A new £1.5 million  arts and cultural is being set up to support Essex’s arts and cultural organisations over five years.

The Essex County Council fund would help support festivals, exhibitions, cultural projects as well as helping communities recover hard hit by the Covid pandemic.

Of the total £1.549 million, £1 million will be available to organisations directly, with £549,000 to provide internal county council resources to support the arts.

The county council says the Arts and Cultural Fund, which will offer awards of between £2,500 and £30,000 to artists, organisations and groups who submit applications for funding, will help the “crucial arts and cultural sector” recover from the impact of Covid-19.

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A statement for sign-off by Cllr Chris Whitbread, cabinet member for finance, resources and corporate affairs and Cllr Graham Butland, cabinet member for devolution, the arts, heritage and culture said: “In Essex, this crucial arts and cultural sector is in need of support, not only to consolidate and recover, but to deliver the vital work it undertakes in our communities, enriching and enlivening our public spaces, economies and resident’s quality of life.

“To address these issues it is proposed to establish a fund to be called the Arts and Cultural Fund which will offer awards of £2,500 to £30,000 to artists, organisations and groups who submit applications for funding and who are successful in their bid.”

Examples of who is eligible to apply include individual artists or artistic co-operatives, community groups, charities or trusts and community interest companies.

The county council says the fund will support a “more robust and confident cultural sector in Essex, with support ranging from individual artists to established cultural organisations” and will be followed with greater cultural funding attracted into Essex.

Council leader Cllr Kevin Bentley told the council last Tuesday (December 7): “Arts bodies do a most amazing amount of work, most of it is unseen. Mostly it’s not just about exhibitions and theatre productions.

“Although they are great and we are blessed in this county of Essex with such a great arts diversity community and sector, it’s also making sure that the work that they do, which is helping younger people, older people into apprenticeships, into making sure that they are looked after and cared for, can continue.

“And there are much smaller organisations as well that do equal amounts of work in the community, which are unseen.

“This is hugely important to us as administration – that art contributes more to our society than we can necessarily see or hear.

“Therefore it is important that we try and support these organisations to help us as an organisations , as well to help our community in general.

“So I want to support and encourage that in some of our smallest cultural organizations with as much help us as we possibly can.

“So therefore under the leadership of my colleague Cllr Graham Butland and assisted hugely by Cllr Mark Durham as well in January we will launch the arts and cultural fund which will unlock £1 million of funding over next five years to support Essex cultural sectors."