Theatre Vs Covid-19: Relief Funding.
Where are we at now:
In our last Arts News Item published on June 21st we looked at the industry across Scotland and further field as it continues to struggle with the complete shut down of venues due to Covid-19. In the few weeks since the publication of that article there has been a seismic shift in emergency funding being injected into the industry. It seems that Government’s of both Scotland and the UK have finally listened and taken the first steps in pulling the arts back from the cliff edge. So, let’s look at those developments a little closer.
Edinburgh Fringe receives a £1.25 Million lifeline:
On June 16th it was announced that the Edinburgh Fringe Society, the charity which oversees the annual extravaganza that is the Fringe was awarded Grants from Pivotal Enterprise Resilience fund for £149,00 and £100,000 from the City of Edinburgh Council. These grants were supplemented by the Scottish Government with a 6-year, interest free loan of £1million.
The Fringe Society confirmed that the money will be used to mitigate the significant losses incurred as a result of this year’s festival not going ahead as planned due to Covid-19.
The Society estimates the Fringe is worth around £200 million annually to the wider Scottish and UK economy, adding that thousands of artists and cultural entrepreneurs across the UK rely on the Fringe annually as a key milestone for employment.
Chief Executive Shona McCarthy said: “This funding is a life raft to the Fringe Society, enabling us to properly support the extensive ecosystem of artists, venues and businesses who rely on the Fringe. This festival is about much more than three weeks in August. It’s an embodiment of how culture and creativity unites us. In this incredibly difficult time, we are grateful to be working so closely with our partners at Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and City of Edinburgh Council on this common goal.”
Scottish Government £10million cash injection for the Arts:
On July 3rd the Scottish Government announced the creation of a targeted performing arts venues relief fund which will see £10 million injected into the Scottish arts industry. The fund is to be administered by Creative Scotland as its available to regularly funded organisations and Non RFO’s.
Announced by culture secretary Fiona Hyslop during that days First Minister’s press briefing, giving a real terms cash back up to her pledge she made a week previously. The Secretary also made a strong point that £10M is nowhere near enough, although she described the fund as a “vital lifeline” that will help performing arts venues to continue beyond Covid-19 lockdown restrictions. The Secretary went on to say: “we don’t have the same powers as the UK Government to borrow billions to ensure that there is fiscal stimulus for the economy or indeed to support key sectors.”
In an pointed and well delivered opinion to the Culture Secretary at Westminster, Oliver Dowden, she went onto say “I think that there is a real responsibility now, if the UK Government really cares about culture and creativity, that they step up to the mark and help provide support.” She confirmed that if it did then the Scottish government would distribute its share of the Barnett Consequentials to “help this vital part of our society but also our economy”.
First Minister for Scotland Nicola Sturgeon commenting on the same press briefing went on to say: “We know this will not solve every problem facing our culture sector, and that more support is needed. But I hope this £10m will be a lifeline for theatres – and also send a signal of how important we believe arts and culture are, not just to our economy, but to our wellbeing too.”
UK Government £1.57 Billion investment for Britain’s Cultural, arts and Heritage institutions.
On July 6th the UK Government announced the biggest single financial investment in Britain’s Arts Industry in its history. Following the over whelming pressure brought to bear on Secretary of state for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Oliver Dowden this announcement which is an investment to protect Britain’s cultural, arts and heritage institutions
The break down of the funding is as follows
The £1.57 billion UK-wide funding will provide:
• £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England, made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million grants.
• £100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
• £120 million to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
• £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Wales (£59 million) and Scotland will receive £97 million due to the Consequentials of the Barnett Formula.
The £97 million is in addition to the £10 million previously announced by the Scottish Government.
The finer details of how the emergency grants and loans will be allocated have yet to be announced. However according to Dowden, they will be available to organisations “across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema.
The devolved administrations are responsible for the allocation of their respective share of the funding, However given that the English element is aimed across the entire swathe of the cultural sector, perhaps the Scottish allocation will follow in a similar spirit.
The previous Friday, Scottish Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop promised that if the UK government gave a support package to culture, the Scottish government would distribute its share of the Barnett Consequentials to “help this vital part of our society but also our economy” and this was further supported at the first minister press briefing on the 6th July when Sturgeon gave further assurances that the funding would support the arts “in every corner of our country”
Irrespective of how much of the funds will go to theatre, the bigger issue is how and indeed if money will be delivered to those in the theatre industry who have already lost out. Namely the plethora of freelance workers, who make up 72% of culture workers, who were ineligible for either the furlough schemes, nor the Self Employed Income Support Scheme
Now the fund has been announced and its at the higher end of what was expected now is the time to deliver the fine detail as to how that cash will be distributed and we at Scotsgay Arts hope it will reach those most in need of it and its balanced and fair across the Scottish Cultural Landscape.
Theatre Artist Fund: £500,000 of help for Freelancers.
A new Theatre Artists Fund will provide emergency support for theatre workers and freelancers across the UK in need of financial support due to the impact of Covid-19 on the theatre sector. The fund has been developed by director and film maker Sam Mendes and is being administered by SOLT, (The Society of London Theatres) and UK Theatre. The Fund has been made possible due a £500,000 donation from streaming service Netflix.
The focus of the fund is to: “provide short-term relief to hundreds of theatre workers and freelancers across the UK, and particularly those from underrepresented groups disproportionately affected by the crisis.” And for theatre professionals who need urgent and critical financial support
Sam Mendes himself said: “We have created a fund to which the most vulnerable freelance theatre practitioners can now apply. It is specifically designed for theatre workers who find themselves at breaking point, for those unable to put food on the table or to pay bills, or for those considering leaving the profession altogether.”
Initially the fund is offering a £1,000 one-off emergency grant which can be used towards living costs. The First application period is for a week beginning Monday 6 to Monday 13 July 2020. Applications open and close at 12 noon. The fund will then confirm the outcome of the application by no later than Monday 27th July
The grant scheme is open to theatre professionals who have worked in one or many role/s (within the qualifying sector) totalling at least 8 weeks between January 1 2019 and March 31 2020. They must be self-employed or unemployed and not furloughed.
The funders have a non-exhaustive list of 27 different job titles of those who qualify as eligible for support, ranging from onstage, to backstage, production admin and even front of house jobs provided they meet the other criteria.
Full details of the fund and how to apply go to: https://theatreartists.fund
So, there we have it, an incredible change in the theatre industry landscape since our news item June 21st. Focusing on Scotland there is now in excessive of £108 million being injected into the industry, with artists and freelancers also having access to an additional £500,00 fund. The first critical step of saving the industry has been met. We fully except this didn’t come soon enough for many and the casualties of the delay are clear for all to see. There is also many who feel that cash value is not high enough. We at Scotsgay arts feel its far than was to be expected and use wisely and above all else fairly. It should see the industry survive the Covid crisis.
It is however just the first step, what we need now is a detailed timeline and route map to reopening our cultural venues and Theatres. Interestingly there are already plans for London’s longest running play “The Mousetrap” to open in October in a Covid secure socially distant format but even this is only for a short period as it’s not sustainable financially. We need to know how we make theatres available without social distancing very much as has been proven in South Korea.
Lets hope that information is with us in the coming weeks and certainly with us soon enough to allow Pantomime season to take place and truly give our theatres the fighting change to survive.