Barcelona City Council has announced a second package of eleven measures, with a further investment of €1,670,000, to support the city's cultural network. The plan reinforces grassroots culture, keeps or expands existing programmes - such as the Barcelona Grec Festival, among others - and provides financial aid for the physical adaptation of cultural venues to the post-COVID-19 scenario and the creation of innovative projects. The new measures include the launch of a Casa de la Música [House of Music] in 2021, the opening of a new Citizen Culture Office and the provision of public places for musical events.
The package of measures presented by the Deputy Mayor of the Area for Culture, Education, Science and Community, Joan Subirats, and the Representative for Cultural Rights, Dani Granados, follows on from the initial initiatives and proposals presented on 18 March to address the cultural sector crisis resulting from the pandemic. The adoption of these new measures follows a period of reflection, listening and mutual understanding with the city's cultural sectors. The first measures put in place in March already entailed an investment of €1,830,000, which must now be added to the direct budget of €3.3 million for the Grec Festival. This year, said performance arts festival will focus on supporting local companies and artists.
This second phase of the Barcelona culture shock plan will include direct financial aid for new projects in the form of grants worth €300,000. Applications may be submitted during the first half of June and may be used to request aid for projects and initiatives that help guarantee cultural rights after COVID-19 through creation, research and innovation. Programmes that take into account the digital environment and the need to maintain social distancing, new lines of research and artistic projects at the pre-production and research stage are a few of the projects eligible for the grant.
The direct aid available will also include grants worth €200,000 to adapt cultural spaces to the new safety measures to be stipulated as a result of the COVID-19 crisis. Cinemas, bookshops, art galleries and cultural establishments will be eligible. With regard to theatres, their inclusion will be proposed to the Consortium for the Rehabilitation of Theatres, which is composed of the National Institute of Performing Arts and Music, the Generalitat de Catalunya and the City Council.
Regarding the music sector, the Sala Barcelona Project should guarantee that the city's music venues, festivals, promoters and artists are able to schedule performances in venues made available by the City Council and that they have a basic infrastructure, like the two music halls in the Fòrum Park or the Olympic Ring in Montjuïc, for example.
An inclusive Grec Festival supporting the local scene
The primary aim of the shock plan proposals is to revitalise grassroots culture, a need in which the Barcelona Grec Festival plays a significant role. Although the exceptional circumstances of this year's edition may make this Grec Festival different from those of other years, the aim is to ensure that it remains a driver and showcase of Barcelona's cultural life as it has always been. This edition will provide special support to local companies, always paying careful attention to the needs and interests of the public of Barcelona and its possibilities. Because this year tickets to the shows in the festival, with a decidedly inclusive nature, will be available for a single reduced price of €15, or €5 for family shows.
Proposals for the Grec 2020 festival will include fifty of the festival's co-productions as well as around fifteen shows that have been rescheduled as a result of the health crisis we are experiencing. In addition, at this year's Grec Festival you will be able to enjoy fifteen further proposals from outside Catalonia, including some international ones.
The shows in the festival will be held - basically but not exclusively - on the Montjuïc mountain stages. They will initially be held at the Teatre Grec, which will open to spectators under the conditions established by the health authorities. As well as in the Teatre Grec, the festival will be held in the largest halls of the Mercat de les Flors, the Teatre Nacional de Catalunya and the Teatre Lliure, where productions that were originally planned for smaller venues can be held for a reduced number of spectators. The Institut del Teatre and Plaça de Margarida Xirgu will also be used. The city's museums, including the Catalan National Art Museum, Barcelona Centre for Contemporary Culture, the Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, the Born Cultural Centre and the Maritime Museum of Barcelona, will take advantage of their ability to control access and capacity to also hold shows as part of the Grec Festival.
Overall, the Barcelona Grec Festival will become a testing ground of sorts for trialling the new possibilities and ways of enjoying performance arts online provided by the newest technologies. Finally, if any of the planned productions cannot be performed during July and August, they will be included in a new programme, De Grec a Grec [From Grec to Grec], and performed at a later point in theatres and festivals, always under the Grec Festival umbrella.
The House of Music
However, the Barcelona Grec Festival is not the only programme that will be reinforced in order to stimulate Barcelona’s cultural industry. Thus, programmes such as En residència [In Residence] and Tot Dansa will be expanded, as will other programmes that similarly put Barcelona’s artists in contact with the city’s schools in order to ensure that the programmes take place during the next two school years. More artists and creators would be hired, increasing the number of artistic processes from the current 41 to 70, and the number of creators from 40 to 100.
