Arts and culture in England was thrown a lifeline last night after the Government announced a £1.57bn support package for the beleaguered sector.
The money, in the form of emergency grants and loans, will help protect the country’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions.
Thousands of organisations including theatres, museums, galleries and live music venues have been pushed to the brink by the coronavirus lockdown.
Many venues have warned that they will go out of business in the coming months without support – with some already closing their doors permanently.
Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens welcomed the funding boost but said it was “too little, too late” to save many regional theatres and arts organisations.
The multi-billion pound sector employs more than 700,000 people and supports thousands more freelancers, many of whom have slipped through the Government’s coronavirus support net.
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.
“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.”
The Government’s package includes £1.15bn for cultural organisations delivered through £270m of loans and £880m of grants.
There will also be £100m for the national cultural institutions and £120m to restart construction on heritage construction projects in England.
It will mean an extra £188m for the devolved administrations incluing £97m for Scotland, £59m for Wales and £33m for Northern Ireland.
Labour ’s Ms 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.”
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said: “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.”
Alex Beard Chief Executive, ROH said: “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. 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.”
Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future. 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.”
Duncan Wilson, Historic England’s Chief Executive, said: “Covid-19 has hit all sectors of our economy hard, including our heritage. The historic places that help define our country are at risk of being lost forever. This emergency funding package from the Government will be a lifeline for our sector, kickstarting repair works at our historic sites which matter most to local communities.“
Playwright James Graham said: “Theatres and live performance venues play a vital economic and social role not just in places like London’s West End but in every town and city across the country. In normal times, we are a profitable and world-beating industry, and we can be again.“
Tamara Rojo, Artistic Director and Lead Principal dancer of English National Ballet, said: “This package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival.”