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New funding rounds announced in UK

Millions of pounds worth of further grants and loans have been made available in England and Scotland to help the UK live industry recover from Covid-19.

Arts Council England (ACE) has opened applications for a second round of repayable finance for culturally significant organisations in England.

The programme, which is part of the UK Government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), aims to support those organisations as they transition back to a ‘viable and sustainable operating model’ during the 2021/22 financial year.

The budget for the second round is up to £100 million and the minimum amount that can be applied for is £1m. The final round of CRF grants, totalling around £300m, are expected to open for applications in early January.

Organisations who have previously been awarded a CRF loan are not eligible to apply for further CRF loans, while previously successful grant applicants can.

Last week, the Government and ACE announced the first-round recipients of the repayable finance scheme which included London venues the Royal Albert Hall (£20.74m) and Southbank Centre, while Alexandra Palace (pictured) was awarded £2,967,600 from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. The latest grants and loans marked a milestone £1bn in funding allocated.

Elsewhere, the Scottish government has announced an extra £13 million to provide further support for the events sector in Scotland.

Of this, £6 million has been committed for the establishment of a new fund which will open this week to support those event businesses which are critical to Scotland’s events sector, and without which the capacity to deliver major events would be significantly reduced.

“This [£13m] will help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery”

The Pivotal Event Businesses Fund will provide grants from £25,000 up to a maximum of £150,000 to support approximately 50 to 100 event businesses whose primary role as organisers, suppliers, contractors and venues is critical to the survival of the events sector in Scotland, and upon whom the wider events industry and supply chain are most reliant for their own business and operations.

The remaining funding will be used to set up a separate fund to provide broader support to businesses across the full range of the events sector, including the supply chain, and will be announced early in the new year.

The latest funding follows the £10 million announced by the culture secretary in July for the events industry, of which £6 million was allocated to the now-closed Event Industry Support Fund while £2 million was allocated to Scotland’s Events Recovery Fund currently being run by EventScotland.

“The events sector has faced severe challenges throughout 2020 as the restrictions necessary to contain the coronavirus pandemic have left most businesses unable to operate. While the arrival of a vaccine offers grounds for hope, the events sector and its wider supply chain will continue to experience difficulties for some time to come,” says culture secretary Fiona Hyslop.

“We were able to provide financial support for the events sector in the autumn but we have continued to listen and we acknowledge that further funding is required. This additional £13 million will allow us to help hard-pressed businesses going forward and ensure that they are ready to support the recovery when it is safe to operate again.

“Scotland has a well-earned reputation for delivering successful events at local, national and international level. We are working collaboratively with the industry to ensure that the sector has a future to look forward to and that we maintain our position as the perfect stage for events.”

 


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Final £400m on the way as latest CRF recipients announced

Historic London venues including the Royal Albert Hall, Alexandra Palace and Southbank Centre are among the beneficiaries of the latest round of Culture Recovery Fund (CRF) spending, as the scheme marks a milestone £1 billion in funding allocated.

The Royal Albert Hall (5,272-cap.) and Southbank Centre, along with organisations such as the English National Opera, Royal Shakespeare Company and National Theatre, were awarded a share of £165 million in low-interest repayable finance, with the Albert Hall receiving a total of £20.74 million from the Department of Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) and Arts Council England (ACE).

Hall CEO Craig Hassall says the loan is a “lifeline” that will enable the Victorian arena “restore our minimum reserves and operating finances to a level comparable to before the pandemic struck”.

Elsewhere, a number of venues across the country are receiving grants from the £60m Capital Kickstart Fund. They include the Alexandra Palace, which has been awarded £2,967,600 to enable its 10,400-capacity Great Hall to “continue with a diverse programme of live, Covid-secure events this winter”, and new Manchester arts venue the Factory, which receives £21m towards its completion.

“As well as providing a multi-use space for diverse arts activity,” the Factory will be the permanent home for Manchester International Festival, “which attracts visitors to the city from across the country and creates opportunities for creative freelancers,” reads a statement from DCMS and UK culture minister Oliver Dowden CBE.

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs”

“Over the last nine months we’ve worked non-stop to make sure we can open the doors safely and keep the parkland well maintained to provide vital green space,” says Louise Stewart, CEO of Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust. “There are many challenges ahead, but for now at least, thanks to this funding, we have some time and resource to deliver our route to recovery.”

The latest grants and loans come as the government makes plans to allocate the final £400 million of the £1.57 billion CRF. Further details of the final round, comprising £300m in grants and £100m loans to help companies “transition back to usual operating mode from April 2021”, will be announced shortly.

According to Dowden, some funding was held back in previous rounds (to enable authorities to assess the “changing public health picture”), and will also be made available to organisations at “imminent risk of collapse before the end of this financial year” in April.

“This government promised it would be here for culture, and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word,” says the culture secretary. “The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture, so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

More information about the CRF is available from the Gov.UK website.

 


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UK venues announce redundancies

Some of the UK’s most iconic venues have recently announced wide-reaching staff redundancies as the financial pressures of the Covid-19 shutdown continue to bite.

