In the latest tranche of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund, seven museums in England have received grants totalling £15m, which is excellent news. Shakespeare Birthplace Trust received the largest award of £3m. The other recipients are the Design Museum, London; Black Country Living Museum Trust; Birmingham Museums Trust; Ironbridge Gorge Museum Trust; Dulwich Picture Gallery; and London Transport Museum.
Yet more disturbing news about museum cut backs as a result of the effects of Covid. Bletchley Park has identified that the reduction of one-third of its staff would mitigate the estimated financial loss of 95% of its income due to the closure, leaving a £2m gap in its budget. 85% of the trust’s staff has already been furloughed. Other cost-saving measures being considered include lowering spend on marketing, exhibitions, travel and IT.
Meanwhile, staff at York Museums Trust, where losses of £1.4m have been sustained, have been warned that two-thirds of their jobs are at risk. About 70% of the trust’s income comes from ticket sales and visitor spend. Although it has received an emergency grant from Arts Council England, and has backing from the City Council, the trust’s chief executive, Reyahn Khan, believes it will not be enough to keep the trust afloat.
Matters are no better in Scotland, where Museums Galleries Scotland estimates that two-thirds of the country’s independent museums will not survive another year without additional funding, despite a £4m emergency fund, part of the DCMS cultural rescue package. The situation is compounded by a number of factors. Many small museums would find it difficult to open with social distancing measures in place and are run by volunteers who are unwilling or unable to return. As costs are scrutinised, University museums are also under threat, because they are not seen as core elements of research and teaching.
With every day that passes during the pandemic we move ever further away from the likelihood that life truly will be able to return to normal.
It’s becoming ever clearer that the culture and heritage sectors will pay a high price as a result of the pandemic. As more than 300 redundancies are announced in Tate’s commercial arm, Tate Enterprises, about 400 at London’s Southbank Centre and also at museum trusts in York and Birmingham, together with the National Trust, it seems that the government’s Culture Recovery Fund is clearly too little, too late. Tate’s director, Maria Balshaw, has actually stated that the bailout funding will not stem job losses because it will have to be used to offset substantial losses elsewhere in the galleries. Little wonder that trade unions are threatening strike action.
DCMS’s announcement of the government rescue package of £1.57 billion for arts and heritage was received with cautious optimism. There was mention of boosting employment prospects for both permanent staff and freelancers with specific funding for projects that had been mothballed due to Covid, but there is still concern that money will not reach quickly enough areas where it is needed most. With grants available from £50,000 up to £3 million, distribution of funds in the GLAM sector has fallen to Arts Council England, Historic England and National Heritage Lottery Fund. Applications are open for the first phase of grants but, whilst eligibility is wide, the window is short.
More details here: https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/funding/culture-recovery-fund-grants#section-1
So, the government has announced its £1.57 billion rescue package for heritage and the arts, but the Culture Minister, Caroline Dinenage, said yesterday that the grants will not be paid until later in the summer and that they would be used to protect “crown jewels” and “cultural anchors” in the regions. Why late summer and not now? That will come far too late for some. And what exactly are the “crown jewels” and “cultural anchors”? Doubtless the crown jewels will turn out to be the big attractions in London, such as the theatres and national museums, taking the lion’s share of the pot to the detriment of many small local museums and theatres.
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