• £500,000 fund will make grants of £1,500 to freelancers in creative & culture sector

A brand new hardship fund aimed specifically at freelancers who work in the creative and culture sector in Manchester and who have been adversely affected by Covid-19 has been announced.

Thanks to the generosity of Manchester based charity The Savannah Wisdom Foundation and B&M Retail PLC, from next week freelancers, including artists, will be able to apply for a one-off grant to help tide them over.

The Foundation has created a discretionary fund – the Cultural Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers – to support freelancers working in the creative and cultural sectors who are facing financial hardship as a result of the pandemic. It is making up to £500,000 available in grants of £1,500 to individual freelancers.

Applications for support from the fund are open to all Manchester residents who are usually employed in a freelance capacity in the creative and cultural sectors – including music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums, literature, creative industries, and heritage culture – and whose work contributes to direct creative or cultural outcomes. Greater Manchester residents who can show most of their work is normally in Manchester are also eligible to apply.

The grants are designed to assist those whose freelance work has been lost or disrupted because of Covid-19 and who are experiencing hardship because of reduced demand for, or capacity to deliver their services, or because the part of the sector they work in is temporarily unable to trade – which may be due to local or national lockdown measures, social distancing requirements, or loss of trade.

With the nation in yet another lockdown and venues still closed, the future remains uncertain for many cultural organisations and the freelancers who work with them.

Theatres, libraries, museums, and arts centres were amongst the first to have to close their doors to the public last March at the start of the pandemic – and for many who work in the sector this brought a stop to their income and livelihoods.

The Savannah Wisdom Foundation has asked Manchester City Council to administer the scheme on their behalf and to assist the application and decision-making process.

Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Executive Member for Culture, Skills and Leisure, Manchester City Council, said: “Our unrivalled arts and culture scene is what makes Manchester such a great vibrant place to be and is recognised the world over – each year helping bring thousands of visitors into the city.

“This scene would be nothing however and simply wouldn’t exist without the crucial community of skilled and talented individuals – usually freelancers – who make all the magic on stage and in cultural venues happen.

“Without them Manchester simply does not have a cultural offer. They’re the reason this valuable part of our local economy exists. They are a vital part of the supply chain of our culture sector, whether that’s music, theatre, dance, combined arts, visual arts, museums, literature, or other creative industries.

“It’s fantastic therefore to be able to announce – thanks to the amazing generosity of the Savannah Wisdom Foundation and B&M Retail PLC – this brand new cash help for freelancers in the cultural sector in Manchester who we know have been particularly badly hit by the pandemic financially.

“SWF and B&M are to be applauded – not just for recognising the part played by every freelancer who works in the sector, but also for showing through the fund they have set up exactly how much they care, and how they completely understand the impact the pandemic is having on them.

“Manchester’s arts and culture sector contribute massively to city life and to its economy and have an important part to play in the city’s recovery from the pandemic. We’re fully committed to continuing to do everything we can to support it now and in the future, and very much welcome this much-needed additional support for the army of freelancers here who are the very life-blood of the sector, and without which it just couldn’t function.”

The Cultural Sector Hardship Fund for Freelancers opens to applicants on Monday 1 February and grants will be awarded up to the point when the total amount available for the scheme has been allocated.

Additional support for the grant application scheme is also being provided by the city centre arts organisation HOME, whose staff will be providing a dedicated telephone helpline service for freelancers to get in touch with any questions they’ve got about the grant scheme or about the application process.

Jon Gilchrist, Executive Director at HOME, said: “Cultural organisations across the city have been working together to support all areas of the cultural sector devastated by this pandemic. Freelancers are without doubt the most affected with many slipping through gaps in funding schemes. With this further lockdown, we risk losing an entire generation of talented artists and creative practitioners if we don’t act now. Thanks to this incredible gift, some of the people at the greatest risk of financial hardship will get some additional support. HOME are proud to be the industry partners for this scheme, and will continue to work tirelessly in support of the artistic community in Manchester to ensure the cultural recovery in Manchester sees us bounce back better than ever.”

Applications will be processed on a first-come first-served basis and in order of receipt from the date the scheme opens up to the point at which all funds have been fully allocated.

Applicants will be asked to provide evidence of their professional work in the sector, including details of referees who can be contacted in support of their application.

All applications will be considered on an individual basis and payment of the grant will be at the absolute discretion of the charity.

Anyone who has any questions about the scheme or who needs support to complete the application form can contact the dedicated helpline:

HOME helpline number: 0161 523 0444 Monday – Friday 9am – 5pm HOME help email address: fundsupport@homemcr.org

Manchester City Council officers and staff at HOME are providing pro bono administrative support to the Fund.