Country reports

POLAND

Expert: Marta Szadowiak, Anna Karpińska and Dorota Ilczuk
Last update: 1st January 2022

On March 12th 2020, an epidemic emergency state was introduced in Poland, which resulted in the closure of cinemas, theatres, cancellation of all shows and banning gatherings of over 50 people. During almost two years of lock down of culture in Poland restrictions were being changed, according to the current situation. According to the latest amendment to the regulation on the establishment of certain restrictions, orders and prohibitions in connection with the outbreak of an epidemic, the reduction to 30% of the limit of seats made available to the public from 18 December to 31 January 2022 also applies in theatres, philharmonic halls, operas and other concert halls. In the absence of designated seats in the auditorium – the obligation is required to maintain 1.5 m between spectators and to ensure that no more than 1 person per 15 m² is in the room at one time; ensuring that spectators or listeners comply with the obligation to cover their mouths and noses. Vaccinated against COVID-19 are not included in the limit, provided that they present a Union certificate, negative test result or a certificate of recovery from COVID-19.

During first lock down various solutions have been implemented to compensate for the losses associated with the suspension of the cultural sector. From state-level support programmes, to local government, to industry and community organisations. However, not all of these were available to cultural institutions.

At the central level these were: social assistance package from the Culture Promotion Fund, Anticrisis Shield 4.0, Voucher for Culture, previous Programmes of the Minister of Culture, Culture in Network Programme, Culture Support Fund.

At the local government level: integrated promotion of online events, vouchers for culture, legal aid.

For cultural institutions, support was also available from professional and environmental organisations within the framework of the Public Theatre Day or changes to the implementation of the Tutti project. There were also changes in the Cinematography Act allowing film premieres on VOD platforms and on the Internet. Changes were also made in the Act on Audiovisual Incentives extending the deadlines and simplifying the procedures for submitting applications for financial support of audiovisual productions.

The Anti-Crisis Shield 4.0 allowed cultural institutions – both state-owned, co-managed with the minister in charge of culture and national heritage protection, and self-governmental ones – to obtain support from the Guaranteed Employee Benefits Fund to subsidise the remuneration of employees affected by economic downtime or reduced working hours as a result of an epidemic. In addition, a provision was adopted in the Anti-Crisis Shield allowing institutions to convert unrealised benefits into vouchers of corresponding value to be used within a year. Changes were also made to the Minister of Culture’s Grant Programmes for institutions that received support in the calls carried out in November 2019 and in the appeals processes, as well as those that implement multi-year projects. The changes were aimed at adapting the implementation of projects to the current situation, e.g. by allowing fully online activities, and by adequate eligible costs, and the catalogue of eligible costs was expanded to include the costs of salaries of persons involved in the implementation of a given task on the basis of an employment contract together with the necessary secondment or an additional annex increasing the size/scope of the full-time position. In April 2020, was launched a special grant programme of the Minister of Culture “Digital Culture“. Its aim was to financially support the implementation of projects disseminating cultural output and increasing the presence of culture in social life through online activities. The original budget of 15 million was increased fourfold to 60 million PLN (about EUR  13,3 million) due to record interest in the programme. After formal and substantive evaluation by expert teams of the National Centre for Culture, 1 182 winning projects were selected, which were to be implemented by the end of 2020 by local cultural institutions, NGOs and other entities operating in the cultural sector.

The Culture Support Fund was the largest programme in terms of budget to support the cultural sector. 400 million PLN (about 88.8 million EUR) was to go to local government cultural institutions, non-governmental organisations and entrepreneurs conducting cultural activities in the area of theatre, music and dance as compensation for lost income in the period from 12 March to 31 December 2020. 2 246 entities applied for financial aid (including 177 local government art institutions),

At the local government level, support for cultural institutions was implemented through: integrated promotion of online events within localities. In Gdynia, as part of the Gdynia Breakwater for Culture, the programme “Gdynia Culture Joins Forces” was launched, and in Krakow, the City Hall, together with the operator Krakow Festival Office, invested in the creation of the VOD platform playkrakow.com. It currently offers materials recorded and made available by Krakow’s cultural institutions, as well as live-streamed events. Ultimately, PLAY KRAKÓW is to become a kind of multimedia library of the City of Krakow, aimed at every age group. In Poznań, as part of the package of activities for culture “Poznań supports”, the #culturetogo action was organised, presenting activities: creative, educational, animation on the web or in other, currently available ways. Individual cities, as part of their support for the cultural sector, encouraged the purchase of a voucher for culture (Łódź theatres), and above all provided legal assistance in carrying out activities during the pandemic (Gdynia, Poznań, among others). Local governments emphasised that the main objective of the support for cultural institutions was to maintain subsidies at the current level, despite the operation of institutions under changed formulas.

Symbolic support for cultural institutions was also the possibility to participate in the Day of Public Theatre or the Tutti project. Funds which were supposed to be earmarked for subsidising theatre tickets as part of the “A ticket for a penny” action were allocated to support employees of 103 public theatres, which presented their activities under the banner of the Day of Public Theatre on the Internet. In turn, the Polish Music Publishing House subsidised 70% of the due fee to all institutions which lent performance materials from the PWM catalogue in order to make audiovisual recordings.

Solutions for non-governmental organisations were also introduced, making the implementation and settlement of projects more flexible.

There were established also special extraordinary COVID-19 Social Funds by the Association of Polish Authors and Composers. So far, they have allocated PLN 159 million (about 35.3 million EUR) for aid activities. In addition, STOART, the largest Polish collective management organisation in charge of protecting rights for artistic performances of music and words-and-music pieces, helped nearly 10 000 artists. The aid was to be paid directly into the accounts of registered artists.

The research “Theatre Artists in times of COVID -19”, carried out by a team led by Dorota Ilczuk, gives first insights of the efficiency of the artists support, which can be partly seen in the Table below.

Table 1:   Evaluation of particular forms of support in the respondents’ opinion (N=304)

Very good Good No opinion Bad Very bad
ministerial support (Ministry of Culture and National Heritage, e.g. Digital Culture programme) 3% 18,1% 26,9% 32,2% 17,1%
generally available state support (within the anti-crisis shield, e.g. standstill benefit, loan for small and micro enterprises) 3,6% 17,4% 30,6% 32,6% 15,8%
support from private enterprises 2,3% 70,7% 6,9% 20,1%
local government support 8,9% 60,9% 12,5% 17,8%
support from creative associations (including trade unions) and arts associations 1,7% 11,9% 58,1% 15,8% 12,5%
self-help (help from the artistic community) 2,6% 8,9% 62,5% 10,9% 15,1%

Source: Research Study “Theatre Artists in times of COVID -19”.