Staying connected is more important than ever and over the last few weeks, we have been busy reaching out and listening to your challenges and ideas for your organisation and for the sector. Thank you to everyone who has attended the calls and responded to the survey ─ your feedback is vital for me to understand how you’re getting on and the issues you are facing. From hearing what the pressures are on your short and long term business plans to how you are engaging with audiences and confronting the challenges of social distancing head-on. Your collective effort and response in the face of this pandemic demonstrates why Hackney is known as the creative heart of London. 

Through online meetings, surveys, emails and phone calls with Hackney’s Cultural Development Team and Lead Councillors, the Council has an understanding about how you are managing and what the issues are for the future. I will be responding on behalf of the borough, to the Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee’s call for evidence about the state of the Arts & Cultural sector at this time and how the Government could help in mitigating this impact and will made sure in the next update we send you a copy

Deputy Mayor Cllr Bramble attended a lively and productive discussion with our cultural organisations from the Discover Young Hackney and Dalston Children’s Festival networks, which was organised by the Council’s Culture team in partnership with Voluntary Arts England. With over 50 participants, including local young people from the Hackney Young Futures Commission, we gathered insight into the challenges Covid-19 is presenting and how groups and young people are staying connected. To round off the call, we were honoured to have Chifa, a former Alter Ego winner, deliver a beautiful poetry performance which reminded us of the young talent our borough has and how important it is that it’s nurtured. 

The Culture Impact survey that you have responded to has been key in understanding the pressures of Covid-19. You’ve told us funds are crucial to survival and we have been in touch with the opportunities available, the updated list is at the end of this letter. In the months ahead as the lockdown lifts but social distancing requirements remain in force, you have described the implications this will have on your activities and keeping your creative organisations in business. The Council is committed to shaping and providing what support we can to help you through this extraordinary time. 

For those of you who run venues, we know there’s some apprehension about how and when you can reopen safely. With this in mind myself and Cabinet lead for Culture Cllr Guy Nicholson are hosting a Zoom session on Thursday 21 May 4pm-5pm to discuss challenges, new processes and innovations during and beyond lockdown as we look towards how a future exit and recovery from the crisis and the re-engagement with the borough’s cultural life can be facilitated. To register please contact Petra Roberts in the Cultural Development team (petra.roberts@hackney.gov.uk) and we will send you a link for the event.

I have been inspired and impressed to see how you have applied your creative talent to shift mediums creating unique digital spaces and experiences. These new experiences are now being promoted on Council-run social media channels following your response to our form for groups to submit events. If I may ask that you continue to use this resource, as well as your own channels, as it helps inform the Council so it can promote your work. 

The Council has also launched the new Hackney Spirit website as an additional portal to promote your work and programmes as well as connecting residents with inspirational activity from around the borough and beyond. 

Hackney Spirit is also home to the new Life Under Lockdown project which encourages everyone to submit what they’ve been creating during the lockdown. Life Under Lockdown aims to form a community archive describing our creative resilience and activities at this unprecedented and unique time. 

I am determined that my commitment to promoting culture and inclusivity in our community remains front and centre of how we tackle this pandemic. I want to ensure everyone in our communities is connected with and to experiences and the technology needed to ease isolation. Last week, the Council supported a pilot radio session with colleagues from Immediate Theatre and Connect Hackney to produce a radio led project which aims to find new ways to engage digitally excluded older people. 

Exciting plans are about to be announced on our award-winning Windrush Generations programme which this year will be brought online and features intergenerational photography, writing, film and singer-songwriter projects. The program has been curated thanks to sessions recently run with the Windrush community hosted by our Cultural Development Team alongside my Windrush lead, Cllr Carole Williams.

The Culture team have been working once again with Patrick Vernon OBE as well as Hackney’s Museum and Archive team who are busy curating a wealth of Hackney’s black history into this year’s Windrush programme. A crowning event will be the announcement of the permanent Windrush artwork to be commissioned for the Town Hall Square. Following public feedback and a thorough shortlisting process led by Dr Mark Sealy from Autograph Gallery, with individuals from arts organisation Create, the Council and the Genesis Foundation; the Council and the Genesis Foundation will announce the winning artist on the 22 June, National Windrush Day.

Also to be announced is the call for proposals for this year’s Discover Young Hackney programme. Organisations who provide a cultural offer for young people aged 13 to 19 can apply for funding awards towards a project. The objectives for Discover Young Hackney are to promote participation in and promote pathways into the cultural and creative industries and the fund has been set up with some flexibility that takes the lockdown and social distancing into account.

The last few weeks have also seen us busy preparing an exciting alternative to our famous Hackney Carnival. Thank you to all of our regular Carnival groups who have answered calls for submissions to help us curate a Carnival from home. We’ve started by commissioning 13 carnival groups who are now busy planning short films to be hosted online, and will follow this up with further films that reflect the extraordinary vibrancy and diversity of Hackney Carnival.

Our Library, Archives and Museum teams have been invaluable in keeping us connected. Thanks to investing in our Library, we’ve added more titles to our e-library which provides access to 1000s of e-books, audiobooks and worldwide magazines and newspapers. The Museum team has been working hard creating online workshops for young people using the fascinating artefacts we’re proud to have in our archives.

Staying in touch has never been more important and please do remember that you can use the Council’s dedicated Culture email address to get in touch with the Cultural Development Team at: culture@hackney.gov.uk 

The pandemic situation and its implications are still unfolding and we will make sure that you receive information from organisations and institutions, including the Council, Government and Arts Council England, as they release further support packages for the arts and cultural sectors. Please also take a moment to register and join the Hackney Business Network here to receive further updates from the Council and third parties as and when they come forward and help you connect with other businesses in the borough.

As promised earlier in my letter please find the list below which outlines some of the support currently available.

Best wishes and hope everyone is keeping well.

Philip Glanville

Mayor of Hackney

Resources/funds:

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