Coronavirus

Our most recent guidance appears at the top of this page but you can access previous guidance by scrolling further down - please note that some of the earlier guidance may have been superseeded by more recent announcements. 


30 March 2020


Good Morning.

I hope you will tune in to join my first webcast today at 12 noon. This is our first live broadcast on our YouTube channel and I would like to achieve three things today: 

  • Test if we can use YouTube to reach our Members with live video content
  • Increase the number of subscribers to our YouTube channel
  • Share the latest updates with you


So please visit https://youtu.be/-1kdJLjZ9Tw at 12 noon for a few minutes to test our webcasting capacity and to help us help you to reach your Members. You can also post comments live; our colleagues will be able to reply instantly. 

Immediately after the webcast I will be in our new online forum at: 
www.connected.theartssociety.org/forum/society-forum 

Here we can exchange ideas and suggestions to use our YouTube channel. It is easy to join the conversation, you just have to create a log in and start chatting with us and Members from other Societies.  

I look forward to ‘seeing you’ shortly. 

Stay safe. 

Florian Schweizer
Chief Executive, The Arts Society


27 March 2020


As this bizarre and challenging week draws to a close, I wanted to share with you some of the projects that we have been working on and give you some information about our plans for the coming weeks. I know this is a time of great uncertainty and full of unexpected and often difficult developments, so I would also like to thank you for all you do for your Members and all those who you deal with on behalf of your Society. 

Please read this carefully as there is a lot of important content in this Bulletin:

Today we are soft launching an entirely new site as part of our website, called The Arts Society Connected. This is a very simple site on which we host blogs and forums on which all Members can exchange views, ideas, tips and thoughts during this time of social isolation. In the coming weeks we will also add online lectures from our Accredited Lecturers which we have commissioned. My blog will keep everyone updated on a regular basis with ideas on how to enjoy the arts at home, and I will ask guest bloggers to share their own experiences. This site can grow in line with demand and the activities you want and need: for example, we can create forums just for your Society on which you can chat with your Members and engage directly with them. You can view the new site at connected.theartssociety.org, and a tutorial created by our Training Officer, Joseph can be viewed here. You (our Committees) are the first to see the site; we plan to share it with Members in the next Monthly Highlights e-newsletter on 7th April. 

I am delighted that we can offer, in partnership with Seventh Art Productions (the company behind Exhibition on Screen), an on demand streaming service for Societies. As of today, Societies can rent most films from a large catalogue of art films and share a viewing code with their Members. The code will enable your Members to view the selected film for a fortnight. Phil Grabsky, Producer and Director of Exhibition on Screen, will be available for digital Q&As with your Members at the end of the rental period, if you wish. We hope this will enable you to add value to your Members’ experience and keep them engaged during this time. For more details please see: theartssociety.org/partnership-seventh-art-productions

On Tuesday we hosted a Zoom trial lecture with Siân Walters for an audience located across the UK. It worked well but we are still tweaking how we can best connect Societies and Lecturers digitally in the coming weeks. We have asked Lecturers to let us know if they can deliver online lectures (live or recorded) which you can invite your Members to watch from their homes. It may not be what we are used to, but if Societies would like to pioneer such screenings, we will try to help you arrange this. (Thank you to those volunteers who kindly sat in on the Zoom lecture).

On Monday at 12 noon I will try a first live broadcast on YouTube, to which you are all invited. Please follow this link on the day: https://youtu.be/-1kdJLjZ9Tw. This is to test if this technology might work for us on a large scale. We would also be grateful if you could subscribe to our YouTube channel (there are numerous benefits to having at least 1,000 subscribers) so that we can develop this tool. You will be able to ask me questions live ‘on air’, and I will share with you even more news then. I hope it will take no longer than 15 minutes as I am not a broadcaster and prefer to see people in front of me: but needs must, and I look forward to the challenge. Shortly after the broadcast we will have the first Trustee Board meeting online using Google Meet, which is something many of you are now doing as well on different platforms. 

