Written evidence submitted by Sheffield City Council and University of Sheffield


Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City and Culture University of Sheffield and Fran Marshall, Research and Evaluation Manager, University of Sheffield



Executive Summary.


Key Findings


What has been the immediate impact of COVID-19 on the sector?


What will the likely long-term impacts of COVID-19 be on the sector?


What support is needed to deal with these impacts?


How might the sector evolve after COVID-19, and how can the DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?








Main Report.

Museums Sheffield: Graves Gallery - Art Gallery in Sheffield ...


Introduction and rationale

In April 2020, the University of Sheffield with the support of Sheffield City Council surveyed a strong cross section of the cultural providers in the City to provide a snapshot of the immediate impact of the COVID-19 pandemic with an emphasis on the creative ecology of the City. Sheffield, like other major destination cities across the UK and internationally, is increasingly reliant on events and its cultural industries as a key driver of city centre vibrancy, and a strong local economy. The City has a long-established reputation for a range of sporting and cultural events which also factor as a key element of the visitor economy. Major sporting events include the World Snooker Championships, held annually at the Crucible. Cultural landmarks include the internationally acclaimed Sheffield Doc/Fest, attracting 31,500 visitors including 3,500 international delegates for five days of documentary film screenings, Tramlines attracting 35,000 visitors including the fringe festival and the Children’s Media Conference which attracts 1,250 delegates. The sudden shutdown has resulted in the loss of physical events, jobs and anticipated income. In addition, provisional data from Sheffield City Council (SCC) is presenting a worrying trend that over 47% of the city’s creative businesses are ineligible for government grants/loans due to business rates models/mode of production. This evidence is submitted so that the Government can better understand how the current situation is affecting the sector in Sheffield and identify what support needs to be put in place to ensure it continues to flourish.


Method and Response Rate

An online survey of key stakeholders and partners was conducted by Fran Marshall of the University of Sheffield’s Department of Partnership and Regional Engagement to feed into this report and co-authored with Professor Vanessa Toulmin, Director of City & Culture at the university.  Professor Toulmin has extensive background in event management, creative and cultural regeneration and has worked as strategic consultant to various local authorities, notably developing a place based approach to cultural vibrancy and regeneration for Blackpool Council. Fran Marshall is expert in evaluation and data analysis and works as Research and Evaluation Manager.  The survey was open between 16 April and 11 May 2020, was promoted by direct mailing from Sheffield City Council to the Sheffield Cultural Consortium, the Creative Guild and Festival Networks representing a broad range of key businesses in the city, through social media, newspaper reports and the University of Sheffield. In addition evidence from the wider Sheffield City Region survey also conducted by the University of Sheffield provided aggregated details relating to music only events. The key questions are to estimate the financial impact, change to visitor numbers and see how organisations have adapted to deliver events in alternative ways. Certain caveats must be emphasised


What has been the immediate impact of COVID-19 on the sector?

Key Findings. Current challenges are clearly cash flow, uncertainty and survival in the immediate short term. The wide range of industries within the creative ecology demonstrates that a percentage of respondents perceive that either they or their organisations could fall through the funding gaps, e.g. because the organisation is not a non-profit organisation, not eligible for the small business grant, business relate relief or other government schemes, the prevention of working during furlough, lack of sector support, navigating existing support, move to remote working and administration and time taken to access funding. 


What will the likely long-term impacts of COVID-19 be on the sector?

The new report from Oxford Economics The Projected Economic Impact of COVID-19 on the UK Creative Industries estimates that the creative sector will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy in 2020.[1] The impact on employment will adversely affect the sector in particular the impact on creative freelancers. Notwithstanding Government support through the Job Retention Scheme, the figures predicted will decimate both the permanent employment opportunities within the creative sector and adversely affect the sector in relation to creative freelancers with the highest percentage of roles expected to be terminated by the end of 2020.[2]

This localised survey clearly reflects this national pattern and states that job losses are inevitable and the number depends on when lockdown ends, whether it is financially viable to reopen, whether government support has prevented insolvency and whether DCMS can offer ongoing assistance to help cultural organisations recover. Yorkshire was named the number one region for creative industries in 2018 and in Sheffield the sector contributed £248.12 million to the local economy, with 7,230 people employed in the creative industries and a wider ecology of freelance support estimated at 21,000 in the wider SCR.[3] The Sheffield Culture Collective has been working to create a compelling vision for the role of culture in Sheffield's development and investment strategy to create better outcomes for communities and the culture and creative sector in the city. It is strengthening its purpose, values and approach to underpin its ambitious vision and take bold steps to unlock the city's potential.  If the impact of COVID-19 continues, a large proportion of jobs and opportunities will be lost and the consequences for the economy of the City and the emerging vision for culture will be catastrophic. Conservative figures estimate this to be in the region of 15% job loss across the sectors but real data was difficult to estimate due to time period this survey was conducted and figures will certainly be higher as they are currently underpinned by Government support schemes which will be ending soon. Additionally, an early economic bounce back is premature, the latest public attitude research from ALVA shows that the public will be much more cautious about attending public spaces and gatherings for some time to come and cultural organisations will need DCMS support to adapt business models in order to secure their long-term operation.[4]

What support is needed to deal with those?

