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'A month of lockdown – how your voices have been heard'

by Clare Harris
Image: Just a sample of some of the SCAN members on our website

We are now a month into lockdown, and our new socially-distant lives look set to continue for some time to come. On Thursday Nicola Sturgeon revealed her Framework for Decision-making for Scotland – emphasising the huge uncertainty we face around the way that Covid-19 will continue to affect our lives, our work and our future.

The framework states that ‘we are likely to require that gathering in groups, for example in pubs or at public events, is banned or restricted for some time to come.’ Clearly, this has far-reaching implications for the visual arts and we continue to hear from our member organisations huge concerns around their medium to long-term future; and from individuals, how they can work and support themselves when physical spaces are closed.

Our spot survey on studios, for example, revealed a complicated picture for those who run as well as those who rent studios – affecting a broad cross-section of the visual art infrastructure. We’ve shared those results with funders and government and are currently looking at how to tackle the issues raised.

Talking to funders and government
All of the concerns you express to us, as members of SCAN and of the wider visual art community, we gather and feed back in regular meetings to Creative Scotland and members of the Scottish Government’s culture team. These have been taking place every week and allow us, along with other artform bodies, the chance to spell out what impacts you face.

We know that you are being heard. Earlier this week the Scottish Government announced a total of £100m in lifeline support for business and the self-employed, in an effort to address those who had ‘fallen through the cracks’ of measures put in place by the UK Government in March.

Of that fund, £35m will be fed through local authorities to go to the newly self-employed, who cannot access HMRC’s self-employed support grants; £20m is earmarked for the creative, tourism and hospitality sectors and £45m for vulnerable SMEs. Those funds will be open from the end of April, with funds being received early May.

At Creative Scotland, the Bridging Bursaries fund closed yesterday – the pot for which had been boosted by an extra £1m from Scottish Government, as well as £1m from the Freeland Foundation. SCAN worked with Scottish Artists Union and freelance artist/educator Adam Benmakhlouf to produce a short explanatory film about the Bridging Bursaries which we hope helped you prepare your application.

We know that there will still be many people who don’t meet criteria for support, so please get in touch if that is you.

Meeting with members
We’ve also had some busy member meetings. This week welcomed Creative Scotland’s Head of Visual Art Amanda Catto to discuss the new Open Fund and how it will help to support projects coming out of Covid-19.

Last week we held a special session with legal advice from Ben Doherty at Lindsays on the Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme – Lindsays are also providing direct advice over phone or email for SCAN members who employ staff, and this helpline is open until the end of June.

Next week in our member meetings, we’ll be looking at digital (more details to come). Stay in touch via our Facebook Group for summaries of the meetings and the chance to let us know what you want to be covered next.

Looking ahead
We know that the big concern is what happens next. Arts Professional reported yesterday that Arts Council England NPOs could face losses of up to £750m by January as a result of social distancing. Those who have successfully diversified into earned income say they are hardest hit. It’s fair to say those concerns are being echoed here.

We’re now looking more deeply at the financial impacts you are grappling with so that we can more clearly inform future advocacy. Our survey for the visual art sector opened on Tuesday and will remain open until later next week, so please do complete it if you haven’t already and share with your contacts too.

Ways to stay in touch
• Our [email protected] email is always available for concerns or issues you want to raise about the current situation.
• If you’re a SCAN member, our Facebook Group is now up and running to continue conversations raised in our member meetings, share your work and chat to peers.
• Our weekly Zoom meets are on Thursdays, at 11am for organisations and 2pm for individuals
• We’re always there for a DM on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and LinkedIn