Coming back from our Easter break, with our future in a secure and exciting place, we wanted to write honestly and openly about why our recent funding means so much to us.
We are lucky that being a member of The King’s Singers is a full-time job. We live and breathe our work, in the good times and the harder times. But the reality was that continuing to do our work as King’s Singers was becoming untenable as 2021 progressed. Like so many organisations, we have reinvented how we work over the last year, adapting as many areas as possible to the digital domain and taking opportunities to engage with new and existing audiences in a completely different way, in the process reaching parts of the globe we rarely visit. We have also used the time away from touring as a chance to plan ahead for the coming years, developing collaborations and projects at home in the UK, staying positive and creative publicly, and adapting our financial models as best we could. This has been hard work, and with every passing month of empty space in the diary, it got harder, as it has for so many organisations and musicians around the world. But let us explain why, in a bit more detail.
We are not set up as a charity, as most arts organisations are, nor are we backed by private sponsors or public funding. We have a commercial business model which is built fundamentally on our concert schedule. In normal times, it is a successful model: our concerts (around 90% of our income) provide the backbone – artistic and financial – on which we build everything else. We reinvest some of this income in our charitable initiatives, educational work, commissioning, recording, filming, music publishing, collaborations, summer schools and covering the more mundane ongoing costs – insurance, accountancy, licenses and tax. Given the success of our normal model, we were ineligible for any initial government support. That was until April.
After a year in which our live concert schedule was reduced from 110 concerts to two, we began to realise that membership of The King’s Singers might not be a viable full-time job at the moment after all. Without money to fund our artistic plans, or to earn any income as individuals, we were going to have to carefully assess how viable it was to carry on as we were. These are questions which, sadly, many people in the arts sector have had to face this year. But we were sad to think we would be the first generation of King’s Singers who might have to put the group on the back-burner. So we applied to the UK government’s Cultural Recovery Fund, which has distributed over £1.5bn nationally to keep arts organisations running through the next few months. We spent several days on six-way Zoom calls working on spreadsheets, tables, charts, and written reports outlining what we do, why it’s important, how we plan to re-establish our work, and the extent to which we have been impacted by COVID. Honestly, it was a thrilling experience just putting the application together in a gargantuan team effort. But it was even more thrilling to find out that we have been successful, and given a generous grant.
We are aware that many brilliant organisations will have applied and been unlucky in applications, and we can only hope that they will pull through in this tough climate. But we also cannot help but feel relief, gratitude and a renewed determination, having been given the lifeline we needed in order to rebuild and deliver our core activity and what we think will be wonderful creative projects in the short, medium and long term. These include commissioning a lot of new music, creating music videos (interactive and artistic) which will be freely available online, setting up educational opportunities, and crucially covering the costs of beginning to tour again.
So we send a heartfelt ‘thank you’ to the Cultural Recovery Fund. We are back on our feet, and ready to make beautiful music again, as fast as the world will allow.
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