Figures over sentiment

Arts Council England’s announcement about the first recipients of the Cultural Recovery Fund earlier this week has generated a bit of noise. In particular, much ire appears to be levelled at ACE and DCMS for ‘stipulations’ attached to receiving the award, manifest in a requirement that organisations extend thanks, use the hashtag “HereforCulture” and, outline how the money will help bring live performance back and support freelancers.

This in addition to the hushed exchanges and furrowed brows about why some organisations received the funding and others didn’t.

The noise has continued today with some arguing that the requested statements put out on arts organisations social media accounts left an Orwellian taste in the mouth – a kind of hand-wringing appreciation for funds some regard as less of an award and more of a necessity. To extend heartfelt thanks so publically and uniformly could be seen a gratitude for legitimatisation and validation by a government body, when the money is instead a ‘life-saving’ response to a critical situation.

To say thanks for something which will play a crucial role in the survival of an organisation or endeavour seems like a thoroughly decent thing to do – an easy win for a sector which has at its heart a belief that its work promotes a sense of wellbeing in the individual. Wellbeing extends to courtesy too. And if you can’t demonstrate your values in your activities and utterances then you’re very quickly going to lose the very audience the money you’re asking for is there to protect.

But what the resulting ire highlights isn’t so much a fawning sector, nor an Orwellian government, more an ill-thought out (and probably hurried) digital campaign.

To ask everyone to basically say the same thing (and then engage with those accounts) shows an editorial strategy built on figures (reach, impressions and engagement) rather than sentiment. Figures won out over sentiment. Some organisations framed their statements in a tone of voice which suited them. Others copied and pasted. The intent was sound. The originating direction could have been a little more sophisticated.

Arts Council England and DCMS announce first recipients of Cultural Recovery Fund

A selection of recipients (classical music/venues) of the first tranche of ACE/DCMS Cultural Recovery Fund. The complete list of data is available on the Arts Council England website.

City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra secures £834K

In response to its £834,000 grant from Arts Council England, the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra issued the following statement:

“This grant from the Culture Recovery Fund – along with support from donors to our £12.5 million Sound of the Future fundraising campaign – allows us to return to giving live concerts in a safe and Covid-compliant way: we have just announced a series of ensemble concerts at CBSO Centre, and we are working towards restarting larger-scale concerts at Symphony Hall.   The funding also enables us to share more of our work on digital platforms, and to increase the reach of our community work at a time when many people may find it hard to attend concerts in person.

By getting back on stage, we will be able to start engaging freelance musicians and guest artists, and we will also help other parts of the live music sector – agents, publishers, venues and other suppliers – to start earning as well.”

Mozartists secure £99K

Mozartists CEO Debbie Coates said in response to the ACE Grant:

“These have been uniquely difficult times for our industry, and the knock-on effects both to our organisation and our talented freelance artists have been horrendous. This grant provides some light at the end of the tunnel, offering us a lifeline so that we can resume the presentation of world-class performances and generate vital work for our artists. We are immensely grateful for this show of support and confidence in our work.”

London Philharmonic Orchestra statement

David Burke the LPO’s Chief Executive, commented:

Everyone at the London Philharmonic Orchestra is grateful for this grant from the Culture Recovery Fund as it will enable the Orchestra to continue to bring the wonder of orchestral music to global audiences. We also acknowledge that the plight of freelancers, in particular, needs to be constantly reviewed and all of us who care about the arts need to remain vigilant to ensure that the many thousands of freelancers are able to continue their vital contribution to the country’s economy and well-being.”

Watch the LPO’s In The Stream of Life on Marquee TV

Wigmore Hall

John Gilhoolly, Wigmore Hall:

“We are working very hard to bring artists and audiences back to Wigmore Hall and this government injection of funds is a great first step for our national cultural life, so much part of our national identity. However, this crisis could go on and for the arts. There is no end yet in sight and further help will be needed right through the UK, and especially for freelance musicians and artists who have lost so much.”

Saffron Hall, Cambridgeshire

Chief Executive, Saffron Hall Trust, Angela Dixon said:

“We are delighted and relieved to receive this money from the Cultural Recovery Fund. These funds will contribute towards the survival of Saffron Hall and allow us to support other arts organisations and freelancers locally and nationally through to March next year as we continue to build a safe environment in which to share music. 

We do not know how long this crisis will last, but over the last seven weeks we have welcomed 118 musicians to our stage and over 1,380 audience members to our reconfigured socially distanced auditorium and we are determined to keep going. 

Many thanks to the brilliant Saffron Hall team, the board of trustees, our amazing volunteers, our members and supporters and Saffron Walden County High School.”

Classical music organisations (venues and ensembles) in receipt of the Cultural Recovery Fund

Blackheath Conservatoire of Music and the Arts Ltd £228,000
Chineke Foundation £300,000
City of Birmingham Symphony orchestra £843,000
City of London Sinfonia £75,000
Classical Opera & The Mozartists £99,452
English Chamber Orchestra £102,034
Ex Cathedra Ltd £114,078
Hampshire Music Service £249,000
IMG Artists (UK) Ltd £100,000
Intermusica Artists Management Ltd £198,000
Halle Concerts Society £740,000
London Contemporary Voices £50,000
London Philharmonic Orchestra £650,000
London Symphony Orchestra £846,000
Manchester Camerata Limited £229,000
Manchester Collective £156,174
National Youth Choirs of Great Britain £170,000
National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain £250,000
Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment £75,000
Orchestra of the Swan £130,000
Orpheus Sinfonia £69,966
Philharmonia Limited £967,413
Royal Liverpool Philharmonic £748,000
Royal Philharmonic Orchestra Ltd £996,702
Saffron Hall Trust £245,000
Sinfonietta Productions Limited £80,990
Snape Maltings £950,000
St John’s Smith Square £227,147
West Suffolk Council £250,000
Wigmore Hall £1000,000
Wiltshire Music Centre Trust Ltd £188,158