The Músics al carrer [Musicians on the Street] project, which is dedicated to performers who showcase their talent on the city’s streets, will also be expanded, with the possibility of doing the same for other segments of the performance arts sector. Ten new locations for musicians will initially be established in the Ciutat Vella district. This will gradually be extended to other districts and, later on, to other artistic disciplines, thus encouraging a more intense relationship between public spaces and culture.
The actions for supporting the music sector also include a plan to convert Sala BARTS into a new Casa de la Música. As the concession for the use of the facilities currently in place at this concert venue will come to an end in April 2021, work on a new concession, to be awarded on a competitive basis, will soon begin. The terms and conditions of the tender to be published must ensure that the public value of the venue is given priority over commercial interests.
A Citizen Culture Office at the Palau de la Virreina
The measures to help and support this second phase of the culture shock plan will entail the creation of a Citizen Culture Office on the ground floor of the Palau de la Virreina (which currently houses the Tiquet Rambles office). In addition to the tasks that were previously carried out at these premises (ticket sales, last-minute sales and information on the city’s cultural offering), the venue will soon provide direct advice on municipal subsidies and grants, as well as a personalised care service relating to the measures included in the shock plan. The transformation of the venue, which will provide new information services from June during its first phase, will involve refurbishment works from November. The end goal is to create a meeting point and hosting venue for the cultural sector that is open and linked to La Rambla.
Furthermore, a new Digital Cultural Platform will be launched this autumn. This will be a new public platform that will host new transmedia storytelling in response to the demand for virtual offerings that is likely to arise in Barcelona’s cultural world in the next few months.
At the same time, the City Council will lay down the general criteria for carrying out cultural activities in various venues of the city during the pandemic in a way that guarantees the safety of both the public and the workers involved. The conditions required to carry out activities physically in museums, archives, libraries, civic centres, performing arts venues (theatre, dance, music, circus or cinema) or on the public highway will thus be considered. In addition, a communication campaign will be launched this autumn to highlight the value of cultural activities, encourage the consumption of culture in neighbourhoods, invite citizens to enjoy culture and generate trust among the city’s users of culture. And, from 18 May, a new website will open which will provide information on the measures taken by the City Council and other government bodies to support the cultural sector. In addition, the site will contain information on the rescheduling of major cultural events in the city whenever this is necessary and on cultural activities that have been cancelled, postponed or rescheduled.
Implementation of the first shock plan
The announcement of the set of measures forming part of this second phase comes after listening to the needs and claims of this sector during the initial phase which started four days after the start of lockdown, and following an effort to provide it with direct information by means of a dedicated mailbox and web form. In the last few weeks, permanent coordination with the Generalitat de Catalunya's Department of Culture has been established, advance payments have been made as municipal contributions to consortia and foundations, and reports to establish the exact impact of the COVID-19 crisis on the city's cultural sector are being prepared.
The first ten measures announced by the City Council have made it possible to provide an extraordinary subsidy of one million euros for 2020 cultural projects affected by the current health crisis. The opening of applications (with a maximum of €20,000 per project) is expected to be announced during the first half of June.
The first measures announced by the City Council to address the cultural emergency also include, among others, the measures relating to the Barcelona Grec Festival, always with the aim of supporting the local arts sector and rescheduling suspended shows, rescheduling the suspended Quinzena Metropolitana de la Dansa festival shows for the autumn, and paying half the fees for the rescheduled municipal festival performance in advance.
Furthermore, there will be an extraordinary endowment of one million euros for book purchases for Barcelona Libraries. This is in addition to the €270,391 municipal investment planned for 2020, which must particularly benefit local bookshops with a view to enabling them to start invoicing for orders received from Barcelona libraries as early as November.
The move of the Sant Jordi book festival to 23 July proposed by the Cambra del Llibre and the relocation of part of the Món Llibre activities to the La Mercè festivities have also received support.
This autumn’s edition of the Barcelona Districte Cultural performing arts programme has been extended to eight more civic centres, bringing the number of participating civic centres to thirty, with 139 shows by 22 companies. The 66 shows by 22 more companies postponed from the spring edition must also be added to this figure.
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