More than 100 local arts centres across the UK are appealing to the government for a range of measures they believe will help them kickstart the cultural sector after Covid-19.
Future Arts Centres, which represents a 100-strong network of cultural venues, is arguing that local arts organisations will be essential to the country’s post-Covid recovery and is calling on the government to recognise their social, cultural and economic role.
Co-chair Annabel Turpin, who is chief executive and artistic director of the ARC in Stockton, said the organisations Future Arts Centres represents have untapped potential as they will be able to open earlier than other cultural institutions.
She told The Stage: “So far, the arguments that are being made are being dominated by the commercial and subsidised theatre sector. We understand why that is to a certain extent, but it feels like arts centres are being ignored and we feel we have a lot to contribute.
“We could open now and could be making a real contribution to the government’s focus on getting back to work... We’re not just looking for them to fill the financial gap, we can make a contribution to the recovery while theatres are in the wings, as it were, because they’re not able to operate.”
Future Arts Centres, co-chaired by Turpin and the Albany’s Gavin Barlow, is proposing three key measures to facilitate this.
They include extending the Theatre Tax Relief scheme to arts centres and other organisations that are currently excluded. The change would expand the definitions in the current legislation to make professional work made with participants eligible for relief and “allow centres and venues to start investing in new programming”.
The group believes this would require a clarification to the current legislation rather than an actual change, meaning it could be enacted immediately, and would benefit its network as well as more traditional theatre organisations.
They are also asking for a fund for creative industries apprenticeships and training at arts centres – to allow organisations with strong community links to help young people seeking work – and for a stimulus package, managed by respective arts councils, to fund hyper-local projects by artists across the UK.
Turpin hopes arts centres like ARC may be able to reopen in September, but they will need a grant package to help create new work and restart their programming again.
Future Arts Centres has put the three proposals to culture secretary Oliver Dowden and chancellor Rishi Sunak and is encouraging members to write to their MPs to bring it a wider profile.
In their letter to Dowden and Sunak, Turpin and Barlow added: “Looking ahead, arts centres and cultural organisations with strong links to their communities can offer training and apprenticeships in a wide array of skills that will help young people seeking work in the creative industries and beyond.
“Local arts centres and cultural organisations must be at the centre of plans as our towns and cities emerge from lockdown.”