With the heart of our business rooted in the Arts and Culture sector, the team at After Digital have been keeping their eye out for updates since the UK government announced their intention to provide the sector with £1.57bn in support. Most recently, looking at the theatre industry and what the next steps for them can be.

The package has been heralded as a lifeline for venues across the UK, although with some theatres already in redundancy talks and others, such as the Nuffield Southampton Theatres already confirmed as closed, this support arrived much too late.

The industry has had a widespread response to the government funding announcement, both from the deciding funding bodies and the venues and organisations themselves. In this blog, we want to look at who those funding bodies will be, the information released from them so far, and how the industry as a whole has reacted to the announcement.

Who will be distributing the £1.57 billion in government funding?

Some of the funding bodies noted to be helping distribute the funds include: Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the British Film Institute. Some of the bodies have offered official responses to the announcement from the government: 

Arts Council England 

Already involved in the cultural renewal taskforce, the Arts Council’s CEO Darren Henley responded to the news stating that it was a “massive vote of confidence: in our sector’s quality, its reach and its roots in communities up and down the country.”

They have reconfirmed that the funds will include both brick-and-mortar organisations as well as those without their own buildings. Furthermore, they have stated that the Arts Council England National Lottery Project Grant, which reopened on the 22nd of July, will focus on supporting the freelancers who contribute so much to the industry but who, at this time, are one of the most vulnerable in our industry. 

Their site has comprehensive guidance on how to apply and it is noted the applications which meet the following criteria, taken directly from their site, will be strongly considered: 

 

  • Applications from individual creative practitioners (including time to think and plan) 
  • Research and development activity 
  • Organisational development activity 
  • Live activity that can be safely delivered within this period (rather than activity with a start date far in the future) 
  • Activity that closely aligns with our Equality Objectives

Overall, they will be aiming to turnaround application responses as quickly as possible, hoping to beat their normal standard of 6-12 weeks, depending on the monetary size of the application. 

Despite their optimism and continuous drive to support the community, Henley is still practical in discussing where the industry is at, stating:

“There are some truly tough decisions to make and difficult times ahead. And I fear that not everything that we want to save, can be saved.” - Darren Henley, CEO of Arts Council England

an empty theatre

Historic England

Historic England have also been involved in the development of the grant, on top of their own emergency fundings during this time. They released a statement around their initial intentions for the package, alongside the government's announcements. The Chairman of Historic England has noted the importance of the Heritage centre, stating:

“England’s heritage is worth £31 billion to the economy, supports nearly half a million jobs and engages even more volunteers.” - Sir Laurie Magnus, Chairman of Historic England

As a vital part of both the country’s economy and history, it is essential that the historic landmarks are supported to both reopen and maintain their sites. Chief Executive, Duncan Wilson, believes the package will kickstart “repair works at our historic sites which matter most to local communities.” And, that “It will also help the organisations which look after so many of our precious historic sites, and protect livelihoods of skilled craft workers and businesses hit hardest by the pandemic.” He also went on to say that “It will help to secure a sustainable future for the sector and those working in it, often with years of irreplaceable experience.”

Whilst we all await further information on the distribution of funds, Heritage England have been keeping the industry up to date on the impact of Coronavirus and providing resources on how to manage that impact – one example being a comprehensive guide to caring for Historic places during this unprecedented time. You can also check out the coronavirus section of their website.

National Lottery Heritage Fund

Another organisation already providing essential emergency funds across the heritage sector is the National Lottery Heritage Fund, who have been fundamental in helping to secure and guide the new levels of funding we are now seeing from the government.

"The National Lottery Heritage Fund has worked hard with partners in the sector to provide the evidence that DCMS needed to secure this important support from the Treasury." - Chief Executive, Ros Kerslake.

From the statements we are seeing from the funding bodies involved, we are reminded that it’s not solely the financial and economical side that we should be pushing for. Kerslake reminds us that “Heritage is vitally important in making communities better places to live, creating economic prosperity and supporting personal wellbeing – it is essential we do everything we can to support it so it can continue to play this role.”

Industry Reactions to the government funding

The Arts and Culture community have felt a widespread sigh of relief over the latest news on support from the government, with many touting this as a lifeline for the industry.

Some have even taken both the funding and the world we are currently facing as an opportunity for change and exploration.The Wales Millennium Centre has taken a strong stand on ensuring they use the funding responsibly:

“The support package the UK Government has announced must be used to build a radical, new, more inclusive arts sector, and that Wales Millennium Centre takes its own share of that responsibility very seriously” - Wales Millennium Centre Diversity Statement

Jacqui O’Hanlon, Education Director at the Royal Shakespeare Company, explained in a recent article for the DCMS that “whilst it is true that this time of crisis has illuminated the stark realities and injustice of existing inequalities, it has also provided an opportunity for re-shaping.”

However, there has been some talk of a more difficult and pressing nature to the recent announcements. In a response to the government announcement, Philippa Childs of BECTU states that they “will now be scrutinising the details of this package to make sure it lives up to the real needs of our sector.”

Though this is a lifeline for the industry, there are already issues faced that can’t be rolled back. Philippa calls for “the most rapid action to stem the tide of redundancies and closures that are emerging in the sector. For some this is already too late and we will be pushing government to get this funding out there within days”

As we look toward the future, and what this may entail, it must be remembered that there are ongoing struggles; both for the freelancers that contribute so much to our sector and for venues and organisations across the industry.

How After Digital can help

As the Arts and Culture sector holds its breath in wake of the announcement, during a period of uncertainty around how the government funding will be distributed After Digital will remain open to discussion and support during this difficult time. If we can advise and support during this time, or if you have any questions, please get in touch using our form below. 

In the meantime, we will continue to look for updates from the funding bodies involved and to produce content that we hope will be helpful. Below, we have compiled some of our most recent resources that will provide some relevant information as you prepare to reopen and continue to connect with your online communities: