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Recovery funding for culture in County Durham

Published October 14, 2020 10.56am

A music education service and some of County Durham's most popular arts venues have been awarded more than £800,000 to help sustain their future.

Culture funding DMS

Durham Music Service provided online sessions for children during the pandemic

Durham Music Service (DMS) has received £572,956 from the Government's £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, which aims to provide critical financial support to help cultural and creative organisations to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

DMS, which is partly funded by the council, Darlington Borough Council and Arts Council England, will use the funding to continue to deliver high quality music education in County Durham and Darlington.

In addition to this, we have been awarded £249,500 to support our arts venues, including Gala Durham, Bishop Auckland Town Hall and Consett Empire.


Investing in our arts venues

All three of these venues closed to visitors in March, as a result of Government restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. A new café at Bishop Auckland Town Hall has since opened with covid-secure measures in place, but the remainder of the venue, along with the Gala and Empire will remain closed until at least the New Year. During this period, the refurbishment of Bishop Auckland Town Hall and the Empire has been completed and scheduled improvements to the Gala have been brought forward to ensure the best and safest possible experience for theatregoers when the venue reopens.

The Culture Recovery Fund grant, which is being delivered by Arts Council England, will allow us to build upon this work and secure and reposition the future of our arts venues in the wake of the pandemic. This includes work on business development, programming, marketing and attracting new audiences.

Boost for culture

The council and DMS are among a variety of cultural venues and services in the region set to benefit from the fund, with other County Durham recipients including Beamish Museum, Ushaw College, The Witham, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and Regeneration NE CIC.

Cllr Joy Allen, our Cabinet member for transformation, culture and tourism, said: "The arts sector has been severely impacted by the coronavirus pandemic and we welcome this funding from the Government. It is urgently needed to ensure our treasured theatres, museums and cultural organisations can overcome the challenges of the pandemic and safeguard the thousands of jobs they support. This funding will help secure our work with communities, artists and the creative industries in the county, and develop relevant programmes both within and beyond the venues."

"What's more, tourism is set to play a vital role in our region's recovery from the pandemic and a diverse and vibrant cultural offer is key to attracting visitors, as well as enriching the lives of our residents."

Adapting its approach

DMS has also had to adapt its services due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, it provides small group lessons to more than 4,000 primary and secondary school pupils across County Durham and Darlington per week. It also delivers whole school sessions, which see 18,000 young musicians try their hand at everything from brass and woodwind, to singing and the ukulele.

During the lockdown, it used video conferencing technology to move these services online, as well as filming and uploading fun-filled music videos on its YouTube channel. Since children returned to school in September DMS has returned to safe face-to-face teaching, as well as online delivery and developing new initiatives such as the Virtual Music Centre, the 15mins of Music and Bumps to Babies programmes and a new music technology course.

A sense of continuity 

Cllr Olwyn Gunn, our Cabinet member for children and young people's services, said: "The quick actions of the DMS team to move its lessons online during the lockdown provided a much-needed sense of continuity to children at an uncertain time. Creating and listening to music can also benefit our mental health and I know the videos the team produced meant a great deal to hundreds of County Durham families.

"The coronavirus continues to challenge us and we are doing all we can to support schools, children and their families during this difficult period. I am delighted DMS has received this funding, which will allow it to continue making a positive difference to the lives of children and young people."

Working together

Michael Summers, head of DMS, said: "To be awarded this funding is fantastic news. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard, pulling together to ensure that the musical education of young people does not suffer despite the challenges that we all face. We have responded quickly and effectively to the differing needs of the sector and this funding will help to ensure that we can continue to deliver the high-quality education that we pride ourselves on."

For more information about DMS visit the Durham Music Service website.

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