Sector Support Organisations (SSO) are a new category within Arts Council England’s National Portfolio.
SSO’s play a vital role in supporting the cultural sector, but don’t directly deliver or produce content themselves. Instead, they aim to support the wider cultural sector in the following ways:
- Talent development and artistic innovation
- Understanding and growth of audiences
- Creating a more skilled and diverse workforce
- Creating a more resilient cultural sector
- Embedding better provision and access for children and young people.
SSO’s are a diverse range of organisations working across all art forms supported by Arts Council England. Some focus on regional support, others work nationally. Some are large organisations, others small.
They include Bridge organisations, Museum Development providers, umbrella and networking organisations, strategic library and museum partnership bodies and organisations that work in other ways.
As part of a range of projects highlighting exciting innovations in the sector in the AMA’s 25 anniversary year, AMACulturehive is launching an ongoing series of interviews with SSO’s working right across the board.
Find out more about the organisations that are working to support you in reaching audiences old and new.
English Folk Expo
The English Folk Expo works within the England folk, roots and acoustic industry. In our first SSO Q&A, Chief Executive Tom Besford answers our questions about their work and commitment to the sector, as well as their future plans.
Can you tell our readers a bit about what you do?
English Folk Expo supports the English folk, roots and acoustic music industry through artist development and showcasing programmes.
EFEx’s artist mentoring offer helps artists in their business skills with a specific focus on ‘export readiness’. The annual showcase takes place alongside the Manchester Folk Festival each October and presents more than 40 artists to an invited audience of UK and international music industry delegates.
We grow the sector through a mix of presenting great music to key industry decision makers. This has multiple benefits including encouraging festivals and venues who might not have booked this genre of music to present them on their stages, it also showcases great new and emerging artists to the existing sector. In addition, we work with artists to support them in building their careers as professional musicians.
What is the best way for people to approach you?
We welcome people in the music industry with a position to directly benefit artists’ careers to attend our annual showcase event. We are looking for festival bookers, venue programmers, agents, managers, labels, music supervisors and more. In order to attend, you can apply via our website
If you are an artist who performs English folk, roots and acoustic music then you can also contact the team via our website. The showcasing opportunities at English Folk Expo are programmed as part of the Manchester Folk Festival, run by So It Is Ltd.
What makes your organisation stand out? How do you make a difference to the sector?
Folk, roots and acoustic music is an important but niche genre within the UK music industry. Over the past decade, the opportunities and audiences for the genre have changed and grown to become more similar to other audiences throughout the UK music scene.
As a result, there is now a requirement for the artists performing in this genre to professionalise, understand more about the industry they are forging careers in and to learn how to operate as micro businesses. With the increased profile and popularity of folk, roots and acoustic music, the sector itself needs to ensure there are clear pathways to support the growing number of professional artists to sustain themselves and develop in their career.
Since 2012, English Folk Expo has been helping to showcase English folk, roots and acoustic musicians to audiences of influential delegates from the UK and international music sector. This has played a significant role in increasing the opportunities for showcasing artists to develop new audiences internationally, opening up territories which hitherto did not have a strong track record in promoting English folk music. Throughout this time, delegate feedback has indicated a need to prepare our artists for international export (export readiness), much of which is directly linked to developing an understanding of the wider music industry.
Each time we run our annual showcase, independent evaluation indicates that spend on artists as a result of the event is in excess of £1.8 million over the following two years. English Folk Expo therefore continues to develop new opportunities in the UK and internationally for artists in this genre to perform, but also directly helps and supports those artists to prepare and capitalise on these opportunities. For many emerging artists, especially those performing niche genres of music, they are needing to run every aspect of their business on their own. This means taking on roles which may previously have been covered by other organisations such as label, publisher, agent, manager and more. English Folk Expo supports artists in their learning to grow their businesses.
What new initiatives do you have coming up?
The English folk, roots and acoustic music scene has been rather limited in the demographic of performers on our stages. We have a unique opportunity to present artists to key decision makers in the music industry who have different backgrounds to the majority of our performers. We hope that this will encourage promoters and other industry to present these artists within their programmes, which will contribute towards stages that are more reflected of our audiences.
In 2018 we presented a programme about gender equality on our stages alongside our partners Both Sides Now. Following the success of this PRSF funded initiative, we have just announced a partnership with the One Festival of Homelessness Arts and with With One Voice ahead of our 2019 showcase. This partnership will provide showcasing opportunities and CPD support for artists who have experienced homelessness, enabling them to become sector ambassadors for homelessness and the arts.
We are also developing an online platform which will accompany our existing App and bespoke registration portal. This will create a comprehensive digital offer about the English folk, roots and acoustic sector which can be used to promote the genre to industry who are not able to make it to the event in Manchester in October. Potentially, this digital platform may promote and support opportunities from festivals and venues internationally who may not yet be certain as to whether this genre is broad enough for them to commit to a visit to English Folk Expo.
For further information contact English Folk Expo