Arts Council England launch £160m emergency response package to support artists during Covid-19

A lot of people are tuning into their creative sides during lockdown. Picture: Arts Council England Facebook page
A lot of people are tuning into their creative sides during lockdown. Picture: Arts Council England Facebook page

By Shazad Hussain

Arts Council England has launched a new £160 million emergency response package to support individual creatives, art organisations, museums and libraries during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With cultural venues and suppliers closed and match-funding fast disappearing, many long-term creative projects have been shelved or are no longer deemed feasible.

According to Darren Henley, Chief Executive of ACE, the basic financial support offered through the initiative could be the vital lifeline needed to revive the UK’s art culture.

“We want to afford practitioners and organisations time to stabilise, to think, and to plan for the future.

“For most art forms, there’s no practical means of producing work at present, so continuing to fund projects that depend on systems that are no longer functioning was not the right way for us to steward taxpayers’ and National Lottery players’ money.”

However, to release the money for funding such projects, the Council has had to suspend several of their funding streams, including National Lottery Project Grants.

In response to the lockdown impact of the corona virus, it has committed to spending the £160m by dividing money to different areas of need.

The funding includes £50m earmarked for hundreds of organisations outside of the National Portfolio which is intended to stem cash flow challenges, and to allow them to continue commissioning artistic work.

Mr Henley added: “A timely restoration of National Lottery Project Grants to help move from rescue to recovery is what we’re hoping and planning for. At that point, we will welcome resubmission of revised applications that have fallen by the wayside as a result of this crisis.

“While our National Portfolio Organisations may appear to be relatively well-funded, they generally depend on very high levels of earned income, which have disappeared overnight. That, combined with relatively small levels of reserves, has meant that many National Portfolio Organisations have already been placed in real jeopardy by this crisis.

“Some may not survive. And while individually the failure of these organisations would be painful, collectively their loss would decimate our cultural infrastructure. Together, they employ thousands of people, commission thousands more, and support many small companies through their supply chains.”

This, he added, is why £90m of funding has been set aside to help increase the likelihood that artists and venues can reopen their doors once the shutdown is lifted.

The numbers show how much funding is available for each category. Diagram: Canva
The numbers show how much funding is available for each category. Diagram: Canva
The numbers show how much funding is available for each category. Diagram: Canva

Furthermore, for individual artists – in the place of a single £10k grant from their Developing Your Creative Practice fund – the Council will invest £2.5 million in four different artists as well as £3,000 for disabled and deaf applicants.

Abid Hussain, ACE’s Director of Diversity, said: “Now more than ever, it is vital that we maintain our commitment to ensuring equality, diversity and access are at the heart of our thinking. This is reflected in the guidance we have published today for our Emergency Response Package.”

A total of £57 million – more than half of the Council’s National Lottery Project Grants budget for 2020-21, will be reserved as part of a wider plan to reinstate the programme at the earliest opportunity.

Out of £20 million fund, £4 million has been set aside to contribute to benevolence funds.

An example of this is £300,000 of financial support for artists and arts organisers who work in a self-employed capacity to support the production of exhibitions and artwork, and who have lost work due to Coronavirus.

Artists, creative practitioners and freelancers can also apply direct to Arts Council England’s own programme of financial support with grants of up to £2,500 available to those with a track record in publicly funded culture.

University student Tia Bryant, 23, hoped to meet women in their workspaces for her final major project “Define me by my craft” – before it was halted by lockdown.

“I was incredibly upset. Being unable to finish my piece in the way I initially intended resulted in a lot of sadness and I was incredibly unmotivated to finish my work.

“I think it’s great Arts Council England introduced emergency funds. They’re helping keep the industry alive by helping emerging artists, as well as freelancers and educators, when everything has come to an abrupt standstill.

“It’s also nice to see that people are still making work and reassuring that despite our current situation, some normality remains.”

Other funds also available include:

  • Dance Professionals Fund – for freelance dancers across genres including contemporary, ballet, hip hop, Black and Asian dance.
  • Equity Charitable Trust – offers financial assistance for all professional performers including actors, circus, aerialists, puppeteers, variety performers and stage managers, as well as those who work in the theatre profession. This fund, however, excludes musicians, drama students or amateur performers.
  • Help Musicians – professional music performers, composers, creators across all music sectors and those working in other roles requiring high level of technical skill including teachers, producers, engineers. A fund of £5m has therefore been created to help reduce the worry many musicians are experiencing about their mounting household expenses. Eligible musicians are able to apply for a one-off payment of £500 through an online form.
  • Outdoor Arts UK – this fund will support freelancers who are affected by seasonal nature of their work e.g. dedicated street performers, aerialists, stilt artists, project directors) and technicians (e.g. riggers, projectionists, pyrotechnicians, specialist designers and makers). This also includes outdoor programmers and bookers, technical and production staff, volunteer managers, participation and engagement leaders
  • Society of Authors – those eligible for funding includes storytellers, scriptwriters, literary journalists, producers, poets, translators and book illustrators. In response, the Authors Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), the Royal Literary Fund (RLF), the T S Eliot Foundation in partnership with English PEN, and Amazon UK generously contributed financial resources to create the Authors’ Emergency Fund, to help support authors impacted financially by the growing health crisis. Grants are likely to be up to £2,000 and designed to meet urgent need with the possibility of review as the situation continues.

Anyone wishing to apply should visit for further details.