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Peter De Haan blames government for closure of arts charity

Images from the series The Borders of Russia © Maria Gruzdeva, the recipient of the IdeasTap Photography Award 2012

The founder of IdeasTap believes his failure to 'play politics' with the government led to the enforced closure of the arts charity, which has provided funding to scores of photographers at the start of their career

Peter De Haan, the founder of IdeasTap, has blamed government austerity for the impending closure of the arts funding and education charity, which provides funds for young creatives at the start of their career.

After announcing this week the charity will close in June, with the loss of seven jobs and an end to a community-based website of almost 200,000 people, De Haan has described himself as “bitter” for the perceived lack of support his charity have received from the Arts Council and other government departments that deal with the creative industries. “I’m bitter because I see other organisations that play the politics, that get the money and waste it. They’re appalling,” he says.

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“I can’t even get a response from Ed Vaisey,” he says of the Minister for Culture, Communications and Creative Industries. “It’s unbelievable.”

The charity has received more than 90 per cent of its £13m total funding since its creation in 2008 from De Haan’s philanthropic trust, the Peter De Haan Charitable Trust. But De Haan, who inherited from his father the profits of the Saga insurance group, has said he can no longer provide any funding.

Throughout IdeasTap’s six years, and in part due to a long-term and close collaboration with Magnum Photos, the organisation funded scores of young photographers, giving the space, time and resource to work on photography series that might otherwise not have been completed.

Newly established photographers who gained funding from IdeasTap include Lewis Bush, Tina Remiz, Pierfrancesco Celada and Maria Gruzdeva, whose series The Borders of Russia (featured above) won the IdeasTap Photographic Award in 2012.

“To keep IdeasTap going, we needed to create multi-streaming income,” De Haan tells BJP. “Securing funding from the government, through the Arts Council, was an absolutely fundamental part of that strategy. We didn’t get the National Portfolio Organisation (NPO) status, which would have given us our core funding, and that was a body blow. We didn’t get the money from the Arts Council, and we were knackered from that moment on.”

De Haan believes the organisation’s unwillingness to spend its budget on extensive marketing, along with a disinclination to play a networking game with power brokers, contributed to the lack of funding. “We’re not glamorous. We don’t have stars, or a Kevin Spacey figure to sell us in the way The Old Vic has,” he says. “We haven’t invested in PR, because that goes against what IdeasTap is about,” he says. “We’ve ploughed all the money back into helping people. If we had a higher profile, and if we played the politics more, maybe the government would’ve been more helpful. But we’re a damn charity, and we’re trying to help people.“

The full story will appear in full in the May issue of The British Journal of Photography, on shelves the first week of April.

See more of Gruzdeva’s series The Borders of Russia here.

++ This story was updated at 12.14 on 16 March to correct an error – NPO stands for National Portfolio Organisation (not non-profit organisation). Diane Smyth ++

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