In March 2020 Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) commissioned artists, musicians, writers and designers to create an archive of artistic responses to the coronavirus crisis, with songs, poems, illustrations, video games and more exploring and documenting the impact of the pandemic.
“These are unprecedented times; however, this extremely proactive step from our GMCA Culture Team provides both remuneration and focus for local talent to use their creativity, and build a unique cultural archive which will be made available online for everyone to enjoy in the future.” Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “This is a positive intervention designed to create a lasting legacy – one that demonstrates our appreciation of our local artists, creatives, composers and storytellers, and the vital role they will play in our civic recovery over the coming months and years.”
Sacha Lord, Night Time Economy Adviser for Greater Manchester, said: “We know what a hard time this has been for freelancers and the self-employed, across all sectors. We’ve been speaking to artists and creatives who have told us how many of their commissions and contracts have been cancelled, and we’re trying to help where we can. We hope these commissions keep our creatives creating and shine a light on the amazing talent we have in every district of Greater Manchester.”
Creative commission applicants were asked to provide information on previous work and a brief summary of the work they would like to create. Applications were reviewed by panel of independent industry experts, including Sacha Lord (WHP, Parklife), Thom Hetherington (Buy Art Fair, Manchester Contemporary), Rebecca Suarez (Rebbecca Never Becky), Claire Tymon (Future Everything), Erika Rushton (Islington Mill), Martyn Walsh (Inspiral Carpets), Jay Taylor (Night and Day), Neil McInroy (CLES) and Tom Besford (English Folk Expo).
The Greater Manchester Creative Commissions project is just one of a number of initiatives delveloped and delivered by the city-region’s Combined Authority to support the cultural and creative industries.
United We Stream – a live online music and performance platform which has streamed exciting and attention-grabbing programming for several weeks, entertaining residents self-isolating at home – has engaged millions of viewers across the globe and fundraised around £400,000 that will be shared among charities and people who work in the night-time economy, as well as the Greater Manchester Mayor’s Charity.
In another initiative, GMCA creative “care kits” are also being provided to young people who may be struggling with mental health during the pandemic. These 36 page booklets of activities and advice include a set of art materials that will help young people to explore their creativity and to express themselves.
Additionally, to support a sector hit hard by the financial impact of lockdown, at the start of the pandemic GMCA processed six-month advanced payments to the 35 organisations awarded grants as part of the £8.6m Greater Manchester Culture Fund for 2020/21.