On Tuesday we will be making available to Society Committee Members via our website the paperwork we would have supplied about Directory Day such as the new titles list, Lecturers' presenting list and details of our newly Accredited Lecturers. We are encouraging Lecturers to shoot short videos of themselves with the presentations they would have given on Directory Day and will upload these to the Directory. 

As previously advised, the Team at 8 Guilford Street is currently working from home but they are available on their direct phone lines and on email. Soon they will also be available in the forums of The Arts Society Connected website. We have daily online team meetings, and even had virtual team drinks last Friday. I would like to thank everyone on the team for their continued hard work in these difficult circumstances, and all those who have sent their kind wishes and thoughts to us: it is really appreciated.

Do stay safe and well.

Florian Schweizer
Chief Executive, The Arts Society


25 MARCH 2020

Please note this was sent to all Society Chairs, Programme Secretaries and Study Day Planners, Area Chairs, Trustees and ACEs.

I wanted to thank you all for the huge amount of extra work you all had to put in in response to this incredibly challenging and, quite frankly, upsetting time. As you know, we have been trying to provide as much information and guidance as we can under the circumstances, but you have had to cope with a huge amount of extra administration, communication and - no doubt - pastoral care for Members and Lecturers. I know our Members will greatly miss their monthly gatherings, not just for the lectures, but also for the camaraderie and friendship over tea and coffee or wine. I know it is currently difficult to imagine going back to some form of normality, but I am confident that when this crisis is over, the personal and human touch that makes our events so important to people will be much needed - and appreciated. 

It is important during this time to also think of one group that plays an important part in the work we do: our Lecturers. You all know that Lecturers offer their services freelance, and as such their income can be unsteady at the best of times. Lecturing for The Arts Society is an important source of income for many of our Lecturers, especially as our Societies tend to book far in advance: it helps Lecturers plan ahead and balance their books. 

This crisis is a very real threat to our Lecturers’ community. Many will struggle to meet their mortgage, rent and other commitments. We have already heard from some who are under real financial pressure. At this point in time - and we hope this will change - the Government has not yet addressed the freelance and self-employed community, so currently there is no provision for them to recover their losses. 

We have heard some wonderfully generous stories from Societies and Lecturers who have dealt with this situation in a most collegial and supportive manner. 

Unfortunately, we have also heard stories where Lecturers were treated unkindly and even unfairly. I would urge ALL Societies to contribute what you can towards any cancelled lectures. Whether you have cancelled a lecture at short notice or have cancelled for the rest of the season, we ask you to acknowledge the bigger picture and try to meet the Lecturers with as generous an offer as you can make within the financial constraints of your Society.

Please bear in mind that had the lecture gone ahead as planned, you would have had the funds to pay the fee in full.

It is not only the future of Lecturers that is at stake here. We have built our reputation for first class lectures and our relationships with Lecturers over many decades; and our lecture programmes are rightly something we can be proud of: the Lecturers are part of this. If we want to rebuild our Societies once we have overcome this crisis, we want to reconnect with Lecturers on the same friendly and trusted terms that we have established. Please do not jeopardise everyone’s future in The Arts Society by treating Lecturers unfairly. We will need them in the future. 

We are now taking great efforts centrally to engage the Lecturers to make sure they are part of our Members’ lives at home through digital channels: we do so in the belief that we will go back to our local lectures in the future. Please help us in maintaining a healthy, welcoming and fair environment for ALL in The Arts Society. 

Thank you. 

Please look out for exciting announcements on Friday on how to create programmes and content for your Society.

Thinking of all of you, and how much I wish we could meet at Central Hall for Directory Day,

Florian Schweizer  

Chief Executive, The Arts Society


20 MARCH 2020


During this incredibly difficult time, people are finding innovative and new ways of staying connected and tackling unprecedented challenges. The team ‘at’ 8 Guilford Street - mostly based at home now - is working flat out to achieve two things:
 

  1. Give Societies and Members the support they need at the moment
  2. Develop new approaches to support Societies and their Members to stay in touch, with each other, with Lecturers and with the wider world


We are pleased to share some of our plans for the coming weeks: 

We are working closely with Lecturers (and other arts producers) to bring their content to your Members: some directly to them, some via you, the Societies. We are keenly aware that your connection with Members is vital, so we hope to find ways in which you can deliver Membership benefits locally. Our Accredited Lecturers are being fantastically creative in sending us ideas and content. 

