Last week, the distribution of £18.7 million to eight organisations by Arts Council England was rather overshadowed for me by Creative Scotland's distribution of £11.75 million to 203 organisations and venues north of the border.
This is not because ACE's awards are not a much-needed lifeline, but because as a percentage of funding available in Scotland, £11.75 million is some 78% of the Scottish Government’s Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund pot of £15 million, and proportionately more significant.
Also, what was most notable to me was that in its press release, Creative Scotland faced up to the facts and included something I have been waiting for from Arts Council England: the omissions from the list of winners.
With a commendable degree of transparency, we know that 42% of applicants lost out in the first round of awards from the Culture Organisations and Venues Recovery Fund, which was oversubscribed by £7 million.
But getting back to Arts Council England's fourth distribution. The £18.7 million announced on 6 November is the second round of grants between £1 million and £3 million and was divvied up as follows:
|Sheffield City Trust||£2,243,000||Combined arts||North|
|The Lowry Centre Trust||£3,000,000||Combined arts||North|
|North York Moors Historical Railway Trust||£1,904,902||Museums||North|
|Academy Music Group Ltd||£2,981,431||Music||London|
|London Venue Group||£2,358,902||Music||London|
|Palmglen Ltd (Ronnie Scott's)||£1,272,631||Music||London|
|Opera North Limited||£2,000,000||Music||North|
|The Marlowe Theatre||£2,999,999||Theatre||South East|
As with the first round of this category of award, the average is a little over £2 million.
Canterbury's Marlowe Theatre got an intriguing £2,999,999, being beaten to the top slot by The Lowry Centre Trust by a whole £1.
Flippancy aside, this funding is critical. The Marlowe's chief executive, Deborah Shaw, put it well when she said, “we are thrilled and relieved to receive this vital support… which takes away the threat of permanent closure in the face of the COVID-19 crisis and supports our organisation through until the end of March 2021." A lifeline indeed for an organisation run as a self-funding charity reliant on box office revenue for 99% of its income which has been closed since mid-March.
There is now some £72.4 million left in the kitty, nearly as much as the first round (£75.1 million) or even the second round of smaller category awards (£76.6 million).
Put that together with the £270 million available for repayable finance programmes for culturally significant organisations "at clear risk of no longer trading viably by 31 March 2021" and the £55 million for existing Arts Council capital grant holders, there is still £397.4 million still to be allocated, never mind paid out.
By way of reminder, Arts Council England is responsible for distributing £825m (of the £1.57 billion announced on 5 July). That means it is about half way through its share and, given that this funding is to help organisations survive until March, it has 135 days to go.
So what is it waiting for—February?
March isn't the end; it is a watershed moment.
BioNTech and Pfizer, co-developers of an as yet unapproved vaccine, today on the BBC walked back the headline-grabbing nonsense (my word, not the BBC's) from Oxford University that normality could resume in the spring, saying it could reduce transmission by perhaps 50%.
BioNTech's founder, Professor Sahin, told the BBC that 300 million doses delivered worldwide by April "could allow us to only start to make an impact". It sounds like a much-needed reality check.
So, to focus on facts—£397.4 million in 135 days.
I really hope there is a flurry of Arts Council England announcements very soon because every day taken might have saved a job, every week taken might have saved a theatre.