Government arts funding process discriminates, claims Music Venue Trust

The application process for the latest round of the Government support scheme for the arts “discriminates” against parents and carers and “favours” larger organisations, the Music Venue Trust (MVT) has claimed.

Some £300 million is due to be distributed as part of the third and final round of the culture recovery fund, announced last year in response to the pandemic.

The MVT criticised the timing of the 11-day application window, which coincides with the school summer holidays, in a statement released on Friday.

Applications for funding opened on Monday August 16 and are due to close on Friday August 27.

Culture Recovery Fund
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden during a visit to the Design Museum in London (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

It said: “Culture recovery fund round three is a £300 million investment intended to support cultural organisations and businesses to survive through the crisis and ensure that previous investment in rounds one and two is not wasted.

“Regrettably, this will not be achieved by the current application timeline, which discriminates against parents and carers and favours larger organisations.

“The Government has insisted upon an application window for culture recovery fund round three which is a time-limited, very short period entirely contained within school summer holidays.

“This issue is compounded by a complex application which requires input from multiple members of staff and outside agencies, plus comprehensive financial documents which will need to be freshly created for this purpose.”

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The MVT said it had “repeatedly” raised the issue with figures and bodies including Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and Arts Council England (ACE), which has helped to distribute the funding.

“Inadequate notice of this application window was provided for parents and carers to make alternative plans, to change planned caring arrangements, or arrange childcare,” it continued.

“The Government is fully aware of this challenge but has declined to respond to requests to provide an extension for those affected.”

The application window should be extended through to September 10 for parents and carers, the group added.

A Government source said: “MVT keep changing their tune, for months they’ve been saying speed is of the essence and now they are saying ACE are moving too fast in getting grants out to those that need them.”

A DCMS spokeswoman said in a statement: “This round of the culture recovery fund is designed to provide urgent support as quickly as possible to help ensure arts organisations survive.

“Detailed guidance for applications has been available since the beginning of August.

“The timeline for applications is similar to previous rounds, including one providing emergency support for music venues which MVT asked us to open during the last summer holiday period.

“Organisations who are facing genuinely exceptional circumstances should get in touch with the Arts Council and explore what flexibility is possible. Other funding streams are open until the end of September.”

The fund has already distributed £1.2 billion to more than 5,000 organisations in England.

The MVT charity was created in January 2014 to protect and improve the UK live music network by securing the long-term future of its grassroots music venues.

During the pandemic it has campaigned for Government support and identified venues at risk of closure.