Open Letter from the West Midlands Culture Response Unit – Tier Three Restrictions

The West Midlands arts, culture and heritage sector, like so many in the hospitality, events and entertainment industries has been decimated by Covid 19 as we have previously highlighted.

We are grateful for the Government’s support through the £1.57bn Cultural Recovery Fund and there have been many successful applications in the region. DCMS advocacy as part of the #hereforculture campaign has also been well received.

Since March, the Cultural Sector has worked tirelessly to innovate with digital platforms and take its work to audiences in the open air or in their homes.  Since restrictions lifted we have transformed spaces and activities to make them Covid Secure and safe. Our communities have once again been enjoying live arts and cultural experiences in significant numbers with many shows sold out within a short time of bookings opening.  We are doing everything we can to support communities and those struggling in our sector, through collective activity, including our next regional collaboration. It Gets Lighter From Here.

We are pleased to see that indoor entertainment can continue in Tier 2, however need to voice our dismay at the increased restrictions in Tier 3 and the potential impact on the West Midlands’ arts and cultural sector and our communities.

While we understand and strongly support the need to protect our communities and the NHS from this awful virus, the impact of these restrictions on our communities and sector feels disproportionate, especially as there is no evidence of transmission in our sector.

There are hundreds of events and activities planned across the region all of which would be cancelled in Tier 3 areas. Feedback from 10 organisations who were able to respond today, would face cancelling 150 performances in December alone and a loss of 300,000 visitors to venues between now and March. This would have a huge impact on venues, staff and of course the freelance workforce that has been so badly affected.

Christmas is a time when families find joy in attending our spaces and events, for pantomime, light switch ons, lantern parades, Christmas concerts, family-friendly shows and experiences. These are an important part of family traditions and often provide the first introduction to the arts for children and add to the magic of the festive period. It is also, for some, the only time they might visit a theatre, gallery, museum or event.  What we offer is SAFE places for families to visit, visits that will help with the mental health and well-being of our communities and rescue the livelihoods of many in the sector.

We are also concerned about the uncertainty of the length of time an area can be placed in Tier 3, with the potential of some places to be covered by these restrictions until April 2021. How can our sector plan at all for the future on this basis?

We ask that you make these 3 representations

  • The lifting of restrictions in Tier 3 to allow our venues to open and events to take place if they can give assurance they are Covid Safe.
  • New timescales and clarity on the roadmap
  • Support for those previously excluded for financial support.

 

Erica Love,
on behalf of the West Midlands Culture Response Unit