Culture is not a luxury, but a social necessity and a way to recover the economy


Cultural and creative industries are experiencing a huge loss in revenue in the spring of 2020. Due to the preventive measures against the coronavirus epidemic, they are unable to organize cultural events and musicians or theater actors cannot do their job. People who work in bars and restaurants, technical services or cleaning services don’t have it any easier.

Around the world, artists and creative associations are networking to map the true dimension of these constraints. Together they want to ask for help. In Slovakia, the impact of these measures is being investigated by the Stojíme pri kultúre initiative (loosely translated: Together for Culture). You can fill in their questionnaire until April 10, 2020 (recommended for Slovak reader). The European Creative Business Network, which we are a member of, is also interested in the impact this crisis has on creative people. You can fill it out here (recommended internationally).

Government measures across Europe

Governments around the world are looking for ways to help sectors which had to completely stop functioning for the sake of public health and find themselves at the edge of survival.

Arts Council England has created a new rescue package worth £160 million, equivalent of €180 million, for artists and cultural organizations who have experienced loss of income These funds will be also used to support self-employed workers, i.e. filmmakers or musicians who have lost their source of income. Due to the fact that artists are currently unable to realize their projects for which they have received funding through grant schemes, until 2021 the arts fund in Britain will be temporarily restructured to support their livelihood.

A similar fund has been set up in France which allocates specific amounts to various cultural spheres, such as €10 million for the music industry or €5 million for theaters. However, these funds were only provided in the first round of government aid – 18 March 2020. The impact is expected to be much greater. 

In Germany, the financial aid provided by the government is up to €50 billion. The package will be divided also between organizations and individuals and it envisages the restructuralization of existing funds due to the impossibility to carry out planned events. The German Minister of Culture became famous for saying this: “We will not leave anyone behind.” She is convinced that culture is not a luxury, but a social necessity, and a quick way to recover the economy.

So far, Sweden has announced a package of €50 million. In the current situation, however, it is difficult to determine how much funding is adequate to support the cultural community.

Countries are considering the impacts of the pandemic and they are creating processes to respond as accurately as possible. In the meantime, however, many people are losing their only source of income.

Part of the published draft measures in European countries is meant to prevent companies that have no income from laying off their employees. In this way, the government will reimburse 70% of their income in Estonia or 80% in the United Kingdom, for example. In culture and creative industries, however, people are often self-employed. In this case, some countries have proposed to amend legislation so that self-employed persons could be eligible for unemployment benefits (Finland), but there is also a possibility to support them with monthly payments. In Malta, for example, it is €800 per month for the duration of the occupational obstacles and in the United Kingdom £1200, which is approximately €1340. In order to improve their solvency, some countries provide special loans to them to overcome the crisis, introduce tax exemptions, exemptions from social security payments, and others.

Community support

Throughout the world it is possible to follow initiatives, such as I lost my Gig, where individuals can sign up and ask the public to pre-subscribe to their services. Under this, you can imagine a future concert or theater performance. At the same time, funds are being created to support artists and creative centers from the bottom-up, possibly out of solidarity of other freelancers who have not yet lost their income.

Around the world, cultural institutions are becoming centers of help during a pandemic. Theaters with volunteers are sewing face masks to cover for the shortages in the medical sector. Creatives are creating open-source tutorials and technologies for design solutions that can be applied around the world. Volunteers are taking care of the elderly. It is this power within the cultural sphere that is intrinsic for the future functioning of the society.

Adaptive measures

Every day, there are many new sources of information that guide you through the “new world” of culture and creativity. On these sites, it is possible to watch the most reliable online transmissions of events which have decided to transform, offer information on legal aid, and consult economic issues. They are often non-hierarchical, crowdsourcing platforms which collect knowledge from different people around the world. They enable everyone to take part in technological innovations, share good practices in telecommunications and they give you a unique sense of belonging in times of crisis.

Want to get inspired? Visit these websites:

Information sharing, mutual assistance and support show the strength and resilience of people. However, the financial aid from the government is a fundamental step that needs to be taken in order to guarantee a dignified survival of the cultural sphere during this time.

Text: Zuzana Révészová
Cover: Adam Centko