Freelancers working in the cultural and creative sectors in Wales are now able to apply for their share of a £7 million fund – which is targeted specifically at those in the freelance sector hit hardest by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
The fund opens today at 10:00 and will run over two phases. Individuals can apply for a £2,500 grant, for further details visit the Business Wales website.
The fund will be open to freelancers in the sub sectors of arts, creative industries, arts and heritage events, culture and heritage, whose work has direct creative/cultural outcomes.
Deputy Minister for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Lord Elis-Thomas, said:
“The freelance sector is such an important part of the Welsh economy – with a significant number of freelancers working in the cultural and creative sectors. I’m delighted that we’re able to provide support - to sustain our freelancers during this difficult period and acknowledge the contribution made by these individuals to the economy, our communities and the cultural and creative sectors in Wales.
In further support of the freelance sector, the Welsh Government is working on a freelancer pledge, which is a first for the UK. In developing recovery plans and aspirations, the freelancer pledge reaffirms Wales' commitment to involving the creative sector in building back better.
The Well-being of Future Generations Act requires public bodies in Wales to contribute towards a vibrant culture and thriving Welsh language as well as think about the long-term impact of their decisions, to work better with people, communities and each other. The freelancer pledge presents an opportunity for creative freelancers and public services to forge a partnership to achieve this and for freelancers to use their skills to bring creativity and imagination to all areas of public life.
Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, Sophie Howe, called for support for creative freelancers in the summer. She said the fund could form the basis of future schemes where the government provides a safety net on incomes with an option for individuals to participate in work within the community. She said:
"This is a big opportunity for culture to play a large role in Wales’ Covid recovery. The optional pledge to work with public services will allow creatives to help build art and culture into everything from hospitals to town centres, improving the way we all live. This is hopefully the start of us moving towards a system where much more value is placed on culture and creativity - better supporting those who do that vital work.
The partnership work could include co-creating solutions with the community, contributing to local development plans, re-designing town and city centres or bringing new approaches to capital projects. This could be in all areas such as culture through to health or sustainable development and the built environment etc.
The detail of the freelancer pledge will be designed over coming months in partnership with the freelancer community and unions. The pledge will be a voluntary element of the support, and will not be a condition of grant. Support and training will be available to freelancers who wish to participate. Any work conducted as part of the pledge will be remunerated.
Melin Edomwonyi runs and hosts Creative Mornings, Cardiff.
“Freelancers are used to experiencing highs and lows, but 2020 has been a year like no other.
We’re now six months into lockdown and I see a community, while doing its best to adapt and be positive, under enormous pressure.
Being a self-employed creative has many pros, but it also comes with risks, and the pandemic has shone a light on the difficulties faced by freelancers who aren’t entitled to benefits that employed people receive, such as sick pay.
CreativeMornings Cardiff is a free monthly breakfast lecture series for ‘creative types’ - many of whom make their living in the creative industries.
We usually host our events in interesting local venues, which can be places for creatives to work, hold meetings and collaborate. We’ve moved online for now.
While that’s great, I miss seeing everyone’s faces, enjoying a coffee together, hugging, high fiving.
Freelancers often rely on collaborating with others, and many of those physical connections haven’t been able to happen.
Some of our members haven’t been paid for six months, or longer.
Many lost work right at the beginning of lockdown and haven’t been able to work since.
For many companies, freelancers were the first to go. Many of our members received emails or phone calls telling them they no longer had work for them and wouldn’t for the foreseeable future. Budgets have been reined in, projects cancelled, contracts lost and rates cut and it’s taken an emotional and mental toll.
In the past, it might be easier to roll with the punches, you can always use your talent to land a lucrative gig, but what if the gigs aren’t there right now? That’s scary.
But I’m proud of the freelance community now more than ever.
In the face of extreme challenges, I’ve seen people show more resilience, adapting, pivoting and of course finding creative ways to keep afloat, helping others and their communities.
Many freelancers offered their services for free, supported community initiatives, found time to give practical help to causes close to their hearts.
Creatives have so much to offer, they bring passion, contacts, new ways of thinking, creative problem solving.
Many creatives, like the rest of the population, are feeling depleted after months of stress and uncertainty. It can be hard to find the energy to create fresh ideas when you don’t know how you’re going to pay your rent.
Creativity is vital and it needs space, it needs opportunity and it needs courage.
Financial support at this crucial time could be a lifeline for so many people to continue doing the brilliant work that enriches all of our lives.