Sixty artists, musicians and other creatives awarded £500 each

Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s (GMCA) is delighted to announce the 60 successful recipients of the first round of COVID-19 Creative Commissions. The Creative Commissions programme is designed to provide paid opportunities for creatives in Greater Manchester while creating 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.

The Commissions, each worth £500, were initiated by the GMCA when national Government enforced closure on theatres, music venues and night time economy establishments, leaving many in the culture and creative industries unable to perform, operate their businesses or have an outlet for their creativity.

These paid assignments are for artists and creators based in the city-region and cover a wide variety of art forms including: music, illustration, art, poetry, theatre, short stories, design, gaming, stories and performance. Artists featured in this first round include Al&Al, Dan Hett, James Holt, Mateusz Beznitz, Liam Frost, Maya Chowdhry, Stanleys, Toreh O’Garro and Tracie Daly. A full list of recipients and examples of previous work is included at the foot of this release.

One of the creatives awarded a Creative Commission is Bolton-born singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist James Holt, who said: “I'm elated to be invited to contribute to the GMCA creative archive. I will be composing and recording a song responding to the way we've adapted our relationships with our friends and family in spite of the situations that COVID-19 has brought.

“This is a perfect opportunity for artists and creatives to share our personal experiences of self-isolation, which I'm sure many people in Greater Manchester will relate to, and collectively the archive will serve as a unique artistic expression of our time."

Another recipient of a COVID-19 Creative Commission is Kate Feld, a Bury-based writer, who said: “My commission will take the form of a lyric essay and photo series about my experience of the start of quarantine out on the edge of Greater Manchester. In Ramsbottom, where I live, we are seeing a return to a more rural way of living. As a journalist I am interested in capturing the details of daily life now for the historical record, as in the Mass Observation project of the 1930s. As a poet I am interested in capturing the peregrinations of the spirit as we complete this transition, and honing in on how it is changing our relationships ― to ourselves, to others and to the land. 

“I’m so happy to have received this commission, because it will enable me to make new work about a collective experience that is unparalleled in living memory. It feels exciting to be working in such close response to current events – this will be a new challenge for me.

“It’s wonderful that GMCA are supporting individual artists and practitioners at a time when much of the creative economy has been shuttered, and we can’t make a living in the same way. But it’s a recognition of the value of what we do; Greater Manchester can’t have the creative scene that brings tourists, money and acclaim to the region without artists."

These COVID-19 Creative Commissions are part of a package of support to the city-region’s cultural sector that already includes six month advanced payments to the 35 organisations awarded grants as part of the £8.6m Greater Manchester Culture Fund for 2020/21.

The package of support also includes United We Stream GM, which sees live DJ sets, music and performances broadcast at (opens new page) over the weekend from 7p.m, uniting the city-region during the COVID-19 outbreak and raising funds so GMCA can continue to support the amazing creative community of Greater Manchester.

The Culture team at the GMCA were inundated with 470 applications for COVID-19 Creative Commissions from creatives across all 10 districts. Further awards will be made in coming weeks, once processed by the team at GMCA.

Another beneficiary, Stockport-based animator and visual artist Luca Shaw, added: “My commission involves magnifying the intimate domestic rituals that have become centre stage during this lockdown. I intend to explore it through experimental animation and work in conjunction with musician Nishla Smith, who has also been selected. Both of our projects look at ritual, repetition and minimalism - as life is so reduced and stripped back right now.

“It's wonderful to be able to explore these ideas and to be supported in doing so by being one of the GMCA Covid-19 Creative Commissions.”

Cllr David Greenhalgh, GMCA portfolio lead for Culture, said: “We wanted to help individuals, freelancers and small businesses from our arts community, as many of them have lost their jobs and direction because of the national shutdown.

“These COVID-19 Creative Commissions will give artists, performers and creators an opportunity to express their creativity during this crisis by commissioning them to contribute to this lasting legacy.

“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 COVID-19 Creative Commissions are part of a package of support that already includes six month advanced payments to the 35 organisations awarded grants as part of the £8.6m Greater Manchester Culture Fund for 2020/21.

United We Stream GM is also a GMCA culture concept launched last month that sees live DJ sets, music and performances broadcast at (opens new page) over the weekend from 7pm, uniting the city-region during the COVID-19 outbreak.

Viewers can watch for free or buy a ‘virtual ticket’ for whatever price they choose to enjoy the channel, with all proceeds going to the city region’s night-time economy, cultural organisations, Nordoff Robbins and Mayor Of Greater Manchester charity

Upcoming acts on United We Stream GM include a Madchester special on Saturday 18 April with renowned DJ Paul Oakenfold exclusively recreating his Spike Island set, FAC51-Hacienda on Saturday 9 May, Radio X DJ Gareth Brooks and poets Lemn Sissay and Tony Walsh.

Article Published: 16/04/2020 17:42 PM