The last eight months have been a rollercoaster to say the least. Of course, there have been moments of immense sadness and anxiety but these have been countered with sparks of light and joy. Working with artists on exciting ideas and projects, hearing from our audiences, opening the doors and beginning to present events again have all made the hard times much more bearable. But even when exciting things were happening, the staff, board and I have all lived with the same gremlin on our shoulders – the fear of keeping The Spring going, making it sustainable and surviving an unprecedented crisis for our organisation and the wider arts ecology in which we work.
Today, I am delighted to say, my gremlin is having a rest, thanks to the news we have received from Arts Council England: we are one of the organisations in receipt of a Culture Recovery Grant. These grants are part of the £1.57 billion made available by the government to protect the UK’s culture sector from the economic impacts of Covid 19. In particular, the fund we applied for was to enable significant cultural organisations in England to survive the crisis. We have been awarded £94,000. This is a huge amount of money, which changes the way we are able to operate for the rest of the financial year.
In recent years, The Spring has gone from strength to strength and we have been very proud of what we have achieved. The onset of the coronavirus crisis, which saw us close our doors for six months and lose nearly half our income, put a lot of the progress we have made at risk. We’ve taken some big steps to help secure the future. Our staff agreed to take pay cuts, we have refocussed some internal capacity on fundraising, and we’ve frozen recruitment on some really important roles. We always knew this wasn’t going to be enough.
We made it through the first six months of the year thanks to the support of our audiences and funders and a special Emergency Grant from Arts Council England. The second half of the year, without a furlough scheme to rely on and operating at a fraction of our usual capacity, is when we knew things were going to get even tougher. I am delighted to say that thanks to this funding that picture has changed. We can now rest assured that we will make it through the rest of this financial year. Instead of worrying about how to pay each bill, we can focus on investing in our work and the artists who make it possible and we can increase our staffing capacity to make sure we deliver our plans effectively. It is a huge relief!
Within our grant we have allocated some funds for particular projects which we think are important and which would not be possible without this funding. They include a new Artist in Residence Scheme. We’re not releasing details of this quite yet, but we have a plan which sets us apart from every other cultural organisation in the country and will – we hope – improve everyone’s experience of The Spring and take our work into the community like never before. We will use some of the funding to deliver a special free Christmas celebration. We know that Christmas might feel a bit strange this year and, although we have a festive programme in our theatre, we want to do something the whole community can enjoy safely. We are delighted that our grant includes some additional support of Music Fusion, the youth music charity based in our museum. Music Fusion are an important part of our community and the work they do is vital in supporting young people in Havant experiencing challenging life circumstances. For our theatre audiences, the funding will mean we can continue to deliver live events and films as the pandemic continues. Those of you who have been to an event since we reopened will know that social distancing means we can fit just 36 people into the theatre for performances, which means the ticket income does not cover the event costs. Now we will be able to be more flexible with the things that take place and can continue to welcome audiences in for a wide range of activities. The same applies for workshops, almost all of which can continue now even if ticket sales don’t cover the fees of our professional tutors. Our museum can remain open and we can continue to care appropriately for our collection, our planned exhibitions can go ahead and for those people not yet comfortable with coming into a building we can continue to deliver activities online. In short, we can deliver our work and be here for our community in a way which has not been guaranteed since February.
£94,000 is a huge amount of money and will change the way we can operate for the rest of the year. Even though my gremlin is having a rest today, it is not, however, over. We don’t know what the future holds, if there will be another local or national lockdown and when we can resume our activities at a more usual level and capacity. This means that your support continues to be important and our Revitalising The Spring campaign will continue until the end of December. Every single penny raised at any time comes straight back into the organisation and just because I’m breathing a sigh of relief now, there are more financial challenges to come in the next few years. So, please continue to support us via donations, popping in for a coffee or taking part in our activities. We are your arts centre and museum and we plan to be here for a long time to come. Today, thanks to Arts Council and the DCMS, along with our community who have kept us going to this point, that looks more possible.