– UK, Czech Republic, Romania, UAE –
Large proportion of microbusiness (with less than 10 employees) and self-employed are typical characteristics of the creative industries labour market. This is applicable globally. In the UK, more than 95% of creative businesses employ less than 10 people. In addition, a third of the total creative industries workforce is self-employed.* On a whole, cultural and creative industries (CCIs) have been hit hard by a wide range of measures individual governments put in place to limit further spread of Covid-19. We are realising now that these measures may be in its current or more relaxed form a regular staple of our ‘new normal’ and effective far beyond time that we initially anticipated. This is coupled with economic forecasts that picture major challenges ahead of us.
Overnight, or let’s be more precise within a couple of weeks, a large and growing number of creatives changed from being busy freelancers and small businesses to those whose contracts and gigs have been cancelled or postponed indefinitely. Furthermore, the demand for their services and products has been cooling off as both businesses and consumers have become conservative in their spending. This has made new opportunities, in its traditional linear sense, difficult to find. I have talked to fashion designers, stylists, photographers, arts teachers on zero contracts, craftspeople, architects and actors who shared their personal experiences. Most presented similar stories, fears and hopes. Each of them equipped with different abilities and resources to ride out the initial storm and survive in the mid-term.
Pulling together = stronger voice
Collective action in times like this is key. Individual industry trade bodies, associations and public bodies with CCIs remit were quick to join forces and collaborate in getting the temperature of the sector and lobbying national governments in providing relevant and targeted support.
The Confederation of Creative Industries, a membership body that represents, champions and supports the UK’s creative industries, has together with many unions and creative sectors’ specific representative organisations including the Association of Independent Professionals and Self-employed created a petition calling for an emergency fund to support freelancers with CoVid19 income loss; requesting similar measures introduced for businesses to be rolled out for self-employed. As a result of this policy work, the Chancellor announced last week a new Self-Employed Income Support Scheme. Eligible individuals will receive a cash grant worth 80% of their average monthly trading profit over the last three years. According to the Financial Times there are still gaps and several groups fall between the various schemes available, therefore the creative industry is putting further pressure on the Treasury to include these groups. The Confederation of Creative Industries has also conducted a survey to assess how the self-employed income support scheme and many other measures of support put in place for businesses so far are working and where there are still gaps in the context of creative industries.
The Arts Council England has made £160 millions of emergency funding available to organisations and individuals to ease up the pressure as best as they can. In practice this will mean that £90 million will be available to national portfolio organisations, £50 million to organisations that are not in receipt of regular funding from the Arts Council, and £20 million for individuals/practitioners in the arts sector.
The emergency response packages are being introduced gradually, with two emergency funds already launched to support individuals and independent cultural organisations, with the other to follow shortly.
The Institute of Arts and its partners are establishing methodology aimed at identifying in detail the economic impact of Covid-19 related restrictions on selected cultural and creative sectors (music, theatre, visual arts, museums and galleries, and film). The research results will assist the Ministry of Culture in establishing the basis for wide sectoral support initially announced last week. The emergency programme “Saving Culture” that is currently being prepared by the Ministry of Culture, and hopefully details are to be announced soon, will provide funding in the region of 1,5 billion CZK (approx. 55 million EUR). In the meantime creatives can access a range of general government support measures targeted at self-employed such as 6 months payment holiday from compulsory health and social security/pension monthly contributions, financial support for parents looking after children whilst schools are closed and newly announced enhanced support for self-employed. As in the UK, the government support for businesses and employed has been more extensive and delivered as a priority. The support measures for self-employed followed at a later stage. Information on government assistance for businesses can be found here.
In addition, regional innovation centres are revising their funding parameters, in light of the current situation, and there is a new call for creative vouchers from Stredoceska Inovacni Agentura.
Apart from the general emergency government support measures for businesses and self-employed, the Ministry of Culture announced that those who have exclusive income from copyright and related rights will be eligible for compensation representing 75% of the gross national average salary. This is on par with general compensation measures. The Ministry has also announced a new funding round for RO-Culture Programmewhich aims to strengthen cultural entrepreneurship and developing the audience and the public. The funding round value is 2,000,000 EUR and project proposals due in July must focus on creating jobs, organizing contemporary art activities, increasing the number of participants in cultural activities, supporting SMEs in the cultural sector, developing skills and expertise in the workplace, innovative approach to cultural heritage, productions related to social, ethnic and cultural minorities. Although not an immediate, it may help to provide several sectors within the creative industries with some level of reassurance.
On the coronavirus crisis side and in support of all businesses, the start-up support fund has been converted into a “Guarantee fund for SMEs” and will provide guarantees for 80%-100% of the value of the credit taken out by a company to fund their working capital.
There are many grassroots activities currently taking place to mobilise the sector and keep the dialogue going. For example, The Institute is taking the “CHANGE” theme from this year’s postponed Romanian Design Week to engage in a dialogue with creative professionals about impacts of Covid-19 on their businesses, sharing info about ways how these impacts can be lessened. Such dialogue will hopefully benefit not just the individual networked creative businesses but also the local creative industry as a whole. Another example is the Clujean Cultural Center that launched a national project calling on Romanian artists to help fight the pandemic and created a platform called Artists Together This was as a response to a call from the Romanian Health Observatory to work with artists to create a wide range of communication with an objective to inform and raise public awareness of conforming to rules and recommendations during the national emergency. Furthermore, the platform would like to serve other important collective causes as well as organize an emergency fund for artists.
United Arab Emirates
The Dubai Culture & Arts Authority and the Art Dubai Group have launched DubaiIDEATHON calling for a collective action and inviting proposals to respond to challenges in the creative & cultural sectors caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. Initial applications are due by 4 April and should aim to address the following challenges:
- “What solutions could be created to protect jobs and employees during the crisis?”
- “How can the creative community self-organize?”
- “And what kind of public-private collaborations can we explore to help support the cultural industries?”
- “How can companies start reducing their fixed costs?”
- “How to improve company / client relationships and collaborations?”
- “How to maintain the flow of the supply chains?”
- “Are businesses able to generate revenue from digital shifts? And How?”
All across the globe the creative practitioners, creative businesses and their representative bodies and governments are asking similar questions and trying to overcome the same challenges. The willingness to share best practice, admit mistakes, recognise inspiration and carefully implement ideas into a local context may be one of the ways to overcome challenges posed by the current crisis.