Arts groups forced to back government campaign on social media to secure vital funds

One recipient described government’s demand as ‘galling’

Kate Devlin
Whitehall Editor
Wednesday 14 October 2020 17:35
Oliver Dowden describes situation for workers on furlough 'challenging'

Cash-strapped arts organisations and businesses are required to publicise a government campaign in order to access much needed rescue grants.

The money is part of the Culture Recovery Fund announced earlier this year after ministers were accused of abandoning the sector.

But confidential documents, seen by The Independent, show organisations were told that in receiving the cash they had agreed to credit the fund and mention the government’s ‘Here for Culture’ campaign on social media.

One recipient lashed out at ministers, saying it was “somewhat galling to be forced to essentially thank the government for funds to bail us out of the situation they have put us into”.

The documents say “we require you to welcome this funding on your social media accounts (using #HereForCulture)”.

Arts groups were also told they would have to mention the grant on their website “using the Here For Culture logo”.

They would be sent “useful wording to help you with this work”.

The Here For Culture logo is branded “HM Government”.

As the first tranche of grants from the fund were announced earlier this week culture secretary Oliver Dowden said they showed that the government was “here for culture ... with this massive support package ensuring our cultural sector can bounce back and be there for future generations”.

Ministers announced more than £1.5bn in funding in July as anger mounted over the treatment of the arts, with many venues forced to remain closed even as much of society reopened.

A senior executive of one company which received money said: “Other sectors received appropriate funding before this, while we were left out to dry.

“The grant recipients have always been here for culture. It’s hard to believe a government that has left our freelance colleagues high and dry feels the same.”

He added that it was “odd that they insist we turn around this messaging immediately for their benefit – on the day of announcement – when we have been scrambling for an answer for months after the prospect of funding was announced in July.

“The funds won’t arrive for another three weeks, so this impetus certainly doesn’t sit well.”

Shadow Culture Secretary Jo Stevens said: “It's deeply insulting for arts organisations to be forced to promote a government campaign in this way. It's taken more than 100 days for the government to confirm recipients with the actual money not likely to arrive for several weeks yet. A government confident in itself would not make this a requirement."

Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrat culture spokesman, said: "Boris Johnson and his Government's handling of this crisis is becoming ever more shameful and shambolic."

Labour MP Kevin Brennan, a member of the Commons Culture select committee, said: “To require them to pay homage in this way is a bit of an insult.  

“There is something mildly sinister about it”.  

Mr Dowden said: “It is perfectly reasonable that organisations receiving money from the Culture Recovery Fund were asked to publicly accredit the government funding and alert local media.”

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