UK Government announces £1.57 billion emergency support package for the arts, the largest investment in UK culture in history
After several months since the West End and UK theatres were forced to shut due to the pandemic, the UK Government has now revealed plans to support the arts sector. A one-off £1.57 billion investment in UK culture will go towards helping the "arts weather the storm of COVID" (Oliver Dowden MP).
£1.57 billion "rescue package" announced for the arts, how will it be distributed?
The emergency support package, dubbed a "rescue package" by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, includes approximately £880m-worth of grants that are available up until April 2021, which will be shared amongst theatres, museums, music venues, art galleries, and heritage sites. This amount is supplemented by £270m-worth of loans.
Additionally, there will be £100m-worth of support for English cultural institutions and the Heritage Trust, and another £120m to aid in the construction of cultural sites. The rescue package also includes an extra £188m in funding for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m).
After intense questioning during last Wednesday's PMQs and following increased criticism, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has finally shown some support, stating: "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." The new scheme will also help "support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors."
Is the UK Government's support package for the arts too late?
It's always better late than never. The UK Government and DCMS (Department of Culture, Media, and Sport) have finally caved in after months of pressure from the arts sector to support the country's world-leading industry.
However, for a number of UK venues, it is already too late regardless of whether this marks the most ambitious and expensive UK culture support package of all time. Many venues were put in financially precarious positions that forced them to lay off the majority of their workers. Other venues have already permanently closed, including Nuffield Southampton Theatres (NST).
Additional details on the new rescue package are expected to be unveiled very soon as the government also works to finalise new guidance on how theatres and music venues can re-open with public performances.
How have industry leaders reacted to DCMS' new arts rescue package?
Andrew Lloyd Webber took to Twitter today to give his two cents. "Great to see the Government support the arts, but what we really need is for the UK's theatres to open safely as soon as practically possible," he tweeted. The theatre producer made headlines last week when he was visited by Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden at the London Palladium to test safe performances.
Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger, Joint Chief Executives of the National Theatre, released a less critical statement: "The National Theatre emphatically welcomes this vital support from the Government, which recognises the crucial economic, cultural and social impact of theatre and culture in the life of our nation.
"We are extremely thankful to see such a strong vote of confidence from the Prime Minister, the Chancellor of the Exchequer and the Culture Secretary. Although there will be many challenges ahead to operating in the new environment, the NT and theatre companies across the country stand ready to respond with creativity commitment and to reopen as soon as is safe.
"We feel very positive that this major investment will reach and sustain the vital talent and infrastructure - both organisations and freelancers - which make British theatre truly world-leading."
But wait, that's not all. New SOLT and UK Theatre fund announced
News of the new DCMS arts support package comes after SOLT and UK Theatre announced the Theatre Artists Fund, which is backed by Sam Mendes and a £500,000 donation from Netflix. The fund will issue £1,000 grants to theatre workers who have been unable to work and who have been ineligible for government support.
Read more about the Theatre Artists Fund here and apply or donate to the Theatre Artists Fund here.
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