All the respondents mentioned were seeking support for funding from available government funding, including the Arts Council England and National Heritage Lottery Funding with a large percentage being ineligible for funding from banks. The main purpose of the funding support required was to cover operational costs (25%) with a smaller proportion of respondents mentioning the furlough scheme to cover staff costs. In order to negate the longer term consequences on the sector the following summations have been selected that reflect an overall consensus:

Yorkshire and £38 per person in Greater Manchester).[5] 


How might the sector evolve after COVID-19, and how can the DCMS support such innovation to deal with future challenges?


Important surveys are now emerging both nationally and sector wide that demonstrate the impact of the pandemic on the cultural and creative industries. However, national sector surveys have tended to emphasis the national place and to underplay the interconnectivity of the cultural ecology of the city, the role of Place, concentrating on national economic data rather than equally important local recovery models required.  Indeed the regional variations in the latest Oxford Economic Report do not reflect the actual impact within Sheffield and the Sheffield City Region. This localised survey was designed to reflect the interconnectivity of the creative ecology. The cultural assets of Sheffield underpin both the city’s visitor economy and the health and wellbeing of its residents. The cultural economy with its associated events bring direct footfall and vibrancy into the City Centre, contribute directly to the local economy through resident and visitor spend, festival organisation and associated accommodation and leisure spending, but also indirectly by creating a reputation for interest and vibrancy that attracts visitors throughout the year. The reputation for cultural vibrancy supports a sense of place and marks out Sheffield as a city which supports wellbeing and improved mental health for local audiences. The evidence presented in this submission demonstrates the urgency of vital intervention to enable cultural organisations to receive support beyond the end of the lockdown.

In summary:


Respondents are understandably concerned with the immediate short term financial situation and loss of income. Some refer to the anticipated duration of recovery and the unknown impact of when visitors and audiences are likely to return and what structural and infrastructural changes are required. It is summed up by one respondent who stated that ‘At the moment (rightly) support is available to those on the brink of collapse, but not those who may be in longer term precarious positions. The overall message therefore is clear Invest in the cultural life of our cities, especially in the North, Create specific financial instruments for creative companies, ideally soft loans that are only repaid when they are profitable again. Many of the above arts funding sources are burning through their reserves and won't be able to do anything else this year, so some organisations may survive the next few months only to perish in the aftermath.’

This is only possible with a place-based regional recovery plan that draws on the economic, cultural and societal strengths of the organisations and events that are impacted by COVID-19, rooted within their local economies which enables them to stabilise, and ultimately build on the innovation, resilience and creativity that underpins them.



Appendix 1: Respondents


AlgoMech festival of Algorithmic and Mechanical Movement

And Other Stories

Andro and Eve

Apricot Ballroom

Carter's Magical Events


Folk Forest

Greentop Community Circus Centre

Heritage Open Days

Heritage Open Days, public talks to community groups, private bookings for events and groups

Ignite Imaginations

Kurious Arts

La Rumba (events promoter) at various venues in Sheffield


Mercure Sheffield Parkway

Museums Sheffield

Music in the Round

National Emergency Services Museum

National Videogame Museum / The BGI

No Bounds Festival and Hope Works

Off the Shelf festival of words

Opus Independents

Portland Works Little Sheffield limited

Rutland Hotel

S1 Artspace


Sheffield Carnival

Sheffield Doc/Fest

Sheffield Folk Sessions Festival

Sheffield Industrial Museums Trust

Sheffield Theatres

Showroom cinema

Site Gallery


The Bare Project

The Montgomery Theatre and Arts Centre

University of Sheffield Concerts

Victoria works

Yellow Bus Events Ltd & After Ltd

Yorkshire Artspace









[1] https://www.creativeindustriesfederation.com/publications/report-projected-economic-impact-COVID-19-uk-creative-industries.


[3] https://www.yorkshirepost.co.uk/business/yorkshire-named-uk-s-leading-region-for-creative-industries-1-9177998

[4] https://www.visitbritain.org/helping-tourism-industry-recover-covid-19

[5] https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/our-data/our-npos-and-annual-data-survey#section-3