Next week we will be launching a new Arts Society community website for Members and our wider community to keep connected. We know how isolating this lockdown is for everyone, and we do want to stay in touch with each other. We will offer a number of forums for people to discuss a range of arts related topics, and we will grow this to meet the demand and interests of our Members. 

Whilst most of us are at home, we thought we could increase our efforts to be more connected via social media: whether your Society has a Publicity or Social Media Officer, now may be the time to reach out on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram. We were going to launch our Social Media Plan at the Hub Meetings next week; instead, we will now roll this out ‘from home’. We will do this in several phases: trial, early adopters, general release, so even if you don’t want to take part now, we are getting ready for the future. For anyone interested in doing more social media (with a helping hand) please email isabel@theartssociety.org 

We have held dozens of video meetings since Tuesday, and it has worked brilliantly. This means that we can now help you to create virtual committee meetings and will create some guidance in the coming days on how to ‘meet the committee’, have ‘face to face’ meetings with the team, and possibly address your Society Members online. The Arts Society could be greatly ‘digitally upskilled’ by the end of all of this: but of course we all want to get back to the meetings in cinemas, village halls, assembly halls, and other venues.  

The magazine will be produced to the existing schedule as a summer issue: we may also publish more Instant Expert emails, following the lovely feedback to the mailing that went out on Tuesday. 

We would like to thank all our Societies, Members, Lecturers, partners, suppliers and everyone who has helped us in shaping some exciting plans for the coming weeks. Whilst the Coronavirus is changing just about everything around us, there are some wonderful examples of people coming together, collaborating to overcome the challenges and obstacles we are all facing together now. 

If your Society has come across ways in which we can keep in touch with those Members who are not digitally connected, please do share them with me at florian@theartssociety.org 

We also would like to convey the kind wishes from our Royal Patron, HRH The Duchess of Gloucester; she would like you all to know that our Members, Volunteers and Staff are all very much in her thoughts.

Thank you for ALL you do. Please stay safe and look after yourselves and each other. 

Florian Schweizer
Chief Executive, The Arts Society


17 MARCH 2020


We are working hard to give you the support and guidance needed during this extraordinarily difficult time. 

Although the Government has not issued a formal ban on events and gatherings of the kind organised by Arts Societies, it has become evident that going ahead with activities as usual would not be responsible. Similarly the advice to avoid all but essential travel is not a formal ban. We reiterate our advice that Societies should assess urgently if their events should go ahead.

We must keep in mind when undertaking any activities on behalf of your Society all government guidance that has been issued. Any failure to follow government guidelines or to undertake any activity which might be construed as being in conflict with the intention of the guidelines may be deemed to be 'reckless'. It must be understood that any action or failure to act that may be regarded as reckless might invalidate our insurance policies.

One of the questions we get asked most frequently is about cancellation terms. The Arts Society is not party to the contract which is between a freelance Lecturer and an autonomous Society so we can only make suggestions and give advice. Our cancellation guidelines may help where agreement proves difficult. We have given this same guidance to both Societies and Lecturers. (Details can be found at theartssociety.org/coronavirus)

We ask that Societies and Lecturers approach negotiating any cancellations due to this unprecedented situation with flexibility, amenability and understanding of the other’s position. 

Some examples that Societies and Lecturers have shared with us are:
 

  • Rebooking Lecturers for their 2021 or 2022 seasons
  • Many Lecturers who have reported in are willing to negotiate and a third to a half of the original fee seems to be a common starting point
  • A ‘goodwill’ payment of £100 has been offered in several cases


During this difficult time we appreciate that people may feel isolated. The planned social distancing measures are likely to increase this over the coming weeks; and many of our Members will miss their usual activities, including their Society lectures. We are working hard to ensure that Members can access arts content online, carefully curated by us and our partners, from home: where possible we will try to add a spirit of community. We are in conversation regarding streaming presentations with Exhibitions on Screen and HENI Talks and will communicate our scheduling in the future.  

