Delays to parts of Culture Recovery Fund leaves music venues at risk: “This additional delay has caused huge anxiety”

"We know that this additional delay has caused huge anxiety, loading extra challenges on to people who were already struggling to cope with this extraordinary situation"

Parts of the government’s Culture Recovery Fund have been delayed, leaving some potential grassroots music venues and arts industry professionals at further risk and without much needed emergency financial support.

Applications for the government’s £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund were due to be informed as to whether their applications for support were successful on October 5, with final decisions on funding for grassroots music venues in England, Scotland and Wales to be confirmed by October 16.

However, it’s been revealed that some applications to the fund have been delayed by a week. The Music Venues Trust has been “working with colleagues overnight” at the Arts Council – which is one of several arts bodies administering the government funding – as they seek to “manage the delay to the decisions on the distribution of the Cultural Recovery Fund.”

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In a statement to NME, the Arts Council said of the delay: “We understand this is an anxious time for many people and many organisations up and down the country.

“We apologise that there is a week’s delay in letting the first tranche of grants applicants know decisions, but we will still be able to get money to them this month. Given the volume and complexity of the applications that came through to this brand new fund, we’ve had to do additional due diligence to make sure money from the public purse is spent responsibly.

“We are working hard to get this much-needed funding out as quickly as possible, to those who need it most.”

It comes just days after the MVT described the situation for hundreds of grassroots venues as “critical” as they warned that the fate of hundreds of venues now hung in the balance. 

Crowds enjoy live music. CREDIT: Getty Images

Writing on Twitter, MVT said of the situation: “Understanding the difficulty and complexity of this process for @DCMS & @ace_national and need to get it right we appreciate why such a delay may be necessary. It is unfortunate that the extension was only able to be notified to applicants with 72 hours remaining to the decision.

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“The Emergency Grassroots Music Venue Fund, a successful £3.36 million intervention by @DCMS delivered by @ace_national temporarily prevented 135 grassroots music venues from being permanently lost. It was created to enable the larger Cultural Recovery Fund process to take place…

“EGMVF provided critical support to successful applicant venues until 30 September. Those venues, already in very precarious financial situations, now face a further 7 days of uncertainty. Perhaps a week delay may seem, at first glance, relatively immaterial…

“…but the announced hard deadline of 5pm Mon 5 Oct for decisions on CRF support, the mainstay of the government’s plan to prevent permanent closures, resulted in time limited agreements, verbal & contractual, between venues and their landlords, breweries, suppliers and staff.”

NME has reached out to The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport for comment.

MVT went on to add that they are working with venues over the weekend to offer additional support to those in need.

They said: “MVT will be working with venues throughout the weekend to renegotiate those agreements, and to provide confidence to all concerned that the Cultural Recovery Fund process still presents the opportunity to save a large number of grassroots music venues from permanently closing.

“If you are landlord, brewery, supplier or any other creditor with a grassroots music venue who is [affected] by this delay, and you have concerns, please contact us so we can provide you with assurances about this process and its potential to support grassroots music venues.”

They went on to describe the situation as “extremely stressful” and “difficult” for “venue operators, staff and teams,” before adding: “We know that this additional delay has caused huge anxiety, loading extra challenges on to people who were already struggling to cope with this extraordinary situation.”

MVT warned that the UK’s grassroots music venues will remain “in a critical position over the next two weeks,” adding that “not every venue will be saved by the Cultural Recovery Funds.”

MVT have also asked venues struggling to reach out to them for help via a support service on their website.

In a statement to NME, Mark Davyd, CEO of Music Venue Trust, said: “We’d like to thank colleagues at Arts Council and DCMS for quickly getting a clear statement out to us that has really helped to manage this difficult situation.

“Any venue who finds their position has significantly worsened because of this delay, please get in touch. We have a dedicated team working throughout the weekend and right up to the new decision date who can support you to negotiate any extensions or alterations you might need to make to agreements or contracts.”

After UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced details of the government’s new Winter Economy Plan for the next six months last week as the furlough scheme comes to an end, the music industry hit back for its lack of support for the many musicians, self-employed and the staff within venues that have been forced to close due to COVID-19.

The MVT recently claimed that “this was compounded during a meeting hosted by The Department of Culture, Media & Sport when numerous enquiries from MPs asking what the government was going to do to prevent the collapse of the live music industry was answered by stock answers stating that the Cultural Recovery Fund was ‘being made available’.”

Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of MVT, said: “Music Venue Trust is extremely concerned that the situation has become Schrodinger’s fund; hardly anyone has received any significant support from the Cultural Recovery Fund yet, but everyone is going to be saved by it. This is not a coherent strategy; the government does not even control the distribution of the funding they have made available and on which their entire strategy for the UK live music sector now rests”.

The live music sector remains in danger with two thirds of the UK’s grassroots music venues still unable to go ahead with socially distanced gigs and hundreds still fighting for funding in a bid to survive COVID closures.

With early April 2021 earmarked as the earliest date that full capacity gigs might be able to return, a number of musicians, crew, venues and industry bosses have warned of bankruptcies and catastrophic damage to the live music sector unless support is provided to mothball the gig sector until it is safe to put shows on.

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