IT has been a devastating year for arts venues and events in the Bradford district - but the curtain is rising on spring and summer recovery plans, thanks to a multi-million pound cash pot.

More than £300 million has been awarded to thousands of cultural organisations across the UK, in the latest round of support from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The grants are distributed by Arts Council England to theatres, arts centres and other creative organisations including Bradford Theatres (£445,000); Bingley Little Theatre (£76,045); Kala Sangam (£61,500); Black Dyke Band (£38,040); The Brick Box (£35,000); Mind the Gap (£33,915; Fuse Art Space CIC (£33,125) and Ilkley Literature Festival Ltd (£27,000).

Arts Council England chief executive Darren Henley, who has described Bradford’s cultural venues as “nationally significant”, said: “In Bradford, under Covid restrictions, theatres, galleries, museums and music venues have had to close or restrict admission for long periods. Such measures, while necessary, have been devastating with ticket sales hit hard. In times like these it can be hard to imagine what might be possible in future, but Bradford’s artists, cultural organisations and the people who live, work and study here are using their creative ingenuity to ensure the city is among the top contenders to become UK City of Culture 2025.”

The grants will help theatres, concert halls and festivals build a future, and give artists and companies chance to create new productions.

City centre-based intercultural arts hub Kala Sangam houses performance and meeting spaces, and delivers outreach activity in schools and communities as well as classes and workshops. Creative director Alex Croft says the money will, among other things, support a further round of Kala Sangam’s Back to the Studio programme, helping freelance dancers and performers restart by covering living expenses and providing studio time. “We’re all breathing a huge sigh of relief,” says Alex. “This funding will not only cover our core costs, but allow us to continue offering vital support to the freelance sector, many of whom lost all their income over 12 months ago. We can now confidently start to plan for re-opening safely.”

Mind the Gap, based in Lister Mills, is one of Europe’s leading companies creating live performance experiences with learning-disabled artists centre stage. The DCMS funding will enable the company to work towards re-opening and creating new work. Executive director Julia Skelton said: “It will make a huge difference in ensuring the safety of our team as lockdown restrictions ease, and we work towards reaching live audiences again. These funds will be invested in additional Covid-19 testing, PPE and freelance staff costs so we can get back to making work for performance and touring. This last year has been really tough for the whole arts sector, especially freelancers and small organisations, so we’re excited to be doing our bit towards the cultural sector’s recovery.”

Ilkley Literature Festival was unable to produce its two-week run last year but instead delivered a varied programme including a digital Fringe Festival and podcasts. Festival director Erica Morris said: “The past 12 months has been difficult for ILF. It wasn’t possible to stage the festival last October, meaning we had no path to generating ticket sales which normally account for 60per cent of our annual income. Although uncertainties remain, this grant puts us in a position to weather the slow march towards the end of the crisis.”

Adam Renton, general manager of Bradford Theatres, which runs the Alhambra, the Studio, St George’s Hall and King’s Hall, Ilkley, says: “Receiving this grant in the second round of funding is excellent news. After a year of having the doors closed to our loyal audiences, it will be an important lifeline in helping us re-open and provide a varied programme for theatre-goers.”

Bingley Little Theatre, a charity theatre company, manages Bingley’s Arts Centre and stages annual productions there. Chairman Richard Thompson says the grant will enable re-opening and an expansion of its reach: “As we begin to exit the pandemic, it is crucial that we support communities to reconnect safely to the arts. At the same time, we have a unique opportunity to diversify, particularly through encouraging young people to access arts-based activities. Existing plans can be further developed to school-based theatre-in-education programme. Concurrently, work can begin on theatre improvements so that more non-hearing people can access events through greater signed performances. Plans will reassure more elderly patrons that the theatre experience is ‘safe’ and will enable BLT to develop a greater range of interactive activities leading to safe re-integration.”