Over the past three months the COVID19 pandemic has presented new challenges to everybody. The many challenges for Artspace Lifespace, as an organisation focussed on providing spaces, support, and logistics, have been varied and multi-faceted. 

We are pleased to say that our team of staff and volunteers are well, and we are beginning to re-open some of our spaces. Our artist studios reopened on 22nd June to studio holders who returned their risk assessments. We will reopen our dance and circus studios to members for solo rehearsals and practice in bubbles of up to three only.

This is an update from the Board of Trustees on the activities that have happened in order to support the staff, volunteers, and artists in our community.


Throughout this time, we’ve virtually met as a board almost every week to make decisions with these values in mind:

  • The health and safety of our team, volunteers, tenants, and the public
  • The commitment to keep our team employed and financially supported
  • The ability for Artspace Lifespace to survive the crisis, and continue supporting the artist community into the future
  • Adapting and evolving to respond to the new needs of artists to create work, and to the greater community that we serve


It is through the tenacity of our staff, support of our community, and shared love of the arts that we have been able to meet the challenges of the past three months. 

We hope that the update in the following pages helps you to understand how the past few months unfolded for Artspace Lifespace, and how we have collectively made decisions and presented solutions. We now look forward to the months ahead and the new creations, productions, and collaborations they will bring. Your continued support during this process of learning is very much appreciated.


Ryan, Wim, Doug, Kara, Andrew and Anthony

Board of Trustees

Crisis Planning and Recovery 

On 18 March 2020, we decided to cancel public events until further notice at all our venues. Two days later the government announced the nationwide lockdown.

Our Board of Trustees, who are all volunteers, normally meet four to eight times a year – but when the crisis hit, it was important to engage in weekly emergency planning meetings. We commenced a disaster recovery plan based on minimising our outgoings and applying for grants.

We examined some worst-case scenarios. If our grants were disqualified, we expected we would need to start making redundancies without the support, and returning tenants deposits in July. 

However, thanks to the grant support received in April, we are now hopeful that Artspace Lifespace and the Island will ride out the crisis. 

As we look to the future, we know many other arts organisations will struggle. This means we must continue to advocate for support to the arts sector in Bristol and across the UK.   

Financial Sustainability of Artspace Lifespace

The financial support we received during the last three months includes:

  • Bristol City Council Business Rates Support
  • Arts Council England Grant
  • Donations of membership fee from space users
  • Continuing rent payments from tenants during closure
  • Furlough of PAYE members of staff
  • Waiver of rent at Ashton Court Mansion from Bristol City Council

Our planning saw us look at the possibility of zero income over lockdown and predict the possible cessation of the business, but thanks to the above grants & donations and the continued support of tenants, our financial position is stable and our reserves have not been eroded.

Our work towards securing a more long-term lease of the building continues but has suffered some further delays under the current circumstances. As part of the work towards this we are facing up to the financial challenges of taking on more responsibility for the repairs and maintenance of the building, as well as some of the underlying issues that have been there since it was first occupied. This was going to be a challenge before, but now brings into sharp focus the decisions we have to make over the management of our reserves.

As a responsible charity we hold reserves to weather the risks we foresee but no one could have predicted this year. With the future still very unknown we are lucky to be able to proceed with some financial backup, and we hope to be able to put this to use in supporting the arts sector in Bristol as certainty returns.

As part of the measures announced by government departments, all companies and charities were given the option of extensions to filing their annual accounts. We had this under consideration over the period of lockdown and were in contact with our independent examiners in order to plan for our annual submissions which normally fall at the end of June and July. As time went on we made the decision to apply for the extensions due to the pressures this work would have added at this time. We will work to resolve the delayed publication of accounts as soon as is practical.

Health and Safety

  • Assessment of risk across all our venues
  • Commissioned an artist to create safety posters for our venues
  • Providing Health and Safety Advice and support to studio holders
  • Following consultation with our tenants and assessment of risk, we made some adjustments in our venues including replacing taps and keypads on doors and installation of hand sanitiser at points across the venue. 

Supporting Staff / Team

  • Continued to contract self-employed workers
  • Provided support to our zero-hours contract staff who were unable to work
  • We updated our sick leave policy to support self-employed and zero-hours contract staff acknowledging some of the new risks involved
  • Where PAYE staff have been furloughed we have agreed new payscales for when they return to work, that were scheduled to happen at the beginning of April and the new financial year.
  • These payscales follow the NJC local government pay scales, which are extensively used in the voluntary sector. They are a result of negotiations between trade unions (Unite, Unison and GMB) and Local Government Association. In June 2020 the Board approved that where the NJC scale is lower than the Real National living wage we would pay the higher of the two.  We also monitor other local organisations to ensure our pay rates are comparable for similar roles.
  • At Artspace Lifespace, no member of staff earns more than double that of the lowest member of staff. Since 2017, we have been working towards decreasing the gap in pay between the lowest and the highest paid members of staff.  

Support for Artists and the Community

  • Providing more marketing support to studio holders
  • Provided a one-month online art class from Crafting Communities tutored by Rose Popay
  • Finalising our new Artspace Lifespace website for July. This will enable us to offer better digital support to our artists
  • Offered rent waivers for shielding and vulnerable tenants who are unable to return to the Island
  • Donated art materials from the Crafting Communities class to Knowle Park School Food Bank. 
  • We are working on alternatives to support The Venue
  • Continued to pay our rent for the Island and will continue negotiating for a long lease of the space, to offer better long term security for our tenants.
  • We are finalising the Futur Ville Report, and have collected thoughts from our community by creating The New Normal Survey. We had 52 responses which will be included in our Futur Ville report which will be published in August. 
  • Our Inclusion Officer Ngaio’s contract came to an end in April. Ngaio is now focussing on her musical career and her song Blackbird helped inspired the #BeyondTheHashtag campaign which showed support for Black Lives Matter campaigns by people who could not attend physical protests. Our team members are supporting the #BeyondTheHashtag campaign.
  • One of the last events in Bristol on Saturday 7th March before Lockdown was International Women’s Day at City Hall and The Vestibules. To mark International Women’s Day 2020 we commissioned CATO Press to create an image dedicated to the women and children who helped ensure the success of one of the most important strikes in American history. The Vestibules and Rosanna Morris released limited edition prints of our Bread and Roses collective relief print. All profits from the print are being donated to The Smallwood Trust which provide grants to organisations and individuals and work with selected partners to help women overcome financial adversity and to improve their social and emotional well-being.

Reopening Spaces

On Monday 22nd June, we reopened the artist studios at the Island. 

We will continue to monitor safety closely and hope to reopen our circus and dance training spaces soon. 

We will work with tenants and exhibitors to reopen our gallery spaces safely and in a socially-distant manner. We will also make use of technology to reach audiences who don’t feel comfortable going out. This also enables us to be more accessible for audiences who cannot access the first floor gallery.  

We are now looking at how we can support artists with more digital facilities, as well as space and physical ones. This will be something that can support artists well into the future. Later this year, we will work with our tenants to provide a Digital Doors Open Studios event to showcase their work.