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Relief at £1.57bn support package for struggling arts sector

The package will be made up of grants and loans.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

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General view of Shaftesbury Avenue, London, at around the usual opening time for West End shows (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

General view of Shaftesbury Avenue, London, at around the usual opening time for West End shows (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

The Government has announced a £1.57 billion support package to “protect” the future of Britain’s museums, galleries and theatres.

Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues are also eligible for the emergency grants and loans.

The Government said: “Repayable finance (for the loans) will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable.”

Arts Council England, the Royal Opera House, the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, and the Music Venue Trust were among those to welcome the funding.

Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors is expected to be published by the Government shortly.

The package comes after some theatres – which are not yet able to stage live performances – closed down, making staff redundant, amid the pandemic.

Museums have also said they face an uncertain future, while 1,500 artists and acts signed a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for a road map for the live music industry.

Prime Minister 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 said the money “represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture” and will help struggling institutions “stay afloat while their doors are closed”.

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

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Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced the funding (Pippa Fowles/10 Downing Street/Crown Copyright/PA)

Mr Dowden said he understood the “grave challenges” facing the arts sector and that the investment demonstrated the Government’s “level of commitment” in supporting it.

Funding will also be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites paused as a result of the pandemic, the Government said.

Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector.

The £1.15 billion support pot for cultural organisations in England will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million of grants.

The funding also includes money for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million), the Government said.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the arts and heritage sectors employ more than 700,000 people and were “critical” to the UK’s economy.

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Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

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Rishi Sunak (Aaron Chown/PA)

The announcement has been welcomed by various industry leaders, including Arts Council England chairman Sir Nicholas Serota, who said the package was a “very significant investment”.

Creative organisations will be “serving their communities and… helping the nation recover as we emerge from the pandemic”, he said.

Julian Bird, chief executive of the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, said it “hugely welcomed” the funding.

“Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible,” he said.

Labour shadow DCMS secretary Jo Stevens said while she welcomed the “much-needed” cash injection, it was “too little, too late” for many.

She said: “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.”

Speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour, Ms Stevens added she was concerned that the scheme lacked any support for freelancers.

“One other thing which is missing from the announcement – freelancers which dominate this sector across all types of arts and culture,” she said.

“Many of them have been excluded from the treasury schemes to date, they’ve had nothing and it doesn’t seem that there‘s anything in this announcement, particularly in terms of Government action, to help freelancers who are struggling so badly.”

Jon Morgan, director of The Theatres Trust, said theatres were among the hardest industries during the pandemic and remain at risk while social distancing measures are in place.

He said more detail was needed about how the money would be allocated across the different areas to fully assess its benefit, adding: ���We would hope that a significant proportion will be reserved for the performing arts.”

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Rufus Norris (Paul Plews/National Theatre/PA)

Rufus Norris (Paul Plews/National Theatre/PA)

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Rufus Norris (Paul Plews/National Theatre/PA)

National Theatre director Rufus Norris said there would be “many challenges ahead” for the industry, but added that theatre companies across the country “stand ready to respond with creativity and commitment, and to reopen as soon as is safe”.

He said: “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.”

The Tate, the Science Museum Group, the Natural History Museum, National Gallery and the Royal Shakespeare Company were among those who also welcomed the funding.

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight said the support package would take some cultural institutions out of the “danger zone”.

However, he said more was needed to secure the sector’s future, including possible tax breaks.

The funding was also welcomed by composer Lord Lloyd-Webber, who said the news was “truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future”.

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