As we move into July, it’s astonishing to think that this will be our fifth month living with COVID-19. In times past, I’ve had the good fortune to work on a number of festivals and many people will recall the testing scenarios presented by foot and mouth disease and the volcanic ash cloud. I remember those times as being especially anxiety making. Festival programmes which are very finely calibrated and depend for their success on a multiplicity of things going exactly right, at the right time, then hung perilously in the wind at the mercy of things we simply could not control. Afterwards, you reflected on how you’d all survived it and you stored up stories, which would later spill out in job interviews as perfect examples of heroic fortitude and resilience!
But COVID-19 is a vista for which none of us could ever have adequately prepared ourselves. It eclipses all previous challenges. The obliteration of people’s work, which in so many ways is especially collaborative, must be leading to intense feelings of isolation for some. Feelings of dread and worry abound and certainly do not make for the ideal conditions in which to make work. But as the months wind on, the resilience and dignity of the arts community is striking. Meanwhile, the articulation of the power of the arts continues, and I believe that a strong sense of a shared purpose prevails. The government’s very welcome decision to grant additional funds will allow us to sustain individuals and organisations and to help build trust with the public. I’m sure that the care and commitment that you continue to show towards your audience at a time when they need you most will be remembered when you come to renew your physical connection with them.
Earlier this week, we announced a significantly expanded bursary scheme across all artforms. And in coming weeks, we’ll be announcing details of further supports in the areas of projects, commissions, professional development and stabilisation grants for organisations in particular need. July 30 is the likely closing date for stabilisation grants for those organisations in receipt of Arts Centre and Strategic Funding and assessment will be primarily on the basis of detailed financial information. We’ll be announcing more details about this scheme next week. Assessment is currently taking place for the theatre and dance residency schemes, both of which will be augmented from those additional funds.
Because of the many challenges and uncertainties you’ll grapple with in the months ahead, we’re moving the deadline for Arts Centre and Strategic Funding back to October 22 to allow you more time for planning. The application form itself will be streamlined but we do also want you to take time to engage in detailed planning, given the unprecedented circumstances, and we’ll be offering you financial support to do this. We’ll send you more details about this very soon.
We hope it won't be too long before we're able to meet you again in a foyer or at a festival. In the meantime, we know that you're keeping on keeping on and we're grateful to you for that.
Stay safe and well.
—Maureen Kennelly, Director of the Arts Council
Thursday 2 July, 2020