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During the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 to 2021 the Welsh Government launched the Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF), which provided financial support to the cultural, creative and events sectors across Wales.
94% of the organisations surveyed for a Welsh Government-commissioned evaluation report said the Fund had played a part in their survival, with 57% saying it had been fundamental to their survival to a great extent.
With the funding received, over half of creative and cultural organisations developed new activities or services in response to the pandemic, meaning that the fund has enabled innovation as well as supporting organisations to develop new areas of business and diversify their revenue streams. This has the potential to improve the sector’s resilience to manage future disruption and operational restriction associated with the pandemic.
Just under half of organisations would have had to draw on their reserves which may have placed many in a precarious operating position, vulnerable to failure or closure because of future economic influences.
Many freelancers reported that the funding has provided them with breathing space to reflect on their creative practice and identify future opportunities. For some, the fund allowed them to purchase new equipment or update their facilities.
Around a third of freelancers surveyed said they would have left the sector completely in the absence of funding, with a similar proportion indicating that they would have temporarily secured other employment outside of the sector. Only one in seven secured another job, showing that the funding has helped to stem a flight away from the sector.
Angharad Jenkins from Swansea is a freelance musician and member of the Welsh folk group Calan. She lost all her live work over-night and has used the funding to adapt her practice and to develop new skills which she will continue to use in the future.
During the pandemic I focused on growing and moved my private teaching practice online and I delivered 1:1 participatory music sessions for children with special learning needs through Live Music Now.
The biggest learning curve for me was learning to record remotely. I was able to work with musicians in north Wales, Scotland, Oxford and as far away as Melbourne, Australia. I was also able to offer my skills as a session musician, as well as taking on private composition commission, without needing to leave the house.
I also started singing and writing songs during this time. The slower pace of life enabled me to think more creatively about my work. I was truly grateful for this lifeline, at such a worrying time, which kept me working in the creative sector and I’m now enjoying the return to live events!
The funding also enabled organisations to maintain contact with their volunteer base. It is estimated that around 77,000 volunteer roles have been protected through the Fund, ranging from one off volunteering opportunities such as at large scale participation events to longer-term volunteers.
The Fund has had a direct contribution in supporting efforts to increase volunteering across Wales, delivering a range of positive outcomes both for the volunteers themselves and the communities they support.
Deputy Minister for Arts and Sport, Dawn Bowden said:
The Welsh Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund was launched as part of efforts to ensure we did everything possible to ensure our arts, culture, heritage, events and creative sectors survived the Covid pandemic.
The £108 miliwn funding from the Cultural Recovery Fund went well beyond the consequential funding we received from the UK Government. This highlights the significant value we put on the sector’s contribution to Welsh life and the wider economy.
We also launched the first Freelancer Fund in the UK. The decision to include freelancers as a key part of the Cultural Recovery Fund was in recognition of the essential role they play in our economy and in creating and delivering cultural experience.
We recognised we’ll need the professionalism, experience, enthusiasm and vison of these professionals in the creative and cultural sector to help us come together and rebuild after the public health crisis abated. I’m delighted to see that people are now having the opportunity to work in these sectors once more, and helping us on the journey to recovery.