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EU sets aside €1.6bn of financial firepower to reboot COVID-hit arts sector

Artists are coming back into public view. One of them is Salvador Sobral, whose show was interrupted by coronavirus lockdowns. But now he is back on tour, with concerts in Portugal, Spain and Italy.

The Portuguese musician joined 45 international artists in a letter calling on the EU leaders for strong investment, stating that culture helped to cope with "great personal and societal adversity".

Artists all over Europe need financial help to weather the crisis. Since the lockdown theatres, cinemas and museums have all closed, with many smaller institutions unable to reopen. Freelance artists have often been excluded from unemployment support schemes.

The EU has set aside funding to help the cultural sector, Creative Europe was allocated 1.6 billion euros.

For those working in the cultural sector, it is in times of crisis that artists are needed most.

In the letter appealing for financial help, they appealed to culture's healing effects:

"It is music that has brought us together on balconies, films and TV series that have entertained us, documentaries, books, performances, pieces of art that have all truly comforted us in our solitude and helped us to escape intellectually and creatively."

Cultural creators are already adapting to the new normal, with open-air arts projects - drive-in cinemas, concerts in fields and mural painting projects, to remain within social distancing norms.

"We need to show a lot of empathy to artists because they need ideas," says Paul Dujardin, Artistic Director, Bozar. "If there are no ideas, creative ideas, there will not be innovation."

Dujardin also argues that art should be taken more seriously for its global impact.

"How we will, at the end, compete with the other regional powers like US, Asia, China, and so on?" he asks.

"The first to make the difference are the artists, to stimulate investment and to have a vision for the long-term in terms of co-productions and investments."

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