Chancellor Rishi Sunak has bowed to pressure from the arts world and unveiled a £1.57 billion lifeline for the UK’s theatres, venues and museums struggling to stay afloat in the wake of the Coronavirus pandemic.
The rescue package includes £1.15 billion specifically for the arts and culture in England. This will consist of £880 million in grants during the present financial year and a further £270 million in loans, to be repaid.
Additionally, there will be £120 million provided for construction projects and £100 million for heritage projects.
Further monies will be provides for the devolved administrations, with Scotland receiving £97 million, Wales £59 million and Northern Ireland £33 million.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden tweeted:
A £1.57 BILLION emergency support package
Weeks in the making to make this world leading fund to help the arts weather the storm of Covid
— Oliver Dowden (@OliverDowden) July 5, 2020
Prime Minister Boris Johnson commented:
“From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.
“This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”
While the news will be welcomed by the industry, critics have pointed out that the response has been slower than other countries including France and Germany. In the interim several theatres including the National Theatre and Royal Exchange Theatre, Manchester have announced redundancies, while among regional venues the Nuffield Theatre, Southampton has been forced to close.
Responses from the industry include:
Director of The Theatres Trust, Jon Morgan: “Theatres Trust welcomes the announcement of £1.57 billion additional support for the arts and cultural sectors, and the recognition of the importance of these sectors to the UK economy and national life. We will need to know more detail of how this money will be allocated across the different areas to fully assess its benefit – we would hope that a significant proportion will be reserved for the performing arts. Theatres have been amongst the hardest hit industries by the pandemic and are still at risk as they are unable to operate viably while social distancing is in place.
“It remains to be seen whether this amount will be sufficient to replace the furlough scheme, as it begins to taper from August and ends in October, at a time when we still do not have timescales for theatres reopening.
We are pleased to see investment in capital projects included in this announcement. Our research has shown that there are more than 100 theatre capital projects worth almost £800 million that have been stalled by the pandemic by anywhere between 3 and 18 months at a cost of upwards of £66 million.”
National Theatre joint chief executives Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger: The National Theatre emphatically welcomes this vital support from Government which recognises the crucial economic, cultural and social impact of theatre and culture in the life of our nation.
“We are extremely thankful to see such a strong vote of confidence from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Culture Secretary. Although there will be many challenges ahead to operating in the new environment, the NT and theatre companies across the country stand ready to respond with creativity and commitment, and to reopen as soon as it is safe.
“We feel very positive that this major investment will reach and sustain the vital talent and infrastructure – both organisations and freelancers – which make British theatre truly world-leading.”
RSC executive director Catherine Mallyon and artistic director Gregory Doran: “We hope this investment will provide meaningful support for the whole sector: for the skilled workforce who create world-class theatre, and for theatres and companies at every scale throughout the UK. We are all ready to be part of a powerful civic, emotional and economic recovery for the country, and will be invaluable contributors to the UK’s ability to re-emerge from the pandemic locally, nationally and on a world stage.
“We look forward to receiving the detail of the support package when we will see in full how this will help the survival of the sector, and support our next steps to welcoming audiences back to live theatre.”
Further details will be published as more information becomes available.
- STOP PRESS: Sam Mendes has launched the Theatre Artists Fund supported by Netflix UK (in association with the Society of London Theatre, Official London Theatre and UK Theatre). Theatre professionals can apply for a one-off payment of £1000 as emergency support.