A report from Sheffield University argues that the UK arts and culture category was very badly hit by Covid-19, but the UK Government's Culture Recovery Fund (CRF), on top of wider national support programmes mitigated the impact, but with the proviso that this was often not the case for freelancers.
The authors argue that any extra support available should focus on freelancers, who have had to deal with government schemes that were not really designed for their circumstances; and particularly those in the music business where live performance and touring abroad is often so critical and many have had to face the double whammy of Covid-19 and Brexit.
The authoestimate that nationally output in the sector fell dramatically as Covid-19 hit in March 2020 with a decline of around one third from Q2 2019 to Q2 2020 in
real terms. The sectors “creative, arts and entertainment activities” and “libraries, archives, museums and other cultural activities” were worst hit (declines of 63% and 45% respectively).
The annual data is less pronounced in terms of impact because it includes some pre-lockdown activity and varying degrees of re-opening through 2021. However, sector GVA fell by around 20 per cent (real change, constant prices), compared to around 10 per cent for the economy overall.
There were significant variations between sub-sectors. Activities that grew or were only subject to modest declines (+17% to -5% range) in output included computer
games, software, book publishing, TV broadcasting and libraries. Activities very badly affected (-30% to -70% range) included cinema, performing arts, museums and historical sites.
The report also argues that sector innovation, and any positives coming out of lockdown should be captured and propagated – whether that is the online presentation of art and heritage or more intense networking by sector participants.
It says that the arts and culture category is flexible and can operate quickly in both a crisis and its recovery, (without the need for large capital investments or complex supply chains); that it can help revive public spaces, and can support mental health and wellbeing, as well as building back affected tourism economies.
The report was commissioned by researchers from the University’s Faculty of Arts and Humanities and Faculty of Social Sciences, working with Chamberlain Walker Economics and the South Yorkshire Mayoral Combined Authority.
In addition to the national picture, the report used the South Yorkshire region as a case study and drew on research from the University of Sheffield into how Covid-19 restrictions have affected the region’s arts, culture and heritage sector.
Read the full report.