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A grim autumn for culture?

Where will the recovery fund go? And is it all too little too late?

We know the arts have been one of the biggest economic casualties as a result of the pandemic. When the govt recently announced a huge £1.57bn emergency arts fund, it seemed there might be hope of salvation. But where will the money go? And is it all too little too late? By Sarah Bradbury.

What’s the deal with this £1.57bn?

While the emergency arts fund itself was announced a few weeks back, further details on how the money would be distributed only arrived on Tuesday.

In a press release, the govt confirmed that arts organisations will be able to apply for grants from next week.

In the first round, they’ll be £622m up for grabs, with £500m available for theatres, museums, music and comedy venues, £2.25m of which will be set aside for immediate emergency support for grassroots music venues.

The rest will go to the BFI, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England. A second round of funding of £258m will then be available later in the year.

How can venues apply?

Organisations can apply for between £50,000 and £3m from the £500m pot, between 10th Aug and 4th Sep.

Though securing the cash will be no walk in the park: to be successful, they must produce an “innovative plan for how they will operate and be sustainable for the remainder of this financial year” plus be able “to demonstrate their international, national or local significance”.

Arts Council England (ACE), who are administering the Culture Recovery Fund, have provided a helpful breakdown of how to apply on twitter.

What else is there?

£270m has been allocated for long-term loans of over £3m. A much-needed extra £2m in funds was also announced to support freelancers who it was felt had fallen through the cracks.

ACE is also reopening its Developing Your Creative Practice programme for individual artists, increasing the budget allocation this year from £3.6m to £18m and its National Lottery Project Grants will also be increased, with a budget of £75m available until March 2021.

What does it all mean for arts organisations?

The government could well provide the lifeline many need to stay in business. But there are concerns that it’s all “too little too late”.

Some venues have already culled staff, such as London’s Southbank Centre who cut 400 jobs recently. York Museums Trust and Birmingham Museums Trust are consulting on job losses. Others have already had to close their doors permanently, such as Nuffield Southampton Theatres. 

As Nicola Slawson highlights in the Guardian, small venues that support vulnerable people are particularly at threat, such as regional and community theatres, with fears the money simply won’t “trickle down.”

Plus, even with a cash injection, the long term viability of many arts venues is also under question. Just this week, the Clapham Grand ran a trial indoor gig in collaboration with the govt and Frank Turner headlining to test how a music event in the “new normal” could look. 

Their verdict? While the gig itself was “great,” the feedback from the venue was the numbers just didn’t add up. With capacity much lower than the norm, ticket sales didn’t even cover the venue’s costs, nevermind Frank Turner’s fee…

Culture sec Oliver Dowden called on arts organisations to “be creative in diversifying their income streams” and on consumers to “continue supporting the places they love so this funding can be spread as far and wide as possible”.

But Jack Kirby from the Science Museum group, tweeted that the package “seems unlikely to stop this being a grim autumn for culture”.

Do you work in the arts and have been affected by the pandemic? Share your story with us.

How you can help

🎭 Check in with your favourite arts venue and make a donation if they need your support.

🎭 If they are reopening, consider paying them a visit if you feel comfortable.

🎭 You can also help support individual artists either with a donation or if they’re putting their work out online, make sure to give it a watch or listen, like and share it!