Brussels pours €8 million into post-lockdown cultural reboot

Brussels pours €8 million into post-lockdown cultural reboot
2017 edition of the Comic Book Festival in BOZAR, Brussels. © Danhier

An aid package of over €8 million will bring relief to Brussels' world-renowned arts and culture sector, hit hard by the coronavirus lockdown.

Approving the €8.4 million recovery package on Thursday, officials said they aimed to fast-track the revival of a sector left reeling as a result of the public health crisis.

Brussels' Work Minister Bernard Clerfayt said that the pandemic had seen the Belgian capital's culture sector shed a staggering 93% in revenue.

Bans on gatherings and social-distancing rules led to a string of cancellations of events ranging from concerts and festivals to art exhibits and seminars, some of which began well before the government-mandated lockdown.

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Clerfayt said the plan underscored an ambition to get artistic and cultural events in Brussels back on track "as soon as possible."

The boost includes a €2,000 premium for organisations (both for and non-profit) active in the cultural and artistic sectors which have been impacted by the crisis.

The package also set up a €5 million fund to grant individual arts and culture workers with an intermittent status a unique premium of up to €1,500.

The premium will make up for the losses of workers whose status means they juggle different work contracts and who have limited access to unemployment schemes.

Intermittent culture workers having suffered from the cancellation or postponement of events as a result of the crisis and who have no access to unemployment and other support schemes are eligible for the payment.

Saving 'the place to be'

The aid package was approved by regional authorities together with the Francophone and Flemish Community Commissions, the bodies representing each communities' interests within Brussels.

"Brussels was the place to be, not only for locals but also for visitors from around the world," Budget Minister Sven Gatz said, adding that the support plan aimed to see the local culture scene "continue to bloom" even after the Covid-19 crisis.

The artistic sector had also been hit hard by cuts to the culture budget enacted by the newly formed Flemish government, leading to eye-catching demonstrations as artists protested the 60% scaleback in funding.

The aid packages will be delivered to organisations and individuals who apply for it through a form which is set to be put online "in the coming days."

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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