SEVENTEEN Wiltshire arts groups have had a £331,500 windfall from the Arts Council, which has invested £8.5 million of emergency funds in the South West.

The grants cover the first two elements of the Arts Council’s £160 million emergency support package to keep organisations and individuals afloat during the pandemic.

Announced in March, the emergency response package was designed to help alleviate the immediate pressures faced by artists, creative practitioners, arts organisations, museums, and libraries over summer.

Trowbridge Town Hall Arts Trust netted £35,000 and director David Lockwood said: “We are looking into how we might make use of films, music, visual arts and using the building in a different way.

“The challenge is making the physical space work, and we are also looking at how to use the outdoor space.”

Arts Together usually provides face-to-face activity with elderly and vulnerable people in Marlborough, Pewsey, Devizes, Bradford on Avon, Melksham and Trowbridge

Karolyne Fudge-Malik, of Arts Together, says the £15,000 grant it received is a life saver.

“The normal face to face group social interaction and communal arts activities are impossible so now we are in regular contact with everyone by phone, with weekly letters and regular art projects.

"This will keep our three part-time staff going for a bit and will also enable us to continue to send out arts materials.

“It will also help us with starting up again - we need to make sure our plans are safe for people, as we work with people who are not able to get out and about.”

She echoed concerns about funding with usual fundraising activities being hit by lockdown which will have a knock-on effect in next year’s finances.

“We raised £29,000 through grants and donations last year but that figure is zilch next year.”

Chippenham Folk Festival landed £13,000 and festival organiser Adam Courthold said: “We were really upset to have to postpone this year’s festival for a year.

“Everyone is an unpaid volunteer and they had worked for almost a year to get it ready, then just as we were within a few weeks of the festival we could not go ahead.

“Unfortunately, the effect of postponing the festival is that the festival faces two years of overheads to be covered from only one year’s income, so we are very grateful for the grant.

“This will help towards some of the running costs the festival faces in the short term."

"With this we can put on a great festival in 2021 and include many of the attractions provided at no charge to the wider public.

“The festival team is busy rearranging and planning the 2021 festival, and we hope to give local people something to look forward to when this is all over, in addition to supporting local businesses in the process by the crowds coming to the festival spending in the town.”

Theatre company, Folio Theatre got £14,208. It was formed in 2014 in order to make new work for small-scale and studio touring.

Artistic director Lizzie Stables, from Seend, said the money could be used to cover core costs.

“We are working out a new business plan which isn’t so reliant on the arts council and ticket sales. The grant will help us to keep operating while we adjust.

“We are looking at internet and other outlets - which is actually really exciting.”

Cricklade’s Revolution Performing Arts picked up £34,861 and Chippenham based 5x5x5=creativity, an independent arts-based action research organisation which supports children, got £25,000.

Bradford on Avon’s Obsidian Coast, a space for artistic and curatorial practice, got £4,844 and Wiltshire-based Neon Dance got £23,330.

Neon’s artistic director Adrienne Hart said: “We are extremely grateful to receive emergency funding which will help keep Neon Dance afloat and also enable the company to continue working with our paid ‘cultural connectors’ - young people aged 18 – 24.”

Phil Gibby, Area Director, Arts Council England, South West, said: “We’re proud to have turned this emergency funding programme around in such a short space of time, with the help from our partners in Government and from our team members working in their home offices.

“Arts Council has been able to award these grants at a critical time, to so many brilliant artists, creative practitioners and cultural organisations who suddenly found themselves in a difficult position due to Covid-19.

“The creative and cultural sector helps to generate the local economy, provides jobs, improves people’s wellbeing and helps us to make sense of the world.

“Like so many other sectors, it has never faced a challenge of this scale which is why we are pleased to make this funding announcement today, in the knowledge that this funding will not just keep the lights on but will also connect many people at this challenging time.”