For weeks the arts industries have been making it known the certain catastrophe lay ahead unless a Coronavirus package was forthcoming from the government. Yesterday a £1.57 billion emergency support package was announced.
The Coronavirus package aimed to support and protect the future of theatres, galleries and museums has been forthcoming but Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden warned the fund would not be enough to save every job.
Dowden said the focus of grants and loans would aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the arts sector and many local venues. Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will also be eligible.
The grants and loans were all new money and were designed to last until the end of the financial year. Institutions will apply through industry bodies but would be asked to prove how they contributed to wider economic growth.
Dowden said: “Sadly, not everyone is going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected and sadly, I will have to be honest with you, of course, we will see further redundancies.”
It is too early at this stage if the available funding would be enough to halt announced redundancies at some theatres across the UK.
The industry as a whole has welcomed the package at this initial stage, but most seemed genuinely surprised at the amount offered which exceeded expectations. As always, the devil will be in the detail. The government has not specified how the money will be divided between competing art forms or regions, nor how the application process will work. There will be winners and losers.
The major barrier of social distancing remains a major hurdle to the re-opening of the industry.
The £1.15bn support pot for cultural organisations in England is made up of £880m in grants and £270m of repayable loans. The government said the loans would be “issued on generous terms”.
Funding will also go to the devolved administrations – £33m to Northern Ireland, £97m to Scotland and £59m to Wales.
A further £100m will be earmarked for national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
There will also be £120m to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England that were paused due to the pandemic.
The government said decisions on who will get the funding would be made “alongside expert independent figures from the sector”. Dowden also made mention of funding extensions to the furlough scheme and VAT deferral and business rate relief.
The chief executives of the National Theatre, Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger, said they “feel very positive that this major investment will reach and sustain the vital talent and infrastructure”.
Birmingham Repertory Theatre said they wholeheartedly welcomed this vital pledge of support from Government for the UK’s world-leading arts sector. This vote of confidence recognises our industry’s huge role in the economic, educational, and social wellbeing of the UK.
Jon Morgan – Director of the Theatres Trust commented “Theatres Trust welcomes the announcement of £1.57bn 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.”
We now look forward to receiving more information about who is eligible for the fund and when it will be distributed. Today has been a good day for the Arts in the Uk with the launch by Sam Mendes of the Theatre Artists Fund supported by Netflix providing £500million to the fund.