Looking to the Future

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Arts Council CEO Darren Henley looks at the past few weeks of lockdown and considers the future ahead for arts and crafts in the UK, writing: “It’s come as no surprise to me that the responses of the cultural sector during this time have been marked by their generosity just as much as their speed and ingenuity. I’ve seen libraries checking in on older or isolated users,arts centres repurposing their cafes to make meals for vulnerable community members, and costume departments manufacturing PPE for local hospitals.

“For our part, at Arts Council England we’ve been working as quickly as possible to deliver our Emergency Response Package of £160 million. The first two funds, for individuals and organisations outside our portfolio, have now closed”. The Arts Council received around 14,000 applications across both funds and has already begun to inform applicants about decisions.

“The cultural sector must begin to consider how to deal not simply with a massive but timelimited financial shock, but with a long-term change to its economic circumstances; and how to adapt to new and constantly shifting ways of working and engaging with the public. The Arts Council is moving into a new phase of planning for the longer-term: to help our sector to find stability where possible, to reopen as and when it’s safe to do so, and ultimately to reset, as we consider how to realise the ambitions laid out in our new strategy, Let’s Create.

“I am extremely grateful for the responsiveness of DCMS ministers and officials and their counterparts at HM Treasury. We know from data we’re collecting that government support is making a significant and positive difference to our sector already. We hope that we have secured the sector’s immediate survival, in the face of an existential threat, but we know the hardest part comes next.

“A key question we need to understand the answer to is when the cultural sector itself is able to bear the financial risk of reopening. This in turn depends on when visitors and audiences will feel confident to return. We recognise the very different challenges that different parts of the cultural sector will face and therefore that different types and timing of support will be needed. While the need is different in different places, what is absolutely clear is that need does exist, in a way it never has done in living memory [and] the moment of need will come at different times for different organisations. The survey indicates that there’ll be significant challenges down the line if lockdown continues, as well as a new set of costs and impacts at the point when it begins to end.

“Through the creativity of our artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries, we will be heard, and we will explore the meaning of all this. We will celebrate, console, commemorate and come together. Through creativity and culture, we will heal”.