Comedy wins backing in new £59m Scottish arts funding deal

Comedy has won official recognition after the Scottish Government agreed to hand over another £59m to help the arts and heritage sectors withstand the impact of the pandemic.

Friday, 28th August 2020, 4:52 pm
The Gilded Balloon, which runs a year-round venue in Edinburgh, has been among the campaigners trying to secure help for the comedy industry.
The Gilded Balloon, which runs a year-round venue in Edinburgh, has been among the campaigners trying to secure help for the comedy industry.

The new support package is also expected to provide vital support to commercial theatre and live music venues, who did not previously rely on public funding.

Several new funds have been announced by the government in the wake of mounting criticism over why more than £74m allocated to Scotland from a £1.57 billion package for arts and heritage from the UK Government had gone unallocated north of the border.

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Some of the biggest names in Scottish comedy, including Frankie Boyle, Kevin Bridges, Janey Godley and Fern Brady, had backed a campaign aimed at prevent the grassroots industry from collapsing completely.

Frankie Boyle

Today’s announcement is the first time that comedy has won official recognition as an art form that would be supported via emergency public funding.

The Scottish Government had also been under pressure to find support for the commercial music and nightclub sector amid predictions of “financial Armageddon” within weeks as the furlough scheme is wound down.

Independent cinemas, art galleries, dance companies and nightclubs facing closure or huge financial problems are all expected to get a share of the new lifeline support, some of which will be ringfenced for freelance workers and artists.

The Scottish Government said the new support was aimed at helping venues and businesses to stave off the threat of insolvency, protect jobs and plan ahead for when they are able to reopen.

The £59m announced today by the Scottish Government includes £21.3 for its own heritage agency Historic Scotland, £15m to help businesses running arts organisations and venues, £3.5 million for independent cinemas, a £5 million hardship fund for freelance workers in the creative industries, £5 million for artists to make new work during the pandemic recovery period and £3m for youth arts initiatives.

The Scottish Government had previously announced £10m to support the events sector, £4 million to help museums and galleries cope with the impact of the pandemic, £3.8 million to help secure the future of nearly 200 jobs at the National Trust for Scotland, £12.5 million for theatres and arts centres, and £2.2 for “grassroots” music venues.

Announcing the funding at her daily briefing, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Our cultural and heritage sectors are of course hugely important to our economy, but they are also really important to our wellbeing and happiness as a country.

"They have been very hard-hit by this pandemic and we are determined to do everything we reasonably can to support them.

"We hope that this package will provide some much-needed assistance to cultural organisations, artists and other freelancers across the country.”

Scottish culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “It’s been an extremely trying time for everyone in the culture and heritage sectors over the last few months.

"The major issues presented by the pandemic are not going away but as we slowly start to reopen, this funding will provide much needed emergency support and aid the recovery.

“We have taken time to work closely with and listen carefully to the sectors, to understand exactly what they need.

"We want to reach as many people as possible and I do believe these funds will make a marked difference in ensuring our culture and heritage sectors not only survive the pandemic but thrive in future.

“As extensive as this package of support is, we know there will still be more needed. Culture and heritage are vitally important to all of our lives in Scotland, at this time more than ever.

"Without significant borrowing powers, there is only so much the Scottish Government can do. I urge the UK Government to consider extending the furlough scheme, to ensure longer term support as we continue to navigate this crisis.”

Iain Munro, chief executive of art quango Creative Scotland, said: “We very much welcome this significant announcement of much needed emergency support.

"This follows a great deal of work involving Creative Scotland and the Scottish Government, but also many people and organisations from across Scotland’s cultural community.

"We appreciate the challenges that everyone working in culture is facing and are pleased to now be able to offer some clarity.

"Creative Scotland will continue to work at pace to deliver this emergency funding to where it’s needed as quickly as possible.”

Katy Koren, artistic director of Gilded Balloon, which had been involved in the Scottish Scottish Comedy campaign, said: “I’m so pleased the First Minister has explicitly mentioned comedy venues as eligible for the venues fund announced today.

"It's a huge achievement of the Association of Scottish Comedic arts and all the work we have been doing. However, this is far from the end of the road.

"Our priority now is making sure the details announced next week mean all Scottish comedy clubs can apply and ensuring the freelancers/performer support opens for applications as soon as possible too."

Eva Mackay, a director of The Stand Comedy Club, said: "We welcome the news that the Scottish Government and Creative Scotland have listened to our concerns and announced arts funding for comedy venues.

"We look forward to hearing the full details of what will be offered and assurances that a realistic amount will be ringfenced specifically for comedy to save our beloved industry and the hundreds of jobs that rely on it.

"We would like to thank all the comedians and members of the public who have given us their support and we hope to see them all back watching live comedy soon."

Donald Macleod, spokesman for the Night-Time Industries Association Scotland, which represents live music venues and nightclubs, said: “I welcome the Scottish Government’s decision to provide support and assistance to businesses that operate in the night-time economy.

"This announcement comes at a crucial time when people's jobs were very much on the line. Hopefully, the Scottish Government will continue to support all businesses that operate within this important sector, which is one of Scotland's key employers and drivers of the economy."

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