film set

Covid-19 restart and recovery: urgent help still needed for creative workers

Two Government initiatives aimed at supporting the UK’s beleaguered cultural industries during the Covid-19 pandemic were announced today (29 July 2020).

The Film and TV Production Restart Scheme, worth £500 million, aims to get film and TV productions across the UK, which have been halted or delayed by lack of insurance, to get up and running once again, and to cover the Covid-19 related losses for cast and crew illness and filming delays.

In addition, further detail has been provided on the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund (announced earlier this month) – including a new Culture Recovery Board, which will administer the programme.

Organisations including the BFI and Arts Council England (ACE) will oversee the allocation and distribution of the first tranche of support worth £880 million, which includes grants and repayable finance to support cultural institutions including theatres, comedy venues and independent cinemas in England.

Guidance on eligibility and allocation of individual grants, up to £3 million, has been published separately by ACE and the BFI, prior to their launch next month (10 August 2020).

Developing your Creative Practice Grants for individual freelance workers will follow in the Autumn, with further detail to follow.

WGGB Chair Lisa Holdsworth said: “The Culture Secretary is quite right to praise the UK’s award-winning dramas and iconic comedies that the world can’t wait to watch, while the Treasurer is also correct when he highlights the tens of thousands of jobs which power these sectors.

“We welcome these two announcements today but we are also concerned about some glaring holes – namely how will individual creative workers, including writers, survive the coming weeks let alone months of this crisis with their livelihoods intact? Due to the backlog of postponed and unproduced work across film, TV and theatre, writers may be waiting months before new commissions become available. It is vital that they can access some form of support

“Last week the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee backed WGGB’s calls for an urgent extension and expansion of the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme to support the estimated three million self-employed people who have fallen through the gaps. It also said Government should listen to WGGB and other unions and industry bodies and form a UK Creators Council as a mechanism for better dialogue with the creative workforce.

“And theatres, the hardest hit by the pandemic, may be able to throw open their doors for live performance from 1 August and now apply for emergency grants not long after, but this comes too little too late for those who have already shut up shop or laid off staff, and further detail is still needed to address the very real challenges of social distancing and audience behaviours. Until all this happens, we fear the curtain may never rise on the much-vaunted panto season this year.”

The Welsh Government has announced separately that it is investing £53 million to help Wales’ cultural sector.

Photo: Broder Van Dyke