment in this country would have been gratefully received.”

An Arts Council spokesperson said, “I appreciate how disappointed Oddsocks must be about their unsuccessful application to the emergency response fund.

“I’d like to assure them that our inability to offer this funding wasn’t a reflection of the importance or quality of their work; it’s a reflection on the limited resources we had available to respond to the crisis.

“We know we haven’t been able to help everyone who applied and needed support. We’re truly sorry for that. We’ve had to make difficult decisions to achieve a balanced spread of funds across our supported artforms, geography and diversity for applicants who all find them themselves in desperate situations.

“National Lottery project grants, another way the Arts Council supports the sector, will be reopening to applications on 22 July. The fund has been improved to make it more responsive to the needs of smaller independent organisations and individual practitioners during COVID-19.”

Oddsocks has been keeping audiences entertained during lockdown by live-streaming from their family home Shakespeare adaptations with a difference. A comedy version of Macbeth attracted 3,000 viewers.

Mackenzie revealed, “we’re hoping to do another at the end of July. They take a lot of rehearsal but are also fun to do and keep us in practice while we shield our daughter."

Recordings of Macbeth and A Midsummer Night's Dream can be viewed at the Oddsocks web site.