Council opens £300,000 fund for virus-hit arts and culture organisations

Black Cultural Archives
Brixton’s Black Cultural Archives – building closed by pandemic

Lambeth council today (8 June) opened its fund to support the borough’s arts and culture organisations which it described as “crucially important”.

Grants of £10,000 and £25,000 grants available for those hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

The funding initiative is backed by Justine Simons, London’s deputy mayor for culture and the creative industries, and Jude Kelly, who was artistic director of the Southbank centre from 2006 to 2018.

The £300,000 fund is open to not-for-profit arts and culture organisations, including charities and social enterprises, many of them in Brixton, whose survival is now at risk due to Covid-19 and which have a proven track record of providing opportunity to residents experiencing inequality.

Cllr Sonia Winifred, council cabinet member for equalities and culture, said: “We have worked with our Business Improvement Districts and other community partners to lobby government for better support for arts and cultural organisations facing very difficult times.

“These organisations have an incredibly important place in the social fabric of our borough, and to see them unnecessarily go under as a result of the coronavirus would be a massive loss that may take years for recover from.

So we have secured some limited funding from government, and by using the council’s own resources we are now able to open this Arts and Culture at Risk Fund for applications.”

Among those invited to apply for the new grants are not-for-profit workspace providers that are supporting other creative organisations and artists that are not already benefiting from rent relief from the council.

The fund is designed to support arts and cultural organisations that rely on bringing people together in physical spaces – and as a result are suffering under prolonged social distancing demands.

The council says it will ensure that at least 40% of organisations benefiting will be BAME- or female-led.

Longfield Hall
Longfield Hall in Myatt’s Fields – closed by pandemic

Justine Simons said: “Covid-19 is having a devastating effect on arts and culture so these funds are a real lifeline.

“Lambeth is showing great leadership with its continued commitment to supporting its cultural organisations, charities, workspaces and creative businesses, alongside its successful creative enterprise zone.

“Through this pandemic we have seen the value of culture and creativity across society through drawing, poetry, music and more.

“Cultural organisations provide an important role supporting communities throughout the year and these grants will go a long way towards helping sustain them into the future.”

The council said its aim is that the support will help organisations that would struggle to recover once the coronavirus crisis recedes.

“Supporting those not-for-profit workspace providers that are hosts for other creative organisations and artists will also be vital in Lambeth’s recovery,” it said.

Arts organisations in the borough have been encouraged to apply by Jude Kelly, who said: “Having been artistic director of one of Lambeth’s major cultural centres for more than a decade I have seen the incredible diversity, creativity and commitment to the community of the many hard working and successful arts organisations in the borough.

“It’s both tragic and potentially very damaging that as a result of this disease, which has taken lives, worsened isolation and exacerbated inequality, we could now lose many of the organisations who will be so valuable once we start to recover as a society from the outbreak.

“This funding could play an important role in ensuring the survival of Lambeth’s arts and culture organisations, and I’d really encourage them to apply as well as support community lobbying efforts for proper government support.”

The council said the fund has been developed after analysis found local arts and culture organisations have been hard hit, despite having robust and sustainable business models dependent on earned income and avoiding over-reliance on grant subsidy.

It is part of the £4.2m Lambeth Local Economy Hardship Fund that was announced on 27 May.

Cllr Matthew Bennett, cabinet member for planning, investment and new homes, said the borough’s arts and cultural sectors “play a critical role in Lambeth’s thriving local economy, creating new education, training and employment opportunities for our residents. They are also an important part in what makes our town centres, and Lambeth as a whole, so vibrant.

“We are committed to doing all we can when it comes to putting in place the support that will allow the most vulnerable sectors of our local economy bounce back once the coronavirus crisis has come to an end, and we embark on a new beginning.”

Full details of the fund