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Responding to the Pandemic

26th Mar 2020

The visual arts sector has had to rapidly adjust to the developing emergency of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The decision of arts venues to close their doors last week, has been overtaken by exceptional Government measures in order to curtail the spread of the outbreak, protect the NHS and save lives. Meanwhile HM Treasury and the Bank of England have taken dramatic action to mitigate the severe impact on the UK economy.

We are obviously entering an extremely challenging period for our sector. Visual arts leaders have acted responsibly to safeguard their people and audiences; shifting their operations to homeworking and emphasising their digital offer.

There is natural concern for the security and financial stability of visual arts organisations, the moral duty of care to the communities they serve, and the acutely vulnerable position of artists and freelancers, on who’s self-employed labour and talent the visual arts sector is founded. We have been connecting with our network, with our regional counterparts and with other sector bodies to gauge how we can best work together in these extreme circumstances.

Arts Council England moved quickly to announce its own far reaching £160m response this week, and we will do everything we can in the coming months to reinforce the benefit of this support in our region. This decisive action from ACE has been widely welcomed. Together with a number of other measures, it recognises the gravity of the situation we face. There is understanding that the abrupt repurposing of the usual investment strands may disappoint some, and ACE have assured us that as soon as they can get back to normal, they will.

CVAN South East joins the Creative Industries Federation’s call for a temporary income protection fund for freelancers. A targeted financial package for self-employed workers is expected to be announced imminently by the Chancellor of the Exchequer. In the meantime, artists are supporting each other in peer networks and sector bodies are rallying to give guidance. We have given a selection of links in our newsletter.

Culture will still go on, despite the virus. Uncertain how long this serious situation will continue, our sector has reacted with renewed creativity and a willingness to work together. Invention really does spring from necessity, and there is now a proliferation of online events and resources for audiences to access remotely. We will keep abreast of these developments in the coming months.

Oliver Sumner
Manager, CVAN South East

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