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  • Writer's pictureThe EDI Magazine

'Is Money Enough?'

Kirsty Thomson provides an exploration into the support shown by government towards creative industries across Edinburgh in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

Artwork by Rachel Watkins

Having been under lock-down since the 23rd of March, many have faced difficulties subsequent to losing work and becoming unemployed. It is a problem faced by all sectors of society and impacts all industries, perhaps most significantly those who work in the entertainment/culture/creative sector. The COVID-19 Pandemic has proven an incredibly challenging time for not only performers and artists, but also for creative practitioners and organisations who have been both personally and professionally implicated by the disease and its lasting preventative measures. Furthermore, as well as being endangered in the immediate sense, the future of the arts industry amidst the possibility of emerging from the crisis is uncertain at best. In the last few months Westminster has set aside £1.57bn to be spent across the United Kingdom to offer protection to creative spaces such as theatres, museums and galleries. While this money will help to weather some of the impact of COVID-19, is money alone truly going to be enough to help support creative industries? If not, what better support systems could be put into place?

At present, the aid given to the arts and culture sector is primarily financial. Alongside the £1.57bn investment set to benefit all aspects of the culture and events industry, the Scottish government have also set up a series of support systems targeted for Scottish creatives. There have been funding opportunities opened up, as well as a scheme similar to the Job Retention programme established for those who are self-employed. Further, Creative Scotland have collated together a list of resources and opportunities for monetary compensation. These funds, however, and government investment raises many questions; professionals are seeking more clarity as to who exactly can benefit from the programme and how money will be spread across the different disciplines within the creative industry. The government grant in particular highlights that museums, heritage sites and music venues all can benefit from the scheme. However, independent music festivals, which have lost the entire summer season, are not included in the fine-print and thenceforth, will struggle to return to normality. The situation worsens further for individuals.

When reading the information behind the various funding opportunities and grants being offered, a great deal of emphasis is placed upon the rebuilding of infrastructure and buildings. This suggests that perhaps the money committed isn’t created as a means of support for creators and performers. Whilst ensuring the survival of infrastructure is imperative in keeping performers and creatives in work, there are some disciplines where it is not entirely appropriate and money would be better spent by offering support to creators themselves. Despite the industry being synonymous with big names, agencies and networks, it also is highly dependent on freelance workers and small independently owned businesses. So long as the support is aimed at corporations and infrastructure, their future is incredibly uncertain. Support for artists as well as their core team (managers, crew members, agents etc.) is necessary for the live performance sector to exist. Clarity for these individuals is vital.

'So long as the support is aimed at corporations and infrastructure, their future is incredibly uncertain.'

The conversation about support for creators lies right on our doorstep; Edinburgh following the cancellation of the Fringe Festival is currently facing an estimated £300m to £1bn loss. The festival itself is not only an opportunity for creators from all over the world to come to Edinburgh to share their craft, but also is considered a fruitful season for local business owners and creatives. There are also concerns about the loss of the social environment; during the Fringe, Edinburgh becomes a hive for fostering meaningful connections with fellow creatives and sharing cultural experiences. As the festival is largely centred around the social context and inherently social connections made, it is not as possible to transfer the experience over to an online space compared to other areas of the arts sector. The financial impact of closing the festivals in Edinburgh and indeed all artistic events and spaces are considerable, but the social impact is just as profound. Whilst money can help fix some problems, no amount can match the loss of a space that builds social solidarity through the sharing and appreciation of cultural and artistic experience.

As well as monetary compensation, what the industry needs is support from the community at a localised level. In supporting local artists, you support the local art community and this continues to higher levels, helping the arts community at large. Often it feels as though the only way in which you can support local artists is to purchase their work, but in reality there is lots more that can be done and it is neither complicated nor expensive. At the moment more than ever, creatives have moved into the online sphere. Whilst the experience is not the same, attending virtual events and following along with and sharing updates on social media is a very easy way of supporting local artists. The creative sector relies upon passion and enthusiasm: both are things which can translate into the virtual world.

'The creative sector relies upon passion and enthusiasm: both are things which can translate into the virtual world.'

Lots of artists at the moment are enjoying the opportunity to master their craft and this is something you can support by investing in their work. With increased time on their hands, several local artists in Edinburgh are offering commission pieces, so by supporting them you are able to receive a custom personal piece. When it comes to support, no amount of time you put in is going to be too much - you have everything to gain and nothing to lose from supporting local creatives. The pandemic has illustrated to us the importance of art and culture; it brings people together and allows for us as individuals to better understand and appreciate those around us. It is imperative that it returns back to normality as now more than ever we have discovered just how reliant we are upon it.

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