Venues and arts organisations in Stoke-on-Trent and Newcastle-under-Lyme are breathing a sigh of relief after receiving a share of the Government’s £1.5bn Cultural Recovery Fund.

Article By Jamie Summerfield

The first wave of funding – totalling £257 million –  released on Monday 12 October, will help venues and cultural spaces to weather the storm of the pandemic. Over 1,300 arts and cultural organisations across England have received support through the fund.

One of them is live music venue The Sugarmill, which has been awarded £240,000. Head promoter at the Hanley venue, Danni Brownsill, says the venue can now kick on with plans to hopefully re-open this year.

“It’s been a devastating six months,” she said. “There’s a real community around The Sugarmill and the closure has had an impact on everyone. It’s been hard. We’re relieved to get the funding and, all being well, to start putting Covid-safe gigs on soon. There’s a lot of work to do at the venue to make everything Covid-secure, but now we’ve got the funding, we’re secure financially until April and can start to plan the re-opening.”

Danni’s also a regional co-ordinator for the Music Venue Trust, the charity that’s been fighting hard for months to press for funding for grassroots music venues. She’s helped 35 other venues across the West Midlands with their funding bids and believes the Potteries music scene can bounce back from the pandemic.

“People are desperate to be entertained,” she said. “Before Covid hit, the scene was on the up. Ticket sales at The Sugarmill were higher than they’d been since the 2008 financial crash, and we have lots of cool bands coming through in the city.”

Hanley’s The Underground venue – another key part of the city’s music scene – will find out on Friday 16 October if its bid in the second round of funding has been successful.

New Vic Theatre. Image: David Hughes

The New Vic Theatre – which has recently opened its revamped auditorium to audiences – meanwhile, has been awarded £248,000 in the first round. Managing Director Fiona Wallace said: “This funding is vital in ensuring that theatres are able to deliver cultural, economic, health and education benefits that will help the country recover. For the New Vic, this funding will make a big difference across our theatre-making and our education and community work, and will help support us to continue to engage with local people through our activities at a time when people need it most. Culture and the arts have always played an important role for communities in North Staffordshire and Stoke-on-Trent but will be needed more than ever as we cope with the health and well-being impacts of Covid-19.”

Elsewhere in Stoke and Newcastle, Creative arts organisation B Arts gets £80,000, as does The Clay Foundation. Mitchell Memorial Youth Arts has been awarded £78,000, and live entertainment production agency Valcato will receive £65,000.

The funding was distributed on behalf of the Government by Arts Council England. Sir Nicholas Serota, Arts Council England chair, said: “Theatres, museums, galleries, dance companies and music venues bring joy to people and life to our cities, towns and villages. This is a difficult time for us all, but this first round of funding from the Culture Recovery Fund will help sustain hundreds of cultural
spaces and organisations that are loved and admired by local communities and international audiences.”

The first round of funding was for grants below £1 million. Further funding announcements are set to be made shortly.

(Main image band Working Men’s Club at the Sugarmill February 2020.)

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