The report and appendix are attached.
Ayub Khan (Service Manager, Universal Services) introduced the report, stating that the Heritage and Culture Strategy had been launched prior to the outbreak of coronavirus in 2020. The Strategy had made considerable progress despite the limitations imposed by the Pandemic.
Ayub Khan reported that efforts had been made to signpost organisations to funding opportunities, including the Culture Recovery Fund. He stated that the Heritage and Culture sector had been severely impacted by COVID-19 with widespread loss of revenue.
Emma Andrews (Development and Operations Manager, Heritage & Culture) reported that a sector-wide survey had been undertaken to gauge the impact of the Pandemic. There was an awareness that medium-sized organisations had needed to furlough staff, and that a reduction in the availability of volunteers had detrimentally affected smaller organisations. The survey sought a view on how support could be most effectively orientated.
Emma Andrews stated that the findings of the survey suggested that funding was not a primary concern; many organisations had acted promptly to access government funding. It was considered that marketing and peer-to-peer support were required to attract people back to cultural events once the risk of transmission of the virus had subsided. For instance, people might be reluctant to return to an enclosed space, such as a theatre.
Ayub Khan advised that the report outlined priorities for post-pandemic recovery which were linked to the Authority’s COVID-19 Recovery Plan. Work in partnership with Coventry City of Culture 2021 and Birmingham Commonwealth Games was on-going to ensure that the opportunities to capitalise on these high-profile events would not be overlooked.
Councillor Falp stated that marketing constituted a key challenge; intervention would be required to encourage people to return to spaces such as theatres. She advocated that specialist support for marketing be provided.
In response to Councillor Boad, Ayub Khan advised that work with schools and young people had not been overlooked. With support from the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Warwickshire Education Partnership would enable children to access cultural activities.
Councillor Jenns stated that a high proportion of volunteers were of retirement age and may be reluctant to return to the organisations they had previously supported. He highlighted the importance of the Strategy and the measures outlined to support valuable assets within the County.
Councillor Gilbert stated that he was confident that the Heritage and Culture sector would make a strong recovery. He emphasised that consistent messaging would reinforce a confident outlook. He commented that there was a need for theatres to work together, rather than compete for audiences, and to ensure that their initial productions were of high quality in order to attract visitors.
That the Committee:
a) Notes the contents of the Progress Report;
b) Supports the direction of travel as set out in the report;
c) Supports the proposals outlined for provision of specialist marketing advice to organisations to promote a strong post-pandemic recovery; and
d) Supports proposals for engagement with schools and young people to provide opportunities for engagement in cultural activities emerging from the Pandemic.