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An Update from Lyth Arts Centre

Posted 26/05/20 by Tom Barnes

LAST UPDATED: 5pm, Tuesday 26 May


You’ve probably noticed that we’ve been a lot quieter than usual, so we thought it was time for an update from us here at Lyth Arts Centre.


Like many other charities and arts organisations, we’ve had to retreat into survival mode. On Monday 16 March, we lost almost all of our future earned  income overnight – including ticket income, bar sales, hires – which we estimate at over £30,000 for March to July 2020 alone. In addition to this, most of our future funding applications were withdrawn. Whilst we face a significant threat to our own future, we fully support the view that the health of our staff, artists and the wider community is far more important right now. However, we wanted to take the opportunity to reassure our local community that we’ve been busy behind the scenes doing everything we can to ensure that we’re still here for you once this is over – whenever this may be.


LAC is currently utilising the Government’s Job Retention Scheme to avoid job losses for our 13 staff members. LAC doesn’t receive regular funding from Creative Scotland, but they have been supportive in allowing us to repurpose the remainder of our current project grant. We have also been applying for emergency funding to stabilise the organisation. This has been a very uncertain process; we’ve received funding we didn’t expect, and we’ve been rejected from funding we thought we’d receive. On balance, we’re more optimistic today (Tuesday 26 May) than we were last month, that we will survive this initial first hurdle.


To move forwards into 2021, we know that we are going to have to reinvent LAC from the bottom up. We might not get to host the usual busy touring programme of live events in the way we used to. At this stage, we think it’s unlikely you’ll see any live performances at LAC for the rest of the year, for a combination of reasons including the risk to public health, financial insecurity, and an expectation that people won’t rush back, as much as they might like to. We’re also postponing Northern Lights Festival which was due to take place from 12-19 September 2020 into some time in 2021. We want to make the festival a joyful coming together of people that celebrates Caithness, our incredible communities and our remarkable coastline. We want to do that to its full potential, when we can. We’ll make sure you know when that will be.


In the coming months we’ll be re-thinking everything we can do. We’re currently asking ourselves how we can be useful to the Caithness community and to our creative community. We’re aware we have a wealth of artistic talent on our doorstep, and a local community of over 25,000 people. We recently received funding from the Wellbeing Fund to deliver arts-based activities for families. You’ll see that released very soon. Our team have been supporting other front-line services like helping out with deliveries, supporting social media and providing creative activities. We’re very lucky to have our new Education and Outreach Coordinator Helen Moore in post, who is speaking to lots of artists and community groups to make that happen. Amazingly,  Helen only had one day in the office together with the team before the lockdown!


So to summarise, we’re not sure right now what the future holds. Right now, we believe we have the adaptability to evolve and respond and best serve you – the Caithness community. If you have any ideas on how we might do that, and how we might support you, please do get in touch: Our building is shut, and our phone line is closed, but we’ll get back to you as soon as we can. We cannot say enough that we strongly believe in partnerships and collaboration. Working together gets better results, so we look forwards to hearing from you soon.


Charlotte Mountford & Tom Barnes
LAC Co-Directors