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Manchester City Council launch £500,000 Cultural Hardship Fund for Freelancers

Updated: Feb 1

Manchester City Council have announced a new fund to support freelancers working in the city’s cultural and creative sector who are experiencing financial hardship as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.


The scheme has been created with funding from the Manchester-based charity the Savannah Wisdom Foundation and up to £500,000 will be available in grants of £1,500 to individual freelancers. HOME have been announced as industry partners for the fund and will be providing support to help freelancers check their eligibility and complete the application process. Applications can be made from 1 February at 9am via a dedicated webpage on the Manchester City Council website.


Announcing the fund, Councillor Luthfur Rahman OBE, Executive Member for Culture, Skills and Leisure at Manchester City Council explained freelancers are an integral part of the city’s cultural ecosystem. He 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.”


The need for a targeted fund reflects wider concerns that freelancers are at risk of slipping through gaps in existing COVID-19 financial support schemes, and is specifically aimed towards those who were ineligible for, or have been unsuccessful in applying for the Government Self Employment Income Support Scheme (SEISS).


This points to the question of whether a local partnerships approach might be the necessary response to address the current crisis in the freelance workforce faced by the cultural sector. Freelancers cannot access funds from the Government’s Cultural Recovery Fund (CRF) directly, and recent research published by Freelancers Make Theatre Work has found CRF money is not filtering down to freelancers from cultural organisations whilst live performances are restricted. In contrast, Creative Scotland and the Welsh Government both have dedicated funds set-up to support creative freelancers experiencing immediate financial hardship as a result of the pandemic.


There is clearly a strong case to be made for other cities with burgeoning creative economies - like Birmingham and Leeds, for example - to follow this lead and explore freelance support schemes in collaboration with charities and sector stakeholders.


In the meantime, Culture Commons are working with Excluded UK on a series of high-level regional panels to gather evidence on the impact exclusions from the Government’s financial support packages are having on the cultural and creative workforce. If you or your organisation would like to be involved, please email trevor@culturecommons.uk

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