‘End not yet in sight’ warns ACE chief

The end of the crisis for the arts driven by the coronavirus lockdown is not in sight, says Arts Council England CEO Darren Henley - and there will be permanent closures.

He offers a countdown to 2024 to recovery. “As spring turns into summer” he writes in a blog on the ACE website “we’re beginning to understand more clearly the depth of Covid-19’s impact on our lives and our economy, and to recognise that the end is not yet in sight.  

“It’s sadly inevitable at this point that many businesses in many sectors will be unable to weather such a fierce and lengthy storm. And there is no evidence to suggest that the cultural sector will be any different. We know that there is far to go, and that challenges and further losses lie ahead. 

“So it is critical that we take this moment as an opportunity to think about how we best use public money, from taxpayers and National Lottery players, to support our sector and ensure that the many talented individuals and impressive organisations within it are able to meet the needs of their communities as we begin to emerge.” 

Although the recent 60-page government document outlining early unlocking plans includes the first tentative reopening of some venues, but it will be a complex and delicate operation which will need a four-year three phase gradual programme.

He sees the current response phase – including the setting up of a £160m emergency response package already announced https://www.artsindustry.co.uk/news/2016-ace-launches-90m-third-rescue-package – lasting until September 2020, overlapping with a stabilisation phase starting this month and lasting until next March. There will then be a reset phase until the end of the financial year 2023-24. This latter phase will be a three year delivery plan for ACE’s new ten year strategy, Let’s Create, “which will also provide guiding investment principles for us over the coming months”.

The blog also addresses the cultural sector’s financial situation, eased, Henley says, in the first phase by the government’s measures and the ACE emergency funding.  “But they haven’t stretched to everyone” he writes “and they only speak to the present or the very near future. In order to begin planning further ahead, we now need to have the most up-to-date information on the full extent of the current damage, and to understand the scope of the challenges ahead”. So ACE is to launch a consultation over the next few weeks to understand the needs of each part of the sector.

“I have absolute faith in the ability of artists, arts organisations, museums and libraries to respond bravely and creatively to this crisis, in order to move towards recovery” Henley writes “but I recognise too that you need support to afford you the time and space to help increase the likelihood of success.”  


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