As Singapore’s latest ‘Circuit Breaker’ officially went into effect on Tuesday, the question of “what would Singapore be without the arts?” is more real than ever. The partial lockdown comes as yet another blow to approximately 60,000 self-employed and independent creatives in the city who were already struggling from loss income — plummeting as much as 50 to 70 per cent — due to cancelled gigs.
From as early as March, musicians suddenly found themselves without a stage to play on, artists and designers got sidelined by clients who could no longer afford to pay, and photographers saw their income stream dry up as events got cancelled all around.
Even if you’re not a gig worker yourself, you likely know one who has been hit hard financially. According to ILostMyGig.sg, the total lost income by Singapore gig workers already stands at more than S$27 million in just these few months. “The arts has a much higher proportion of freelance workers (47%) compared to the national average (14%). However, the widespread cancellation of shows and the closure of performing venues has led to a significant amount of income loss for many freelance practitioners”, notes Janice Koh, a theatre practitioner and one of the founders of Pasar Glamour.
This spells an unprecedented crisis for the local creative industry, not sparing even the city’s more well-known talents. Jazz maestro Jeremy Monteiro, who recently went on the news to talk about musicians’ struggles during this time, had some words to offer to creative practitioners. “I think that during this difficult time that all of us are going through during COVID-19, we must remember to do two things. One is to use our own creative practice to bring joy and comfort to the public at large. This is one of the missions of our choice of vocation.”
“Secondly, we should find a way to monetise our efforts, like perhaps setting up PayPal.me quick links so that we might give our supporters a chance to contribute some financial support to our online presentations”, he added.
There’s a lot of noise out there right now, but thankfully, the Singapore government, as well as a bunch of organisations and groups are putting out aid and resources for those most affected by the situation. Audrey Lim, the co-founder of one such initiative, says “My team at Take Back The Nights came together for this very reason, to help the music sector in general, and the “hidden” players in particular. [It] has been stalled slightly by the new not-a-lockdown announcements, but a ray of hope has emerged as more digitalisation grants have been announced.”
For our friends who are one of many self-employed and freelancers in Singapore’s arts, design, and entertainment cluster, we’ve compiled a list of resources for you guys to tap upon, from emergency funds to job resources and mental health references.
Emergency funds and grants
Self-Employed Persons’ (SEPs) Relief Scheme
If you’re registered as a Self-Employed Person with IRAS and earn a net trade income of no more than S$100,000, you might qualify for the Self-Employed Persons’ Relief Scheme, which pays out S$9,000 over three tranches of S$3,000 each in May, July, and October. As of 6 April 2020, the eligibility criteria includes living in a property with an annual value of no more than S$21,000 and for married SEPS, the assessable income of your spouse should not exceed S$70,000. If you are a SEP who is 37 years old and above and have previously declared SEP status to IRAS or CPH, you will be automatically notified of your eligibility through SMS or letter. We’ll update once we get more information on how others can apply or appeal for the grant.
NAC Capability Development Grant for the Arts
Independent creatives and freelancers can also apply for the National Arts Council’s Capability Development Scheme for the Arts (CDSA), a one-time grant to encourage up-skilling through local courses and training programmes. It covers up to 90% of programme fees (up to S$1,000 per person) and provides a training allowance of S$10 per hour. Applicants must show that they have been involved in at least one public arts event (e.g. performance, visual arts exhibition, or literary event) in the past 12 months. Find out how to apply here.
Apply by: 15 June 2020
Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts
Under the Singapore government’s S$55 million arts and cultural support package, groups and individuals can apply for a Digital Presentation Grant for the Arts, which offers you up to S$20,000 for arts projects that will be presented in a digital form, or via a digital medium. The National Arts Council also welcomes proposals that include creative means to develop digital projects while fully working from home, as well as practitioners offering student-facing programmes. Details on how to apply will be updated.
Temporary Relief Fund
Singapore citizens and PRs who have lost their jobs or faced a personal income loss of at least 30% (and let’s face it, that’s almost all freelancers out there) after 23 Jan 2020 are eligible for a one-off S$500 cash grant, provided they had a household income of S$10,000 and below, or per capita household income of S$3,100 and below before their employment or income was affected. To help in getting your applications approved more efficiently, prepare your invoices from the past months to show what kind of trade/work you do, as well as a screenshot of your Notice of Assessment from 2019. According to other freelancers who have successfully applied for the scheme, the better you are able to better paint a picture of loss of income, the higher your chances. Apply online from 9am to 6pm daily.
Apply by: 30 April 2020
Pasar Glamour Art Aid
Pasar Glamour is a not-for-profit initiative by actresses Janice Koh, Pam Oei, and Petrina Kow to raise funds for charity through the sale of quality, pre-loved clothes and accessories. In response to the current state of the performing arts, they’ve formed Pasar Glamour Art Aid, a relief fund to provide one-off emergency funding S$500 to Singaporean and PR freelancers working in the performing arts industry. If you’re a performer, director, stage crew, musician, designer, choreographer or playwright in need of assistance, you can apply to the fund here. Pasar Glamour, in partnership with an anonymous donor, has also committed S$50,000 to match any donations to the fund, dollar for dollar, so donate away!
Apply by: 24 April 2020
Singapore Unbound Relief Fund (SURF)
Are you a creative writer? Singapore Unbound is a New York-based community for Singaporean playwrights, screenwriters, songwriters, as well as writers of poetry, fiction, and non-fiction, and they’re offering a US$200/S$280 grant for those in dire need of immediate help, regardless of where you are currently based. If you have lost work temporarily but still have other resources available, do allow for others who need the funds more. Donations to this fund are also welcome here.
Apply by: Indefinite
ASEAN Gig Fund
If you’re a young freelancer, the ASEAN Youth Organization (AYO) has started an ASEAN Gig Fund to support over 100,000 self-employed youths all across Southeast Asia. By matching S$1 to every S$1 usually earned by the freelancer via gig work, recipients may receive up to US$100. You will be required to fill this form here with information such as age, nationality, and nature of work.
Apply by: Indefinite
Gig and job resources
Facebook group for independent creatives and freelancers affected by COVID-19.
Professional conversion programme for PMETs looking for a career conversion into occupations such as UX/UI Digital Design or Spatial Design. It is a course led by NAFA and Design Sojourn with up to 90% funding from the government for course funding and 6 months of guaranteed salary.
National Youth Council and Creative Nation Singapore are partnering to help create as many opportunities and gigs, with a call for applications that are not limited to professionals, but for anyone with talent and the ability to create engaging content at home are welcome to apply. They are looking to fill a content calendar with an average of 3 – 4 videos a day, 5 days a week, from now till the end of the year.
Online live concert series launched in partnership with The Music Society, Singapore (SG MUSO). Interested musicians, bands, crew, and other gig workers may reach out here. Donations are welcome to help support these people.
Local offshoot of a similar initiative in the US and Australia, collating news and resources on the losses suffered by the creative industry.
International platform connecting photographers with those who want to support their work.
Collection of international resources for freelance artists.
Support another artist by paying it forward once a target amount is hit.
Mental health resources
In these times of grave uncertainty, freelancers are often among those most affected while dealing with lost income and struggling to make ends meet. Take care of your mental health with these resources:
Free self-care guides and virtual meetups.
Research-backed articles and helpful tools such as meditation guides, anxiety screening, and free access to mental health experts.
Virtual, interactive meetups and events, from quarantine book clubs to coffee chats.
Free professional online counselling sessions for anyone in need of mental health support
Do note that this list is not exhaustive, and we’ll be updating it as more come along. Got your own resource or useful tips to share? Please let us know in the comments or send them through to [email protected]