How small arts venues can access grants through the government's £1.57bn emergency fund

How small arts venues can access grants through the government's £1.57bn emergency fund
Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events

Posted: Wed 29th Jul 2020

Grassroots music venues and independent cinemas are among the small organisations targeted by the government's fund aimed at helping the arts and cultural sector cope with the impact of coronavirus.

Announced earlier this month, ministers have this week outlined how organisations in England can access the first £622m of the £1.57bn funding.

Small music venues and independent cinemas

Arts Council England is overseeing £2.25m in emergency support for around 150 grassroots music venues which are at imminent risk of collapse.

Grants of up to £80,000 are available to cover operational costs such as rent, utilities and maintenance contracts that occur between 4 August and 30 September. Applications can be made here until 12pm on 3 August.

Commercial and not-for-profit independent cinemas in England can apply for funding through the British Film Institute's £30m grant scheme. The funding is structured as follows:

  • £3m for safety grants to enable cinemas (up to £10,000 per cinema) to put the necessary measures in place to ensure the safety of their workforce and the public

  • £27m business sustainability grants (up to £200,000 per organisation) to support independent cinemas to operate viably under the restricted conditions imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic

Full guidelines are here for the funding which is open for applications from 3 August - 30 October. Of the 775 cinemas in the UK, 55% are independent venues.

Arts Council England Cultural Recovery Fund

Other cultural venues including museums, theatres and comedy clubs can access grants of between £50,000 and £3m. Organisations must be registered at Companies House and/or the Charity Commission, and have at least one year's financial statements.

The first round of applications runs from 12pm on 10 August to 12pm on 21 August, with the second round from 4pm on 21 August to 12pm on 4 September.

Arts Council England said it expects to allocate around 75% of the overall budget to the first round, so encourages venues to apply to the first round if they have an application ready in time.

There's more information on the fund here.

Other cultural funding

The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England is delivering £92m to protect heritage sites. Grants of between £10,000 and £3m are available. Applications can be made here until 12pm on 17 August.

As well as heritage sites and attractions, businesses which are part of the heritage ecosystem, such as conservators, contractors, specialists and suppliers, are eligible for the funding.

Support for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland

The new funding includes £188m for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m).

Reopening of arts venues

The government has said that subject to successful trials at test venues, from 1 August indoor performances with socially distanced audiences will be able to take place in England. The government's latest safety guidance for performing arts venues is here.

Many experts however say venues will struggle to operate with social distancing including Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Some theatres, including Nuffield Southampton Theatres, have already closed permanently, while several have been forced to make redundancies.

Bristol Old Vic, the oldest continually-operating theatre in the English-speaking world. today announced it has started a consulting process with over 20 roles from its full-time workforce of 60 at risk.

Executive director Charlotte Geeves said: "The unprecedented circumstances of this crisis, forcing all theatres to close and taking away 75% of our income at a stroke has left us in an extremely vulnerable position.

"The government's Job Retention Scheme has kept us alive, as it has kept businesses alive in every part of the economy, and we are hopeful that the government's cultural investment will support our survival further as we prepare to reopen the theatre gradually over the coming 18 months.

"However, there is no avoiding the fact that the current circumstances mean that we will be unable to recover the income levels we've built up over the last decade with any speed or predictability. Therefore, in order to ensure Bristol Old Vic survives and is able to emerge, we have to reshape our business."

Dan Martin
Dan MartinDan Martin Content & Events
I'm a freelance content creator and event host who helps small businesses and the organisations that support them. I have 18 years of experience as a small business journalist having interviewed hundreds of entrepreneurs from billionaires like Sir Richard Branson to the founders behind brand new start-ups. I've worked for a range of leading small business publications and support groups, most recently as head of content at Enterprise Nation where I was responsible for the prolific output of content on the company's blog and social media. I'm based in Bristol where I run and host regular events with the local small business community and have strong connections to major business organisations in the south west region. In total, I've hosted over 50 events; from intimate meet-ups to conferences with an audience of hundreds including events for international brands like Facebook and Xero. I'm also a big fan of podcasts having hosted Enterprise Nation's Small Business Sessions as well as lots of online events including Facebook Live interviews, webinars and three live web chats from inside 10 Downing Street. With my partner, I co-run Lifestyle District, a lifestyle blog focused on culture, art, theatre and photography. I'm here to help. I'm volunteering free advice calls of up to an hour as part of the Recovery Advice for Business scheme, over the next 6 months. Please get in touch to see how I can help your business. 

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