£1.57 billion support package announced to safeguard theatres and the arts

By Polly Jean Harrison | 07 Jul 2020 | Culture

The government funding is designed to protect institutions at risk from lockdown measures

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* The Royal Albert Hall

UK Government announces £1.57 billion support package to protect theatres and “Britain’s world class cultural arts and heritage institutions” during coronavirus pandemic. 

Arts industries in the UK will receive funding to help them “weather the impact of coronavirus” it was announced on Sunday 5 July.

Thousands of organisations – including museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues –will be able to access emergency grants and loans on top of government financial assistance already in place, such as business rate holidays and the furlough scheme. 

The arts sector provides more than 700,000 jobs in Britain and, according to Arts Council England, contributes £10.8bn a year to the UK economy. The announced funding marks the biggest one-off investment in UK culture by the government.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, “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 announcement comes after weeks of pressure and warnings from industry leaders, such as playwright James Graham and director Sam Mendes, that arts and culture were being overlooked in the government’s pandemic response. >>

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* Shakespeare's Globe

“I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations,” said culture secretary Oliver Dowden, “I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”

The packages have been gratefully welcomed by many arts leaders and institutions and, though some fear the money will not protect all jobs in the sector, the government says it is confident that it can protect the majority of jobs and support employment, including freelancers.

Applications for the scheme are expected to open in the coming weeks, and decisions on funding allocation will be made by the government working alongside specialist bodies from the sector, including Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Neil Constable, CEO of Shakespeare’s Globe said, “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.”