The emergency COVID-19 funds available from Arts Council of Wales ‘must go to those in the most need of them’ to ensure artists and organisations survive the crisis.
This was the message from CEO Nick Capaldi and Chair Phil George during their live Q&A with Creative Economy Director Sara Pepper.
When asked about their Urgent Response Fund, Nick said: “This is about addressing immediate need - where crisis or difficulty may be just days or weeks away. We’re expecting the first tranche of awards to be made within the next few days as we begin to get money out.
“One of the most challenging messages to get across at this time is that it is really important that the funds go to those who most need them. We wish we had more money, but we don’t. We’ve asked those organisations that can grit their teeth and get through this with their resources to do so, in order to get the money out to those who need it for basic survival.”
Opening the Q&A, Phil explained that everyone was ‘living with the loss’ to the arts caused by this ‘seismic shift’.
He said: “All that shoulder-to-shoulder and paying customer experience which the arts have depended on have simply gone. It is a serious challenge to us all in our wellbeing and mental health and for artists and organisations, it has had an effect financially. Our concern has always been for organisations and for individual artists.
“Many individuals completely bereft of income, apart from what can come from the state which may not come until June. We really are desperately concerned for them.”
Phil shared that the Arts Council of Wales’ approach is to mitigate those challenges and detailed their first action – which was to reassure their 67 revenue-funded organisations, and those in receipt of project funding through the National Lottery, that the Arts Council would honour commitments to them while removing all normal conditions of that funding.
He went on to explain: “With our emergency packages the first thing we had to do was work with Welsh Government, our main stakeholder who provide two thirds of our income, to agree elements of the package. We then had to have a mature and steady discussion with our Council about it.
“Down the track we will need to respond to evolving needs and so we have to keep a capacity to do that.
“We are now moving very quickly, and I believe there will be no part of the UK which will be faster than us at getting money out of the door. I don’t think we’re behind the curve on that at all.”
Nick picked up on the Urgent Response Fund for Individuals, which can provide assistance of up to £2,500.
He said: “We decided to phase the Urgent Response Fund into two rounds. First, for individuals who had very immediate crises. And a second round for those whose needs are no less intense but perhaps needed longer to identify what their particular needs are.”
The Stabilisation Fund for Organisations is for six months of funding up to £35,000. The stabilisation fund for individuals, which opens to application at the end of May, is for between £1,000 and £10,000.
Phil said: “It is for immediate need and cashflow concerns, but it is also there to help develop future activity. The fact of the matter is that we had to devise it in a way to make it equitable – and to meet the most pressing need. Our organisations have been very sensitive and very open about their desire to participate in the whole ecology of this. Not to be making claims when they know others are in greater need.”
The concept of all working together as an ecology is one picked up by both Nick and Phil during the Q&A.
Phil said: “In these times of massive government and central intervention in acts of rescue and emergency it’s easy to fall into this idea that we have a command economy. We don’t have a cultural command economy. We have an ecology.
“We have a system of partnerships with organisations and artists and they are the source of so much innovation and inventive response. As Nick said, we do not have the monopoly on wisdom. We are not there to tell people what to do - we are there as a source of cohesion, coordination and advice.
“Those relationships with the artists and organisations are the daily work of our officers, constantly pointing people to the right schemes for them and the right sources of support for them.”
Nick stressed the Arts Council’s continuing commitment to their 2018-2023 corporate plan – For the benefit of all.
He said: “We still absolutely want to highlight the need for the publicly-funded arts to reach out more widely and deeply to be able to connect with a much wider audience.
“For a society that prides itself on wellbeing and future generations and if we want a fair, equitable and profitable country that values the creativity of all its citizens we’re going to have to put in place the kind of strategies and processes which answer to that.”
Closing the Q&A, Nick said: “We must continue to believe in the resilience of the arts. It’s always been the artists, in times of crisis, that respond with creativity, ingenuity and generosity.”
Phil said: “All of us are being more and more aware of our human frailty. The arts return us to delight and joy, and that thing that makes us distinctly ‘us’.
“There will no form of society that will come out of this alive and well if the arts are not supported. The arts are not icing on the cake or an added extra. They are central to the wellbeing and cohesion of our society.”
Nick and Phil also answered questions on a number of other topics including Arts Council of Wales’ list of alternative sources of funding, the continuation of the Creative learning through the arts programme, how working digitally in the arts may be developed but will never replace physical space art, their relationship with Creative Wales and the decision to postpone their investment review - all of which you can hear more about in the video above.
The next In Conversation with… event will be with Pauline Burt, CEO of Ffilm Cymru Wales about their recently announced funds for those in the film sector during COVID-19. Details are here.
Please send any questions about their COVID-19 support to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Our list of resources about the latest funding opportunities during COVID-19 can be found here, we continue to update this list as often as possible.
You can watch the first In Conversation with Creative Wales about their Television and Digital Emergency funds here. You can see Sara Pepper chat to Rhodri Talfan Davies of BBC Wales about their commissioning opportunities here.