Weston Culture Fund gives UK arts organisations £30m in relief from 'devastating impact' of Covid-19

Wallace Collection, Birmingham Museums and the MAC Belfast are among more than 100 charities receiving recovery grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation

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The MAC arts hub in Belfast has been awarded £696,248 from the Weston Culture Fund to support its recovery costs in the wake of Covid-19 © The MAC Belfast

The MAC arts hub in Belfast has been awarded £696,248 from the Weston Culture Fund to support its recovery costs in the wake of Covid-19 © The MAC Belfast

The Wallace Collection in London, Birmingham Museums and Nottingham Contemporary gallery are among more than 100 UK arts organisations that will receive Covid-19 recovery grants from the Garfield Weston Foundation. The foundation, one of the UK’s leading charitable grantmakers, created the one-off Weston Culture Fund last year to help the cultural sector weather the “devastating impact” of the pandemic.

Grants ranging from £100,000 to £1.5m were awarded on 1 February, totalling more than £30.2m—a 20% increase on the £25m fund initially announced by the foundation in October. Beneficiaries in the visual arts include the Wallace Collection (£205,000), MK Gallery in Milton Keynes (£270,000) and Nottingham Contemporary (£105,890). Larger grants go to the nine-venue Birmingham Museums Trust (£590,000), arts hubs such as the MAC in Belfast (£696,248) and Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff (£823,000) and the flagship London theatres Shakespeare’s Globe (£750,000) and the National Theatre (£1.5m).

According to the fund’s application guidelines, grants are not unrestricted but can be broadly used to support organisations over the next 12 months in the three key areas of restarting work, adapting physical or digital infrastructure and programming new activities, which would encompass staff salaries or freelancer costs. With all UK indoor arts venues closed under lockdown and unable to attract visitors until at least mid-February, many organisations are facing severe budget shortfalls.

In a statement, the Garfield Weston Foundation’s director, Philippa Charles, praised the “entrepreneurial spirit shown across the arts” despite the difficult circumstances of Covid-19. “What really stood out was the level of collaboration and support [organisations] had for each other and the determination to keep going,” she said. “Arts organisations are desperate to reopen and get back to what they do best and we hope that this new funding will help many of them do exactly that.”

The Weston Culture Fund was open to UK-registered arts charities with a pre-Covid annual income of at least £500,000, spanning museums, galleries, theatres and dance companies, but excluding heritage sites and time-limited festivals. According to the foundation’s website, “the scale of need was evident with requests totalling over £128m”, leading trustees to boost the size of the funding pot by £5m.

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