Cities respond to cultural implications of COVID-19 crisis

26 May 2020

90 representatives from 68 large European cities met online on 14 May to discuss common challenges related to the COVID-19 crisis, exchange on cultural measures to respond to the crisis and share lessons learnt so far.

Highlights include:

  • ‘Never waste a good crisis’ said Justine Simons, London’s Deputy Mayor for Culture and the Creative Industries.

As we are experiencing cities where cultural venues are closed, the argument in favour of more culture in cities has never been so strong. Now is a crucial moment to build the argument on why culture needs to be part of the response to the crisis. To do so, data capture is particularly relevant. Amsterdam, for example surveyed over 370 local cultural organisations. Their responses gave an insight into the financial effects (short and long term) on the cultural sector.

  • The cultural and creative sector is key for local economies.

In Amsterdam, the creative sector represents 10% of local employment. The crisis highlights the fragility of employment conditions of artists and freelancers. In London, where 1 job out of every 6 is a creative one and 90% of grassroots venues face a risk of closure, the local ‘culture at risk’ office has been supersized since March and has mobilised to provide crucial support services to the sector; these include mediating disputes and providing capacity-building resources.

  • Many cities have developed emergency funds for culture.

In Amsterdam, a €17 million emergency support plan for the creative sector has been launched to prevent cultural institutions from closing. The plan was developed after a careful ‘data analysis and damage scan’ conducted through discussions with the sector. Other cities have adopted similar measures, like London, Nantes or Berlin.

  • Cultural venues are closed? Cities are developing new cultural activities and services.

Expansion of library services through home delivery and postal service, online cultural survival kits and even a mask fashion week in Vilnius are just a few of the inspiring examples/ Check more of them out here.

  • Stronger together – Cities are joining forces to counter the effects of the crisis

City to city cooperation at regional level is also developing, such as the West Midlands Culture Response Unit in the UK that is developing and delivering an action-orientated, sector-led response to ensure the visibility, viability and recovery of the cultural sector at regional level.

  • The European Commission, to complement and support Member States’ actions, has taken a set of measures to tackle the consequences of the crisis on the cultural and creative sectors
    • Check out an overview here
    • Contribute to the Creatives Unite platform
  • Inclusive culture

After the crisis it will be essential to maintain efforts on ensuring that all citizens have access to and make use of culture, as culture remains a powerful tool for social inclusion and wellbeing. This will be the topic of the Eurocities Culture Forum taking place in Tampere on 7-9 October 2020.

The video is available here:



Julie Hervé Head of Culture