Culture minister: We want to provide crisis exit plan in March

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Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center). Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

After more than 251 culture organizations signed a joint statement directed at the Ministry of Culture and government proposing a plan on how the sector can exit the crisis, Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center) said the government is planning to present a crisis exit plan in March.

There are more than 30,000 people employed in the entertainment and culture sector, a majority of them freelance artists working project to project. Since culture events are closed after recent restrictions, the sector is in a vulnerable state, ETV's daily affairs show "Aktuaalne kaamera" reported on Thursday.

"In a regular situation, exhibition institutions pay artists, curators and all people involved in the exhibition on a project-basis and by rule, this is usually paid out at the start of the project. If a project is now cancelled or it is delayed, so does the payment date," said Kadi-Ell Tähiste, head of the Estonian Contemporary Art Development Center.

Musicians, whose income is based mainly on concerts, have been hit extremely hard over the last year.

"I know terrific musicians who have had to change field or are sincerely thinking about it. Regardless of their quick cooperation and reaction, this group was left completely out in the rain," said Reigo Ahven, musician and head of the Philly Joe's jazz club in Tallinn.

Producer Aet Laigu, spokesperson of the film cluster, said support measures cannot be delayed. The crisis has lasted for nearly a year and the sector's own reserves have run out. In the joint statement to the governement, the culture institutions emphasized that the need for short-term crisis support is significantly greater than last year and recovering alone is impossible.

"Right now, the activities of most companies has suspended, there are no large projects going on, there are still debts from previous projects and there are no projects coming in since countries are locked down and so are cinemas, which should show our films and people cannot go to the cinema at the same capacity they could prior to the crisis. Manufacturers' stocks, fat has dried up and we do not know today what the future holds," Laigu said.

In their joint statement, Estonian culture institutions pointed out the importance of culture to the economy. For example, the filming of Christopher Nolan's blockbuster "Tenet" in the summer of 2019 brought in millions to the Estonian economy. Currently all projects are suspended and the Estonian movie industry is unraveling. Many specialists have lost their jobs and some have even changed profession.

"If we pay the state taxes monthly, there cannot be a situation where support measures take more than a year to implement," Reigo Ahven noted.

The culture sector needs both short-term measures and a long-term plan. The state has allocated €3.2 million from its reserves to support freelance artists, but paying out the support funds first requires an amendment to the Creative Persons and Artistic Associations Act. Since there is no emergency situation called in Estonia, amending legislation takes time and additional support will likely reach artists during the spring.

"In March, we want to present our crisis exit plan that we are currently drawing up with different areas and if discussions in government reach results, we can say more specifically when support measures will reach people, but exactly how big and in which capacity they are cannot be said today," said Minister of Culture Anneli Ott (Center).

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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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