What Next? Updated Coronavirus resource pack: 18/03/20

18 March 2020

News & Campaigns

Dear All,

Please find this week’s updated What Next? Coronavirus resource pack What Next Coronavirus paper 180320

This is a dossier of information that we will aim to update and send out every Wednesday as the situation unfolds.

Do feel free to share widely with anyone who might find it useful.

Do let us know if you want to include anything or have a question you need us to ask on your behalf.

Key updates this week include:

  1. New government advice on social distancing and mass gatherings that affects arts and cultural organisations
  2. New government pledge for financial support
  3. Updated advice and guidance from key funders
  4. What Next? submits key questions for the Secretary of State
  5. New opportunities for colleagues to connect through Voluntary Arts #CreativeNetwork


More on 4:

On 17th March a large number of arts and cultural leaders participated in a phone call with the Rt Hon Oliver Dowden, Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport. What Next? was invited to join and to submit questions in writing first. DCMS are working with us to find answers to them. Using information sent through last week by What Next? colleagues, we submitted the following:

  • We need government to urgently and officially call for the closure of cultural and arts organisations. The current advice recommends that people stop attending, and this has wide-reaching implications for insurance payments and for negotiation with contractors. The period of closure announced should be as defined as possible (with understanding that it may change as the situation develops).
  • Cashflow is the major issue for our arts and cultural organisations. We are calling for urgent assistance from government in the form of interest free loans, immediate business rate relief, a VAT holiday, and/or an extended period of forbearance with pre-existing creditors . We need immediate and substantial provision of funds to organisations/businesses to replace lost income – as per the quantitative easing that enabled banks to survive in 2008. These organisations are the backbone of the sector and support the livelihoods of many freelancers and microbusinesses – as well as day and night-time economies. It is essential that they survive. Theatre is a thriving business and we will be so again – but this pause could be catastrophic without immediate and simple financial help. We are also calling on government to extend the ticket refund period from 14 days to 6 months to help with cashflow.
  • Many disabled artists have health conditions that mean they now need to self-isolate for months. We are calling on government to guarantee a basic income to these vulnerable colleagues now to reduce stress and anxiety which is making their medical conditions worse.
  • We are calling for the DCMS to co-ordinate planning and discussions with the MHCLG, to ensure that Local Authorities are supported to help protect the local cultural infrastructure and the local businesses that make up the cultural economy – through co-ordination of a local response and through rate-relief.
  • We are calling on government to support casual staff and those on zero hours contracts with a defined package: many organisations are choosing to honour existing rotas and contracts but will not be able to pay these indefinitely for services that are not being used, some organisations are not able to pay these staff at all. We understand that Universal Credit will take five weeks to process and so these individuals are in specific jeopardy now.
  • We are seeing a significant rise in anxiety and mental health crises, exacerbated by the precarity of many of the jobs in our sector. Large commercial organisations are already offering increased well-being schemes and access to mental health professionals for all their staff. We are calling on the government to invest in mental health support for the sector which is free at the point of access.
  • Many small and medium-sized organisations are making significant HR decisions without specialist knowledge or without taking legal advice. Although many membership organisations and unions are able to offer some support, this is restricted to those who are paid members, and the resource is finite. We urgently need a more universal offer of HR and legal advice.
  • Many organisations rely on volunteers to deliver their work. We are calling on the government to include volunteers in any package of support for the workforce.
  • We are calling for more clarity for arts and cultural organisations that provide youth and community and other statutory services. Many are unclear as to whether they should remain open to deliver key services to vulnerable individuals.
  • As this situation develops we envisage that there will be considerable strain placed upon our digital infrastructure and capacity as many organisations will be turning to platforms like Whatsapp, Zoom and Skype to fulfil their core business functions. We are calling for access to dedicated free/ subsidised streaming data for cultural institutions for this period.
  • We are calling on government to make a strong commitment to a post-crisis stimulus package as soon as it can. This will help organisations to plan effectively and to reschedule cancelled and postponed work.

More on 5


This week there are a lot of people feeling isolated, working from home, with events and meetings being cancelled, who might welcome the chance to speak to someone else at this difficult and worrying time. Voluntary Arts has nearly 30 years experience of remote working, working at home and supporting a distributed network of staff, freelancers and volunteers.

On Tuesday 17 March, Voluntary Arts launched #CreativeNetwork – a daily online get-together open to anyone involved in arts, culture and creativity who would welcome the opportunity to talk to others about dealing with the current situation, the challenges of working from home and what we can do together to make the most of difficult circumstances.

Join us Monday – Friday from 9:30–10:30 am for the #CreativeNetwork online gathering: https://voluntaryarts.org/creativenetwork