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Music Venue Trust criticises last minute delay on Culture Recovery Fund decisions

By | Published on Monday 5 October 2020

Music Venue Trust

The UK’s Music Venue Trust has expressed concern that the first round of decisions on how Arts Council England’s Culture Recovery Fund will be spent has been postponed by one week.

That fund will distribute a significant portion of the sector-specific COVID funding being provided by the UK government for the cultural and heritage industries. With the new general COVID support schemes in the UK not much use for those live entertainment businesses which – because of ongoing COVID restrictions – are still in full-on shutdown or operating at a fraction of their usual capacity, many such companies are now relying entirely on a CRF grant to stay in business.

Those that had applied for the first round of CRF funding expected to find out today if they had been successful. However, on Friday, Arts Council England told applicants that decisions would now not be revealed until next Monday.

In a statement this weekend, MVT said: “A week delay may seem, at first glance, relatively immaterial, but the previously announced hard deadline of 5pm on Mon 5 Oct for decisions on this essential funding – support which is the mainstay of the government’s approach to prevent permanent closures – has resulted in time-limited agreements, both verbal and contractual, between venues and their landlords, breweries, suppliers and staff”.

Noting “the difficulty and complexity” of processing applications for the fund, MVT conceded that the one week delay “may have been necessary”. However, it added, “it is unfortunate that the need to extend was only able to be notified to applicants with just 72 hours remaining to the decision time and date”.

The trade group for grassroots venues went on: “The previous Emergency Grassroots Music Venue Fund – a successful £3.36 million intervention by the Department Of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport delivered by Arts Council England that temporarily prevented 135 grassroots music venues from being immediately and permanently lost – was created to enable the larger Culture Recovery Fund process to take place. It provided critical support to successful applicant venues until 30 Sep. Those venues, already in very precarious financial situations, now face a further seven days of uncertainty”.

MVT also confirmed that it is offering guidance and support to those venues that now have to renegotiate past agreements that were based on having confirmation about a CRF grant application today. It added: “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”.

Last week MVT said that all of the UK’s grassroots venues were now on “red alert” and that the future of said venues is entirely reliant upon the decisions made by the CRF.

Plenty of other music companies are in the same position, unable to utilise the new general COVID schemes and depending on a CRF grant to survive the rest of the year. We will now have to wait another week to discover just how many companies and organisations in the music community will benefit from this sector-specific fund.