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Culture and Recovery
Culture is uniquely positioned to support recovery across world cities
27.10.2020

Culture is positioned to support world cities as they recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. But culture still needs major support to realise this potential. The pandemic has been an existential shock and the impacts are set to stretch into the medium term.

The latest WCCF COVID-19 Policy and Impact Bulletin examines the role culture can play in recovery. Tying in with the WCCF Global Conversation on 29 October, including a panel featuring the Mayors of London, Buenos Aires , Stockholm and Warsaw, it is underpinned by a specially commissioned survey of the 40+ WCCF members.

The start of the pandemic saw emergency responses: helping cultural producers – organisations, artists and freelancers – to survive the sudden, severe impact. Now, the longer-term consequences are becoming clearer. Shifts in how we live our lives will severely affect demand for arts and culture even into the medium term. Cities and cultural organisations are working out how they can support the recovery from COVID-19. The bulletin looks at three overall strategies.

  • A more sustainable way of life. The pandemic is changing our relationship with our cities. We are focusing more on our own cities, neighbourhoods and homes. Culture can bring richness and vitality to this new way of living. With the fall in long-distance travel, Cities are looking to create a greener, more localist culture. The new sense of connectedness seen during lockdown has allowed organisations to redefine their community engagement. And developments like Helsinki’s Art Gifts app have seen arts organisations bringing productions into the neighbourhoods where people live.
  • A fairer, more resilient economy. The cultural sector is a $2 trillion industry employing 30 million people. But the pandemic has shown its institutions and workers are especially vulnerable. Plans to rebuild robust economies with secure jobs need to include the cultural sector. Freelancers, individual artists and micro-may not survive the down-turn without extra support, like that given by France’s Intermittant du Spectacle scheme. Resilience has been helped by new partnerships, including with wider social missions like health and education, but funding remains under severe pressure and new models are urgently needed.
  • New Digital Opportunities. COVID-19 has shifted the balance online in home-working, retail and cultural consumption. Cities need culture’s innovation and content creation to make a success of new digital opportunities in our economic, social and civic lives. But not all citizens have digital access, which must be addressed. Organisations moved online with amazing speed, finding new audiences and income streams. Cities created digital platforms for creatives, helping them transition to digital. And digital delivery is helping maintain international links while travel is limited. Buenos Aires’ Cultura en Casa online programme features guest content from other cities: Mexico, Barcelona, Montevideo and Bogota.

This will only be possible with a strong cultural sector working closely with host cities. Our survey shows partnerships have strengthened, but the impact on culture is huge and long lasting.

  • 70% of Cities have improved links with the cultural sector but, with city resources under huge pressure, 30% think funding will fall and only 21% think funding will be a priority.
  • 77% have major concerns over the bankruptcy and permanent closures of venues and organisations. 91% rated a negative or very negative impact on grassroots venues.
  • 91% rated a negative or very negative impact on artists, freelancers and small businesses.
  • 84% of world cities have major concerns about numbers of cultural tourists, with 75% rating a negative or very negative impact on cultural tourism in medium term.