Arts organisations have received a long-awaited financial lifeline to swerve closure (Picture: Reuters; AFP) The government has set up a £1.57 billion fund to save museums, galleries and theatres at risk of closure.
Ministers say it represents the ‘biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture’ and will help venues ‘stay afloat while their doors are closed’.
The support will come in the form of emergency grants and loans, and will also be available to independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues.
It follows the closure of some theatres as well as redundancies at a number of venues as live performances remain banned under coronavirus legislation.
The pot includes £880 million in grants and £270 million in loans. Repayable finance will be offered on ‘generous terms’ tailored to each institution to ensure they are affordable.
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Meanwhile £100 million will go to ‘cultural national institutions’ such as the English Heritage Trust, and £120 million has been earmarked for infrastructure investment for projects that were halted due to Covid-19.
Another £188 million will be handed to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Boris Johnson said: ‘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.
Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said the ‘massive investment’ shows the government’s ‘level of commitment’ to the arts (Picture: PA) ‘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.’
Bodies including Arts Council England, the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, the Royal Opera House and the Music Venue have issued statements supporting the move.
Arts Council England’s chair Sir Nicholas Serota said the package was a ‘very significant investment’ and will help creative organisations ‘[serve] their communities and [help] the nation recover as we emerge from the pandemic’.
Royal Opera House chief executive Alex Beard added: ‘[it] 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’.
Some 1,500 artists and acts previously signed a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for a plan to revive the live music industry, while a number of museums have said their future is at stake.
Mr Dowden said: ‘Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast-growing creative industries.
On ‘Super Saturday’ drinkers were able to cavort outside theatres while performances remain banned (Picture: PA) ‘I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations.
‘Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.’
Labour shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said: ‘Whilst we welcome the announcement of a much-needed injection of cash into the sector, for many this is too little too late.
‘The Government needs to ensure that this vital funding gets to those theatres and other organisations currently teetering on the brink, and fast – especially those across the towns and small cities where live performance venues and other arts organisations are so valuable to local economies, providing many interdependent jobs, particularly in hospitality.
‘What we now need is a Back to Work Budget focused on jobs, jobs, jobs, and for the Chancellor to extend the furlough scheme to those who still cannot work while venues stay closed so that organisations can make plans to keep our world-class creative talent in the sector.’
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