Arts ‘need €30m survival fund’ as sector set to shrink by 35% and knock €250m off GDP

Expert advisory group urges Government to act immediately to avoid slow, four-year recovery

Galway International Arts Festival: Covid-19 stopped the event going ahead as planned for the first time in its 43-year-history. Photograph :Andrew Downes/xposure

Galway International Arts Festival: Covid-19 stopped the event going ahead as planned for the first time in its 43-year-history. Photograph :Andrew Downes/xposure

 

Significant additional funding for the arts will be required in 2021 to address the extreme challenges the sector faces in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new report.

Survive Adapt Renew: A Response to the Covid-19 Crisis for the Arts in Ireland was published today (PDF) by an expert advisory group formed in May by the Arts Council. It includes the film-maker Lenny Abrahamson, the Irish Times journalist Fintan O’Toole, the theatre producer Anne Clarke and the director of the National College of Art and Design, Sarah Glennie.

“As other sectors adapt to the new Covid-19 world and return to a viable level of activity, the arts will not be able to keep buildings open or to sustain livelihoods,” the group says. It recommends that artists, arts workers and arts organisations continue to benefit from pandemic unemployment payments and the temporary wage subsidy scheme “until they can return to full capacity”, along with the creation, now, of a €21.4 million survival fund and, in 2021, of a €30 million sustainability fund, “to support the arts through the continuing impacts of the crisis”.

The report also proposes the setting up of a cultural-recovery task force, “bringing together the arts, film, broadcasting and related sectors to ensure national coherence and co-operation across sectors”, and seeks investment in new ways for people to engage with art and culture through digital and other channels.

According to an economic analysis (PDF) commissioned by the Arts Council from the EY consultancy, the impact of Covid-19 will have caused the arts sector to contract by between 35 and 42 per cent by the end of the year, compared with 11 per cent for the economy as a whole. This is projected to cost between €250 million and €300 million of Ireland’s GDP. In addition, between 15 and 18 per cent of jobs in the sector are projected to disappear, compared with 7 per cent in the economy as a whole, with between 1,500 and 1,900 arts jobs at risk. The sector may need until 2025 to recover “if nothing is done to mitigate the impacts of Covid-19”, according to EY.

The advisory group’s report includes impact statements from arts organisations and artists across the country. “For the first time in its 43-year history Galway International Arts Festival will not go ahead as planned,” John Crumlish, its chief executive, writes. “The organisation has lost €3.1 million of its income, which will have a massive impact on the livelihoods of many artists, their creative teams and crew. GIAF will not be in a position to employ a number of highly skilled contractors who are reliant on the festival for a significant portion of their annual income and will not be employing a further 110 people as part of the wider festival team.”

On Tuesday the Government announced the allocation of an additional €20 million to the Arts Council this year to address the crisis in the sector, along with €5 million for museums and other institutions.

The chairman of the Arts Council, Kevin Rafter, said: “With the Government’s decision this week to increase the Arts Council’s budget to €100 million, the first objective of the advisory group has been achieved. This additional funding will help the Arts Council protect jobs and livelihoods for individual artists and also assist key art organisations facing financial difficulty. We would like to thank the members of the group for their important work.”

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