Arts Council England (ACE) has announced an action plan to help the UK’s culture sector withstand the coronavirus (Covid-19) crisis, including helping artists and freelancers who may lose money as a result of the pandemic. The long-term aim, say ACE officials, is to have as “strong a sector as possible when we come out the other side of this crisis”. Crucially, it also warns that "if you are a public-facing venue you may have to close for a period of time".
ACE, an arms-length non-departmental public body, invests money from the government and the National Lottery fund in arts and culture initiatives and institutions across England, encompassing museums and libraries.
In a statement, it says: “We will refocus some grant programmes to help compensate individual artists and freelancers for lost earnings. This will require further planning. It may take about ten days before we can announce the details.”
Meanwhile, the National Portfolio Organisations and Creative People and Places groups—the arts bodies funded by Arts Council England—will continue to receive financial support, though funding conditions and requirements will not apply for at least three months with immediate effect. “We can also advance grant payments to assist with cashflow,” ACE says.
ACE’s measures sparked a flood of responses on Twitter. The Florence Nightingale Museum in London says: “It's going to be a challenging time for our small charity. We were planning for a bumper year celebrating Nightingale's bicentenary. Instead we will struggle to recoup investment and face big overheads.”
“This is just the start,” says ACE, which stresses that it is collecting intelligence from across the sector, so “we can understand what is needed", adding that "we are in constant conversation with colleagues at the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport about the short and long-term financial implications”. The Arts Council of Wales says it will publish its coronavirus strategy on 17 March.