County council promises arts boost for Essex

Firstsite, Colchester. Photograph by Jayne Lloyd.

Firstsite in Colchester contributes to Essex's "diverse" arts and culture scene, says Cllr Graham Butland - Credit: Jayne Lloyd

Arts organisations across the county are set for a "significant" funding boost from Essex County Council.

The authority said the Arts and Cultural Recovery Fund, set to be launched this month, will support and enable Essex's vibrant cultural sector to recover from and develop after the Covid-19 pandemic.

The fund will provide financial support to organisations in the form of a grant which will be awarded to arts organisations "to support programmes of artistic and cultural work".

Councillor Graham Butland, who is responsible for arts, heritage and culture at Essex County Council, said he could not reveal the exact amount being proposed by the council but described the fund as "significant".

Cllr Butland said: "This is not just about handing out money.

"The point we recognise in the county council is the huge input that arts can make to the wellbeing of communities generally."

Cllr Butland said the "diverse" nature of the arts scene in Essex can be seen in larger organisations such as Firstsite - a Colchester-based museum featuring historic, modern and contemporary artefacts which was named Arts Fund Museum of the Year 2021 - and The Mercury Museum.

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These feature alongside smaller organisations such as the new museum in Harwich and the Maldon Museum of Power.

Cllr Butland stressed that the money would provide more than support to those who have been badly hit.

He said: "I do recognise the huge contribution arts and culture can make and when we are making allocation of funds, what I will be interested in is 'what is that going to do for your local community?'

"To be honest, many of them are well on the way to developing that already.

"We are there to support and we can be a very powerful link with the Arts Council."

Arts Council England was founded in 1946 by Royal Charter to help develop art and culture throughout the country.

Cllr Butland said: "The arts is something which 'left the stage' at the county council a few years ago.

"We want to get back in there."

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