Feature: “It’s not over yet” – The fight to save IdeasTap

At the beginning of the month, the announcement came that IdeasTap is to close on the 2 June. Following the news, it didn’t take long for many of the site’s members to speak up in support of the organisation, which has helped numerous artists make advances in their careers through workshops, briefs, funding, and a whole host of opportunities over the last six years. Calls to save the charity have been numerous, with the #SaveIdeasTap campaign taking off first on Twitter and then on the website they set up on the day of the announcement. With all this support springing up in the weeks following the announcement, how is the fight to save this valuable arts organisation progressing?

“While it is a very long shot that we could still be saved, it’s not impossible,” James Hopkirk, editor of IdeasTap, tells me. The campaign to save the charity was set up entirely by members, and he notes that “it took us by surprise. The credit has to go to them entirely for everything they’re doing – it is phenomenal.”

However, while #SaveIdeasTap, the petition, and other forms of support are being run by members, Hopkirk tells me that IdeasTap have worked with the PR company that is helping them with the closure to put together a supporters’ pack “which contains things like draft letters to MPs and draft press releases”. What do members hope to gain from contacting MPs? It has, Hopkirk tells me, helped to an extent: “Since we announced closure there has been a huge flurry of interest,” he explains, noting how they have been “contacted by organisations and by politicians.”

This is not the first time IdeasTap have held out for government help: IdeasTap were recently unsuccessful in their application to be a National Portfolio Organisation. Hopkirk describes the rejection as “a big disappointment. That was a sort of watershed moment for us, because that funding – it wouldn’t have covered all our costs but it would have been enough to keep us going for longer, and more time to come up with another source of funding.” It is reassuring to hear, then, of the interest displayed by some politicians – although in the wake of the closure announcement, there has been anger directed at the government for allowing IdeasTap to come to this in the first place.

“We’ve gone down all the roads that you do as a charity,” he goes on to say, noting how hard the IdeasTap team worked to avoid having to close. “We approached trusts and foundations, we approached wealthy individuals, we approached companies that have corporate social responsibility programmes. We have been working very, very hard over the last three years to explore all of these avenues.” The closure, he adds, “wasn’t a decision we made lightly”.

But Hopkirk notes the importance of how “until you actually announce you’re closing, people don’t actually take it seriously.” Slim though the chances of saving IdeasTap may be, it is very possible that an organisation may step forward now it has become clear that the closure really is a tangible and likely prospect.

Among the voices rallying for IdeasTap to be saved are those concerned by the considerable gap that will appear when the organisation closes its doors. Having to close due to lack of funding seems unfair for an organisation that has helped give value to arts and artists, either through financial means or experiences. If IdeasTap closes, what does Hopkirk recommend to members in search of something that, if not offering everything that IdeasTap does, can partially replace the opportunities it offers?

“We take very seriously our responsibility,” he says. “The carpet is effectively being pulled out from under a lot of our members who relied on our services, and if we can’t provide for them we need to try and find a way to put people to other providers.” He tells me that when the existing site closes, it will be replaced by “a simplified site that will talk about what we achieved, what our members achieved. It’ll host our editorial archive, so all the articles that we have on IdeasMag, and also there will be a resources section that will signpost people to where else they can find funding, opportunities, that sort of thing.”

Over all, then, what are the chances of IdeasTap being saved by June? “It’s a long shot. I’d say the chances are low,” Hopkirk reiterates, but optimistically notes at the same time the importance of how IdeasTap’s members are “being brilliant and shouting about it, and signing petitions and making all this fantastic noise. We’re having interesting conversations at the moment – nothing concrete has emerged, but,” he adds, “it’s not over yet.”

Katie Smith

Katie Smith

Katie is a freelance director and writer, and recent graduate of the University of York. You can find her on Twitter as @katzsmitz