To better understand the day-to-day impact the COVID-19 pandemic is having on Manchester’s creatives, we’ve launched a new series inviting spokespeople to share their thoughts on what the future of their sector might look like when things return to normal. First up, it’s Director of Manchester Animation Festival, Steve Henderson…

From my point of view as the Director of Manchester Animation Festival, I and many others putting on large scale events have found dealing with the recent COVID-19 pandemic extremely difficult. MAF takes place in November so we are still planning the festival as normal, though with added contingencies should restrictions still be imposed. I have friends who have found themselves in the awful position of having to cancel their festivals with no support or advice from the government. A lot of festivals have gone online though, which is an innovative way of keeping the festival spirit alive though it does nothing for the financial security of the events.

The situation has posed massive challenges. It’s okay putting films online to watch but if festivals can’t sustain an income or if the venues hosting them have closed down, then we face real challenges not just for festivals or as a sector – but as a country. A lot of venues, like our host venue HOME, have benefitted from the support of its amazing audience but nobody is safe and other venues have closed or face closure should the lockdown continue. The biggest challenge has to be the personal challenges that come to those in self employment. A lot of people who work in festivals and events are self employed and the government has not been as quick or as generous to offer support to them like they have to businesses.

One third of the creative sector is self employed, higher than the national average of 15%, and the ONS revealed that the creative sector kept the UK out of recession last year, so the government need to realise and value our fantastic self employed workforce – not just in the creative sector but in other trades too. If over a third of the creative industries find themselves out of work at the other side of this then culture might find itself among the hardest hit sectors and we desperately need culture not only to keep the country out of the recession but also to keep our souls fed with the type of inspiring work you see in cultural venues up and down the country and at festivals. Streaming movies and TV at home can only go so far and we will be stuck watching repeats if self employed writers, directors, cameramen and actors are out of work.

When it comes to unlikely opportunities that have arisen due to this crisis, the good thing about the creative sector is that it is always thinking and so solutions to problems have been prevalent. I am in absolute awe at the response that our friends at Cardiff Animation Festival have taken to this problem. They have postponed their festival to spring but have still put some of their screenings online. One such event was their quickdraw challenge where animators make a film in 48 hours. It’s a testament to the ingenuity of the animation community that 30 films were made in isolation this year and premiered at an online watch party. You can (and should) support events and festivals like this that have had to go online. Every pound, tweet and share counts when festivals can’t access funds or audiences to share culture.

Unfortunately as a lot of the cultural sector works on funding and grants, it’s a very hand to mouth existence for creators. On the plus side, lots of bodies such as the BFI and Arts Council England have been quick to offer financial support in this time which is incredible. I fear there are still lessons to be learned. The future is far from clear and damage is still being done. On the positive side I feel as a country we are rediscovering the power of community, from children putting pictures of rainbows in windows to clapping for the NHS and I hope this sustains after the lockdown and people take the opportunity to support events and festivals that champion communities and support culture.

To learn more about Manchester Animation Festival head to their website – or support them on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram

Guest Post
Published on:
Mon 6 Apr 2020