Artists relief funds and opportunities in the midst of Covid-19 - Bubblegum Club

Artists relief funds and opportunities in the midst of Covid-19

It goes without saying that the current global pandemic and its subsequent economic impacts have hit the pockets of individuals globally in a significant manner and in the South African context, one of the industries that has been most severely effected is our creative sector. The economic implications of the current global viral outbreak have already led to the closure of the entire magazine division of Caxton as well as Associated Media Publishing, which in turn has resulted in the mournful end of many of South Africa’s mainstay print magazine publications such as People and Cosmopolitan. Within the sphere of music, DJ’s and artists are scrambling as regular income streams have been brought to a standstill due to lockdown regulations enforced by the government in an attempt to curb the spread of the illness. 

So why is supporting and maintaining the creative sector so important?

As of 2015, the creative and cultural sector accounted for 6,72% of total employment in South Africa or around one million total jobs and unlike some employment sectors; the nature of its volatility and  lack of security means that large economic shifts have an immense impact on those who make their livelihood from this sector.

To try and relieve some of the hardships and pressures we as a creative sector are collectively suffering financially here is a compilation of various opportunities and financial relief initiatives we can look towards to help us through the ongoing pandemic.

National Government:

Now while running the risk of getting too political here, it is clear that much of the creative sector is not only underwhelmed by the governments plans to aid creatives in need but feel rather abandoned as outline in the fantastic Daily Maverick article on the situation that I highly recommend giving a read.

The Department of Sports, Arts and Culture’s R150 million relief fund which had an application deadline of 6 April has been criticised with only 1000 of the 6000 applications accepted. Furthermore, questions need to be raised about the application process itself as one can only speculate how many applications would be sent if access to the internet and data was more commonplace. This is already an issue that has been brought up by opposition parties as they call for the government to re-open the relief fund application process.

The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport:

On a far brighter note, The Western Cape Department of Cultural Affairs and Sport has set up a relief fund for creatives, events and creative organisations operating within the Western Cape province with the deadline for applications set for the 19th of May 2020. A link to the necessary information can be found here.

The National Arts Council (NAC):

Similarly, the NAC has set a deadline of the 19th of June 2020 for funding package applications in an attempt to re-inject some much-needed capital into the creative sector. More information can be found here.

Business and Arts South Africa (BASA):

BASA has already completed their current cycle of artist relief grants it seems that they are prepared to continue their efforts to help artists in need as soon as more funding is available. You can keep up to date with their Artist Relief Grants or donate here.

Creative Digital Arts Festival 2020 hosted by Standard Bank:

Submissions for the first completely online iteration of National Arts Festival are still open until the 15th of May 2020 with all the necessary information available here.

National Geographic Emergency Fund for Journalists:

This relief package is specifically aimed at all the fellow journalists out there with National Geographic committed to helping journos around the world to fund continued reporting on the effects of the global pandemic in a local context. This fund extends to photography, videography, audio journalism as well as written reporting. Those interested can find all the needed information here.

Unlabelled Magazine:

The opportunities menu of local online art publication Unlabelled Magazine is a great resource for finding opportunities within the creative sector whether they be locally or internationally focussed. I would highly recommend having a look now and then as the list is updated on a pretty regular basis. The link to the page can be found here.

Format – The Photographer Fund:

Although the fund is not currently accepting submission they seem set on helping members of the photographic community globally once they secure more funding. You can check their page for updates regarding their fund here.

Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA):

VANSA is also a great portal to use to see a list of possible funding and relief initiatives that relate to a context a bit wider than the creative industry although most resources have been included in this article. Additional resources can be found here


Although personal crowdfunding can be difficult especially in a time when most members of society are feeling the economic effects of Covid-19 campaigns on crowdfunding platforms such as Patreon, ThundaFund and BackaBuddy can still be an effective way to at least for the short term raise some much needed financial support.

Artist Relief Project:

The Artist Relief Project is run by the Artly World NGO and is open to all artists around the globe in need of financial assistance during Covid-19. All the necessary information can be found here.

The Vulnerable Artist Fund:

The Vulnerable Artist Fund is an initiative created by The Lockdown Collective which specifically focusses on artists that are now completely unable to support themselves and their families due to loss of work and income with the global pandemic. All the necessary information can be found on their website here.

Theatre Benevolent Fund:

Focussed more on providing aid to those in the performing arts the initiative continues to provide aid for artists in need during Covid-19. The necessary information can be found on their website here.

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