Durham Music Service (DMS) has received £572,956 from the Government’s £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund, which aims to provide critical financial support to help cultural and creative organisations to overcome the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

DMS, which is partly funded by Durham County Council, Darlington Borough Council and Arts Council England, will use the funding to continue to deliver high quality music education in County Durham and Darlington.

In addition to this, Durham County Council has been awarded £249,500 to support its arts venues, including Gala Durham, Bishop Auckland Town Hall and Consett Empire.

All three of these venues closed to visitors in March, as a result of Government restrictions to help prevent the spread of coronavirus. A new café at Bishop Auckland Town Hall has since opened with covid-secure measures in place, but the remainder of the venue, along with the Gala and Empire will remain closed until at least the New Year. During this period, the refurbishment of Bishop Auckland Town Hall and the Empire has been completed and scheduled improvements to the Gala have been brought forward to ensure the best and safest possible experience for theatregoers when the venue reopens.

The Culture Recovery Fund grant, which is being delivered by Arts Council England, will allow the council to build upon this work and secure and reposition the future of its arts venues in the wake of the pandemic. This includes work on business development, programming, marketing and attracting new audiences.

The council and DMS are among a variety of cultural venues and services in the region set to benefit from the fund, with other County Durham recipients including Beamish Museum, Ushaw College, The Witham, National Youth Choirs of Great Britain and Regeneration NE CIC.

DMS has also had to adapt its services due to the pandemic. In normal circumstances, it provides small group lessons to more than 4,000 primary and secondary school pupils across County Durham and Darlington per week. It also delivers whole school sessions, which see 18,000 young musicians try their hand at everything from brass and woodwind, to singing and the ukulele.

During the lockdown, it used video conferencing technology to move these services online, as well as filming and uploading fun-filled music videos on its YouTube channel. Since children returned to school in September DMS has returned to safe face-to-face teaching, as well as online delivery and developing new initiatives such as the Virtual Music Centre, the 15mins of Music and Bumps to Babies programmes and a new music technology course.

Michael Summers, head of DMS, said: “To be awarded this funding is fantastic news. Everyone in the team has worked incredibly hard, pulling together to ensure that the musical education of young people does not suffer despite the challenges that we all face. We have responded quickly and effectively to the differing needs of the sector and this funding will help to ensure that we can continue to deliver the high-quality education that we pride ourselves on.”

For more information about DMS visit www.durhammusic.org.uk