Arts get £160m res­cue pack­age with call to ‘buoy up the pub­lic’

The Guardian - - News Coronaviru­s - Mark Brown Arts cor­re­spon­dent

A £160m emer­gency re­sponse pack­age is to be made avail­able to help cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions, free­lancers and in­di­vid­ual artists sur­vive the coro­n­avirus cri­sis, Arts Coun­cil Eng­land has said.

The money is in­tended to pre­vent artists and arts or­gan­i­sa­tions from go­ing bust, but it is also de­signed to help them come up with cre­ative re­sponses “to buoy the pub­lic” dur­ing the lock­down.

The pack­age breaks down into £20m for cre­ative prac­ti­tion­ers and free­lancers, £50m for or­gan­i­sa­tions not in the na­tional port­fo­lio, and £90m for the 828 or­gan­i­sa­tions in the Arts Coun­cil’s na­tional port­fo­lio, a cat­e­gory that ranges from small tour­ing the­atres to the South­bank Cen­tre.

The money is com­ing from a com­bi­na­tion of the Arts Coun­cil’s emer­gency re­serves and a sus­pen­sion of na­tional lottery project grants, nor­mally a vi­tal source of in­come for smaller or­gan­i­sa­tions and in­di­vid­u­als.

Sir Ni­cholas Serota, chair of the Arts Coun­cil, said he had been “deeply moved” by the re­sponse of artists and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions to the cri­sis and “their imag­i­na­tion and in­ven­tion, but also their gen­eros­ity and their care for one an­other and their com­mu­ni­ties”.

He added: “None of us can hope to weather this storm alone, but by work­ing to­gether in part­ner­ship, I be­lieve we can emerge the stronger, with ideas shared, new ways of work­ing, and new re­la­tion­ships forged at the lo­cal, na­tional and even in­ter­na­tional level.”

The Arts Coun­cil said the mass clo­sure of venues and can­celled con­tracts were “caus­ing mas­sive and un­sus­tain­able loss of rev­enues”. It said the emer­gency pack­age was de­signed to com­ple­ment fi­nan­cial mea­sures al­ready an­nounced by the gov­ern­ment to help the wider econ­omy.

It also an­nounced that it was de­lay­ing the next in­vest­ment process for or­gan­i­sa­tions that re­ceive reg­u­lar core fund­ing. The process for 2022-26 was due to be­gin in the au­tumn. In­stead, the cur­rent port­fo­lio will be rolled over for an ex­tra year to 2023.

In nuts and bolts terms the pack­age means:

• Artists and cre­ative prac­ti­tion­ers will be el­i­gi­ble for cash grants of up to £2,500 from the £20m pot. The Arts Coun­cil is also plan­ning to make grants of up to £4m to ex­ist­ing benev­o­lent funds for cul­tural work­ers.

• Or­gan­i­sa­tions out­side the na­tional port­fo­lio will be able to ap­ply for grants of up to £35,000 from the £50m fund. It is aimed at help­ing them to “get back on their feet” or to make work in the fu­ture, which will mean they can con­trib­ute to the “Let’s Cre­ate” strat­egy.

• The £90m pro­gramme for the 828 port­fo­lio or­gan­i­sa­tions in­cludes ad­vanc­ing cur­rent grants by up to six months to help with cash­flow. The strin­gent con­di­tions that nor­mally ap­ply to fund­ing will be re­laxed.

The Arts Coun­cil said it re­gret­ted sus­pend­ing na­tional lottery grants, adding: “At this time of cri­sis, we be­lieve that this bud­get is best spent on sus­tain­ing the sec­tor. We will pri­ori­tise re­open­ing this stream of fund­ing as early as pos­si­ble.”

Dar­ren Hen­ley, chief ex­ec­u­tive of the Arts Coun­cil, said: “Our num­ber one pri­or­ity is to do ev­ery­thing we can to help in­di­vid­ual artists and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions to stay afloat. It’s go­ing to be tough, but we need them to be in the best pos­si­ble shape to use their creativ­ity to ben­e­fit lives in vil­lages, towns and cities across Eng­land once our com­mu­ni­ties be­gin the process of re­cov­er­ing from this ter­ri­ble virus.

“Al­ready, I’ve seen artists and cul­tural or­gan­i­sa­tions draw on their bot­tom­less in­ge­nu­ity and creativ­ity to dream up ways to con­nect, com­fort and up­lift us as we face th­ese uniquely chal­leng­ing cir­cum­stances.

“This is a fright­en­ing time for all of us. But, as we dis­tance our­selves from one an­other in our daily lives, I be­lieve the role of arts and cul­ture in help­ing to bring us all to­gether will be­come ever more crit­i­cal.”

PHO­TO­GRAPH: EL­LIOTT FRANKS

Geisha, per­formed in Leeds by North­ern Bal­let, a na­tional port­fo­lio or­gan­i­sa­tion of the Arts Coun­cil

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