COVID-19: UK arts to receive £1.57bn
Monday, 6 July 2020
theatrePhoto: Kilyan Sockalingum via Unsplash
UK - After weeks of relentless campaigning, the British arts sector has been promised a coronavirus bailout worth £1.57bn.

The funding was announced late on Sunday evening, with the UK government stating it represents “the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture”.

The package includes:
- £1.15bn support pot for cultural organisations in England, comprising £880m grants and £270m loans;
- £100m of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust;
- £120m capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England;
- extra £188m for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m).

The news follows the government’s announcement of a roadmap to reopening, which was heavily criticised by the sector for lacking investment and timeframes.
Commenting on the funding scheme, chancellor of the exchequer Rishi Sunak said: "Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture. That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for."

The industry reacts

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre (SOLT) & UK Theatre: “The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector in the UK is hugely welcomed - for the theatre and performing arts sector, we have worked intensively with DCMS and HMT to seek this clear commitment to our world-leading industry and we thank them. Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible. Our industry’s united ambition is to be able to play its vital role in the nation’s economic and social recovery and this investment will allow us to do so.”

Philippa Childs, head of Bectu: “At long last the government have woken up to our warnings and those of the whole creative sector, that without support, we stood to lose a huge amount of our world-beating creative industries. We will now be scrutinising the details of this package to make sure it lives up to the real needs of our sector. We must see the most rapid action to stem the tide of redundancies and closures that are emerging in the sector. For some this is already too late and we will be pushing government to get this funding out there within days. The terms of these grants and loans must recognise that there is still a long journey to recovery for theatres and live events and this package is the first cautious step towards reviving the sector. While this support was necessary, the government also needs to think again on support for the forgotten freelancers. They have fallen through the gaps in government support, and it is a scandal that they have been ignored by the government so far.”

Jon Morgan, Theatres Trust director: “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 £800m that have been stalled by the pandemic by anywhere between three and 18 months at a cost of upwards of £66m.”

Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House: “The Royal Opera House warmly welcomes the newly announced package of Government support for the arts sector. This is a vital next step on the road to recovery for the industry and will help to support and sustain the UK’s vibrant arts ecology through this crisis. There is much to achieve over the coming months and this package of support will be a catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK’s world-renowned creative industries. Over the months ahead we will need to draw all on our collective ingenuity and determination to adapt to the realities of re-opening our theatres. We now look forward to the future and celebrating the return of our artforms, our community of staff and artists and importantly, welcoming our audiences back to the Royal Opera House.”

Nigel Higgins, chair, and Alistair Spalding, artistic director and CEO, Sadler’s Wells: “We welcome the rescue package for the arts sector that has been announced today. We appreciate the many demands on the government as a result of the coronavirus crisis, and are grateful that they have recognised the local and national benefits theatres like Sadler’s Wells provide, and that support in this time is critical to our survival as ticket sales and other income sources have disappeared during the lockdown. This package will help Sadler’s Wells and organisations like ours to survive the immediate impacts of the crisis, but also put us in readiness to welcome back audiences, artists, and participants as soon as we can safely reopen our theatres. We are confident with this investment we will be able to support the national economic recovery through the employment we create for staff and freelancers, and we will continue to support the cultural life, health and well-being of the countless people and communities Sadler’s Wells and the arts sector touch each year.”

Lord Grade: “This announcement is more than a life line for the arts in these challenging times, it represents an unprecedented investment. It demonstrates that this government understands the importance of our cultural assets and activities. Given the many calls on the public purse in this crisis, it will come as a massive relief to the sector, public and private. Three cheers.”

Andrew Lloyd Webber: “This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future. I know how hard Oliver Dowden has worked to secure this support. It is absolutely critical that Britain’s cultural sector is restored to health as soon as possible, and I look forward to seeing the details of the rescue package and working further with Oliver and the government to get all of Britain’s theatres - both large and small - open as soon as possible.”

Catherine Mallyon RSC executive director and artistic director Gregory Doran: “We are very pleased and relieved to hear news of the government’s support package and investment in the arts and culture sector during this critical time. Thank you to the DCMS, HM Treasury and the many people in the sector who have worked together to demonstrate the critical role the arts play in our economic well being and public life. 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 details 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.”

Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director and Lead Principal dancer of English National Ballet: “The Arts contribute so much to the social and economic fabric of our society. There was an urgent need for action and I am delighted and relieved that the Government has listened and responded. This package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival. We are looking forward to seeing further details on the guidance for the phased return of the performing arts and thrilled to be on the road to bringing our dancers, performances and audiences back safely.”

Neil Constable, CEO, Shakespeare’s Globe: “We at Shakespeare’s Globe welcome this significant investment from the Government in our world-leading theatres and cultural institutions. As an independent charity, The Globe needs support throughout this difficult time and will now have the opportunity to plan to reopen fully by early 2021. We will of course be taking opportunities, if social distancing allows, to reopen earlier, and until then this investment allows us to offer our world-class performances and education online for audiences and students across the world, before safely bringing our actors, creatives, staff, and visitors alike together in our wonderful iconic theatres.”

Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England: “We greatly welcome this very significant investment by the government in the future of arts and culture in this country and look forward to working with them on next steps. I know our amazing artists and creative organisations will repay the faith that the government has shown by demonstrating the range of their creativity, by serving their communities and by helping the nation recover as we emerge from the pandemic.”

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