Arts Council Publishes Report of Advisory Group on Covid-19 and the Arts

Arts Council Publishes Report of Advisory Group on Covid-19 and the Arts

Group recommends €9.5m for artist commissions and bursaries, €8m to stabilise arts organisations and venues; and calls for an extra €30m from Government for 2021.

The Arts Council has today (19 June) published the report of the Expert Advisory Group which it set up in May. The role of the group – which includes Martin Hayes, Angela Dorgan, Lenny Abrahamson and Fintan O’Toole – was to make recommendations for supporting the sector through the Covid-19 pandemic and beyond.

The group makes nine main recommendations, which in total require an immediate €21.4m survival fund for the Arts Council, and a €30m sustainability fund for 2021. The first objective of the group was achieved earlier this week when the Government announced an additional €25m for the sector, including €20m for the Arts Council.

The group’s report is accompanied by an additional document from the economic consultancy EY that says that without additional financial support the arts sector could contract by up to 42% in 2020 compared to a 11% decline for the wider economy, and that the arts sector would take until 2025 to recover from the current crisis. The €25m announced this week will mitigate some of that decline but it is not clear to what extent.

The document contains three sections titled ‘Survive’, ‘Adapt’ and ‘Renew’. Among the recommendations are that arts organisations at risk of collapse would receive financial support in order to save jobs (projected cost: €2m); that strategic organisations, arts centres and other building-based organisations would be supported to meet financial commitments for 2020 (€6m); that there would be an expansion of commissioning and bursary schemes to enable artists and arts organisations create and present work in 2020 (€9.5m); and that professional support for arts organisations trying to adapt to the pandemic, plus support for those who are now unemployed, would also be provided (€645k).

In addition, the group recommends the establishment of a Cultural Recovery Taskforce that would include representatives from arts, film, live music, TV and other interests (such as Culture Ireland) as well as representative organisations to serve as a forum to ensure equity in future planning (cost: €50k). (The new Programme for Government also makes reference to a cross-departmental taskforce for the arts).

In the section titled ‘Adapt’, the group recommends that the Council set up a fund for the sector to explore the area of digital creation and dissemination, and ‘to participate in the current international experimentation and exploration in this area’. A key aim would be to generate income for artists as well as providing an international showcase (€460k). The report also recommends an initiative towards the end of 2020 where leading festivals would be asked to present a week-long celebration of the performing arts, located in flexible buildings and taking into account social distancing (€800k), plus ongoing support for organisations and venues to adapt to the new Covid-19 safety protocols (€1.2m). The administrative budget for the Arts Council to implement the above schemes is €750k.

The group also calls for the next government to maintain the current unemployment payment and wage supports until the sector is at full capacity (this is also one of the demands of the National Campaign for the Arts in its 13-point plan to save the arts); and that there is review of taxation practice around the arts, including VAT, gifting to the arts, and measures on artists’ incomes.

Commenting on the document, Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Josepha Madigan, said:

Along with my Cabinet colleagues, I share a strong belief in the power of the arts and culture and their deep value to our lives. In spite of the enormous difficulties that the pandemic has created, there is a sustainable and exciting future for artists, arts practitioners and cultural workers and we are committed to supporting them and making this a reality.

Arts Council Director, Maureen Kennelly, said:

This week’s announcement of additional funding for 2020 has given crucial reassurance to this vibrant sector. With a stimulus package and a strategic approach, we believe the arts can not only survive but thrive, helping to lead the country in the recovery, and to restore our society’s morale and confidence.

The members of the Expert Advisory Group are Lenny Abrahamson, filmmaker; Anne Clarke, theatre and opera producer (Landmark Productions); Angela Dorgan, Chair of the National Campaign for the Arts; Professor Sarah Glennie, Director, National College of Art and Design; Martin Hayes, musician; Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council; Fintan O’Toole, journalist; and Dr Gabriel Scally, Visiting Professor in Public Health, University of Bristol. The group was chaired by Professor Kevin Rafter, Chair of the Arts Council.

Download the full report below and the EY document below.

Published on 19 June 2020

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