Birmingham arts venues get funding boost

Culture Recovery Fund provides lifeline to enable events to take place.

Local arts venues have welcomed news of the second round of the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the country including Birmingham Museums Trust in the latest round of support from the Culture Recovery Fund.

One of the biggest beneficiaries was the Birmingham Museums Trust, which has received a grant of £820,841 to help ensure the independent charity has a sustainable future beyond the coronavirus pandemic.

The award will help offset the devastating financial impact of coronavirus closures which has cut off much of the Trust’s income. The financial support is vital in enabling the charity to continue to recover and the Trust can now focus on its plans for reopening Thinktank, Birmingham Science Museum.

Birmingham Museums is one of the largest independent museums trusts in the UK, providing a wide range of educational and enjoyable cultural experiences, events and activities to visitors at nine venues across the city while also caring for the city’s collection of around one million objects.

Speaking about the Culture Recovery Fund announcement Sara Wajid and Zak Mensah, Co-CEOs of Birmingham Museums Trust said: “Birmingham Museums Trust is delighted to secure this financial support from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It is a vital lifeline that will form part of our recovery, helping ensure that Birmingham Museums will be here, now and in the future.

“Birmingham Museums impact extends beyond the West Midlands region welcoming over a million visitors each year and reaching many more audiences through its digital, learning and community programmes. The coronavirus crisis has changed many things and raised many questions. What remains constant is Birmingham Museums’ mission to ensure everyone in the region has the opportunity to experience Birmingham’s world class collections regardless of age, background or financial means.

“While the challenges of the pandemic are not over, we can now begin to put plans into action for reopening Thinktank Science Museum and Birmingham Museums’ historic properties.”

The Edwardian-built Sutton Coldfield Town Hall has received a grant of £34,400 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to help the organisation recover and reopen. The venue, which is currently being used as a vaccination centre for the NHS, will now be able to recommence planning of its 2021/22 shows and room hire.

The staging of December pantomime Cinderella had been in jeopardy with not enough reserves to support the production of the show, which is key to the venue’s financial sustainability. As a result of the grant, the Trust can return more staff to work, enabling the venue to market its autumn programme, which starts in September with the sell-out Gary Powndland comedy show.

The Town Hall’s Managing Director, Julie Rennison, said: “This funding is crucial to our recovery, as it takes months behind the scenes to plan and market our programme – particularly the pantomime. With this support, and with confidence in a return to full houses once vaccinations are complete, we have a much better chance of a successful relaunch in the autumn and a welcome return of our traditional Christmas shows.”

Also receiving funding will be the Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival, which will now be able to press ahead in organising its July 2021 edition after being awarded £25,033. This funding will enable the Festival to continue programming artists for what will be the 37th staging of this internationally-known event from 16th-25th July this year.

Originally the Birmingham Jazz Festival, the festival was founded in 1985 and since then has provided ten days of the best of jazz every July. As well as highlighting the talents of fine local and nationally known musicians, the festival has hosted jazz stars of the magnitude of Miles Davis and the Count Basie Orchestra and been highly successful in discovering young talent from Europe and introducing many bands and musicians to the British public. As a festival of largely free events in a wide variety of settings, many informal, it has a unique reputation for involving the community.

In 2020, inevitably, the July dates had to be postponed, to be replaced by a Virtual Jazz Festival at the same time and a much smaller live Festival of approximately thirty events on October 16th-25th. The festival’s sister-company, Big Bear Music, has found income from agency and promotion work practically non-existent, endangering the future of the festival.

Founder and Director of the Birmingham Sandwell and Westside Jazz Festival Jim Simpson said: “This award by the Culture and Recovery Fund is literally a life-saver. With the lack of income owing to the virus it was difficult to be optimistic about the future of a festival that means so much to the community. Thanks to the generous and far-sighted action of the Culture Recovery Fund there will be a Birmingham, Sandwell & Westside Jazz Festival in July 2021.”