Coronavirus: Arts and culture given £53m from Welsh Government

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Theatres, galleries and music venues could all benefit from the cash

The arts and culture sector is to be supported by £53m from the Welsh Government.

The money is to help individuals and organisations cope with the coronavirus pandemic.

In June the UK government said it was giving £59m to Wales as part of a £1.57bn support package it unveiled for the arts.

Culture minister Lord Dafydd Elis-Thomas said the fund was in response to “massive and unprecedented challenges”.

But Plaid Cymru and the Welsh Conservatives have questioned why not all the extra money was being used to help the sector.

Theatres, galleries, music venues, heritage sites, museums, libraries, archive, festivals and cinemas are among those set to benefit.

Lord Elis-Thomas said: “We recognise the massive and unprecedented challenges the pandemic is having on the very fabric of Welsh life and we applaud the resilience and creativity on show.

“This package will help support many in the sectors in responding to the pressures and challenges coronavirus has placed on them.”

Arts Council of Wales chief executive Nick Capaldi said the money was “the signal of support that the arts in Wales has been waiting for”.

He added: “With many arts organisations facing the imminent threat of insolvency, and freelancers struggling to see when they’ll secure their next paid work, these funds ease the immediate threat of a collapse in the creative sector.”

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The Lion King was one of the shows postponed or cancelled at the Wales Millennium Centre

He had previously warned arts and cultural organisations in Wales were losing £1.4m a week as a result of Covid-19 closures.

He estimated the Wales Millennium Centre in Cardiff alone could lose £20m over the current financial year. The centre has warned 250 jobs are at risk after being forced to cancel all shows until next year.

Artistic director for Theatre Genedlaethol Cymru, Arwel Gruffydd, said that while the funding was less than they originally expected, it was urgently needed. “It is urgently needed, as there are staff members who are currently facing redundancy,” he told BBC Radio Wales. “We are about to lose staff from the sector that hold within them a wealth of experience, and once you have lost that experience, once it leaves the arts, then it goes into other sectors. and we critically need to retain those jobs now, before we lose them.”

‘Commit to greater diversity’

At the start of July the UK government announced a £1.57bn coronavirus support package for the arts sector.

This resulted in £59m extra funding for Wales, with Welsh ministers set to decide how the money would be spent.

Plaid Cymru’s Siân Gwenllian, who had called for all the consequential cash to be spent on Welsh arts, said: “What has happened to the £6m – within the space of a month, £59m has been reduced to £53m and not a penny has reached the sector.

“The Welsh Government must now work to distribute this money as soon as possible and for that, they need to be clear on how the sector can apply for these funds, and the exact timetable. Time is ticking.”

Welsh Conservative David Melding said the arts had been “short changed” by ministers.

“Given the grave predicament the sector is in, the Welsh Government needs to reverse its decision and ensure the full amount reaches Wales’ arts and culture sectors to help keep both afloat,” he said.

The Welsh Government highlighted £18m of emergency funding which had previously been made available.

About half of that went to the arts and culture, the rest to sport.

The fund will be delivered jointly by the government and the Arts Council of Wales.

Its terms include a “cultural contract” requiring applicants to commit to fair work and pay and sustainability.

There will also be requirements including commitment to greater boardroom diversity and the support of initiatives allowing the arts to be prescribed as health treatment.

No timescale on delivery of the funds has been given and there are not yet details on how to apply.

While the fund announced today is worth £53m, the Welsh Government say that more than £59m is reaching the arts and culture sector. The press release talks about £18m that was given earlier in the pandemic. But that £18m includes money given to sports organisations too. Around half that amount – approximately £9m – went to the arts, and that was largely (if not all) made up from re-purposing existing funds. For example, it included around £5m of lottery funding that would otherwise have been available to arts organisations in normal times.