Following government advice, most of the Staff will work from home. We have prepared for this and will deal with your enquiries with a distributed workforce: whilst we will be able to take phone calls on our direct lines (theartssociety.org/contact), we do ask that you e-mail us to help us manage work flows. If there are glitches in this temporary system, please let us know and we will try to address these as soon as possible. Thank you for your understanding. 

We regret that during this time some services will be temporarily unavailable.

These include: The sending out of address labels, leaflets, posters, badges and lanyards, membership cards, Fifty Treasures books, Lecturers booking forms (although these are available online at theartssociety.org/resource/lecturer-booking-form), stickers, bunting and extra magazines. 

Our latest updates will be posted regularly on: theartssociety.org/coronavirus 

Read our Frequently Asked Questions here: theartssociety.org/coronavirus-society-faqs 

Whilst we only have a skeleton staff operating at 8 Guilford Street please avoid using the switchboard. Staff can be contacted by email and on their direct numbers which can be found here: theartssociety.org/contact


16 March 2020

As the Government has announced additional steps to delay the spread of Coronavirus, it has become clear that further measures will be taken in a phased approach to protect the vulnerable and elderly. 

Whilst we recognise the Government’s plan to delay the epidemic peak, it is our assessment that the well-being and safety of our Members, Volunteers and Lecturers, many of whom fall within the high-risk category, is likely to benefit from The Arts Society taking active measures to reduce non-essential Arts Society activity before the pandemic reaches its peak in the UK and Europe.  

We therefore regret to inform you that the following Arts Society events and meetings will be cancelled:

Area Meetings
Hub Meetings 
Directory Day 
Area Study Days and Trips
Training events 
Annual General Meeting (AGM)

All those who have organised and / or purchased tickets to any of the above events or activities will need to make the appropriate arrangements not to hold / travel to / attend these meetings and to advise Members, non-Members and Lecturers who are booked onto these days that they have been cancelled. 
 
We are working on alternative plans to make the content of the Hub Meetings and Directory Day available to Societies through digital channels. It is unlikely that Directory Day will now be held in 2020, due to the logistics of moving such a complex event, the availability of suitable venues and potential clashes with other events. 

We are exploring options to hold the Annual General Meeting - the only statutory meeting we are legally required to hold within a given time scale - as a virtual meeting, accessible to all voting members. 
 
Guidance on claiming expenses and other costs will be published early next week. 


Societies are encouraged to assess independently if their meetings, lectures, study days and tours should be held in the coming months. 

The UK Government has not yet announced measures to restrict holding, travelling to or attending public meetings. It is likely that such measures will be implemented at a later stage. 

However, individual Societies and/or Lecturers might choose to cancel existing bookings; in this case we advise following The Arts Society’s cancellation guidelines, which can be found in the Resources Area at theartssociety.org/resource/lecture-cancellation-advice.

We ask that Societies and Lecturers approach negotiating any cancellations due to this unprecedented situation with flexibility, amenability and understanding of the other’s position

If you are continuing with meetings please follow the Government guidance: 
https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-information-for-the-public


We regret that there will be negative financial implications for local Societies, Areas and the central organisation: that is what reserves are there for. If you feel that current events may impact on the viability of your Society please contact Tim Nicholls (tim@theartssociety.org). We are confident that The Arts Society remains in a robust position; however, we will reforecast our financial position for 2020 and 2021 as we expect to experience losses in commercial and investment income. We recommend Society Treasurers reforecast for the coming year using the best information available. 

The office will remain open for the time being; contingency and business continuity plans are in place and we are committed to offering most of our support and advisory services without interruption. We anticipate that many of you will contact the team at Guilford Street (enquiries@theartssociety.org) in the coming days and weeks: please bear with us as we try to deal with your enquiries as quickly as we can: the team is small. 

We regret that these steps will inconvenience many, and are likely to add to the workload of everyone who has taken great care to plan events and activities. These are extraordinary circumstances, and we thank you for your support and understanding in taking extraordinary measures as we play our part in prioritising the well-being of Members, Volunteers, Lecturers and staff.

Our thoughts are with everyone during these challenging times.