The news of sweeping staff layoffs in venues including the Southbank Centre and the Royal Opera House, come just as venues in England are finally given the go-ahead to reopen, albeit under restricted circumstances.

The announcements also come in the wake of the losses of well loved Manchester venues Gorilla and Deaf Institute last week, as well as VMS Live’s Hull venues the Welly and the Polar Bear.

London’s Southbank Centre, a multi-venue arts and culture complex including the 2,700-capacity Royal Festival Hall, is to make up to two thirds of its staff redundant, equating to around 400 roles.

The centre, which has previously warned it may be forced to close until at least April 2021 without the correct support, has already furloughed the majority of its 600 employees and pecits a deficit of £5.1m for the current financial year.

“It is with great sadness that the Southbank Centre announced that up to 400 roles have been put at risk of redundancy,” says a spokesperson for the venue.

The spokesperson says the cuts form part of a management plan designed “to stem the financial losses being incurred as a result of Covid-19, and to help safeguard the future of the UK’s largest arts centre.”

The news comes as the Royal Opera House (ROH) announces it is laying off its entire team of casual workers.

“It is with great sadness that the Southbank Centre announced that up to 400 roles have been put at risk of redundancy”

It is unclear how many jobs are affected, but the organisation has confirmed that all casual contracts have been terminated and a process of voluntary redundancies among other staff is already underway.

“It is with huge sadness that we have begun a restructure process,” reads a post on the ROH Twitter page. “The scale of financial pressure on ROH alongside continued restrictions on our ability to perform to live audiences, has resulted in this very difficult decision.”

The post adds that ROH’s director of music, Antonio Pappano, has forgone his salary since the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, with the venue’s chief executive, Alex Beard, also taking a “significant reduction” in pay.

The National Theatre in London has also signalled its intention to proceed with around 400 redundancies among its casual staff base, including 250 front-of-house workers.

The Ambassador Theatre Group (ATG), is another organisation to announce it is planning redundancies across its UK workforce.

ATG, which operates close to 50 venues worldwide including theatres Bristol Hippodrome, London’s Lyceum Theatre, Sunderland Empire, Manchester’s Palace Theatre and the Alexandra in Birmingham, as well as live venues Swansea Arena and the Stockton Globe, says layoffs may affect around 5% of its staff, predominantly those working in its head offices in London and Woking.

The operator has also said that while it zero-hours staff will continue to be supported by the government’s furlough scheme, arrangements beyond that have not been confirmed.

The wave of redundancies come despite the UK government’s recently announced £1.57 billion rescue package for arts and culture and a reduction in the value-added tax (VAT) levied on concert and event tickets, from 20% to 5%.

It remains unclear how the funds will be distributed across the sector.

Photo: Saval/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 4.0) (cropped)

 


This article forms part of IQ’s Covid-19 resource centre – a knowledge hub of essential guidance and updating resources for uncertain times.

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Music Venue Trust welcomes two new trustees

Music Venue Trust (MVT) has announced that Ellie Rowsell, lead singer of Wolf Alice, and Bengi Unsal, senior contemporary music programmer at the Southbank Centre, have joined the organisation as trustees, in a bid to further expand the board’s wide range of industry expertise.

Alongside the work of the existing eight trustees, MVT hopes the welcoming of Rowsell and Unsal will expand its consideration of both artist needs and the wider cultural background of the industry.

MVT acts on behalf of the some 440 independent and grassroots venues across the UK represented by the Music Venue Alliance. Speaking of the impact grassroots venues have had on her career, Rowsell admits: “Without independent, grassroots venues I’m not sure my band would be where we are today.

“They bring originality, equality, opportunity, character and spunk to the cities they reside in and now more than ever is the time to fight to keep them going!”

“These intimate spaces offer fans an unparalleled gig experience and provide bands an essential platform to be discovered.

Echoing Rowsell’s ideas of nurturing young talent, Bengi Unsal adds that small venues provide invaluable opportunities for emerging acts: “I am very aware of the crucial role the grassroots venues play in nurturing young talent in today’s competitive music industry.

“These intimate spaces offer fans an unparalleled gig experience and provide bands an essential platform to be discovered and to grow their audiences at the early stages of their career.”

The organisation has also announced the appointment of Sarah Thirtle as co-chair to the Trust. She will act alongside fellow co-chair Chris Prosser. On her new role, Thirtle says: “I am honoured and delighted to be asked to be the Co-Chair of the Music Venue Trust, alongside Chris Prosser.”

“There are numerous challenges facing grassroots small music venues. Our vision is for this sector to be valued, invested in and thriving, securing these vital cultural spaces for our towns and cities.”

The announcement of the new appointments at MVT follow a series of recent initiatives. 2018 has seen the organisation of several regional meetings across the UK for grassroots venue owners to exchange ideas, as well as the establishment of the Fightback: Grassroots Promoter scheme, designed to help young female promoters get their first chance with a share of a £100,000 grant.

 


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