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Culture Secretary in "intricate discussions" to support the arts sector through the pandemic

The Secretary has spoken to the Evening Standard in his first print interview since the pandemic began

The Royal Opera House
© Txllxt TxllxT / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has doubled down on his pledge to help the arts sector through the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking in his first print interview since the pandemic began with the Evening Standard, Dowden said that he is currently in "intricate discussions" with the Treasury to provide a scheme to keep the arts sector from falling into financial ruin. He added that "Of course I want to get the money flowing...I am not going to let anyone down." Dowden also acknowledged that cultural institutions are the bedrock of London's reputation.

The Culture Secretary, appointed last year, was quick to temper expectations, stating that: "Not everyone is going to be happy with whatever comes up. I'm going to have to ask institutions to take difficult decisions". According to the Standard, this deal is almost done.

Many have asked why Dowden hasn't acted sooner – dozens of theatres and organisations are already exploring staff redundancy plans, or have stated that they are on the cusp of collapse. The Nuffield Southampton Theatres sadly announced recently that it has gone into administration, while a number of freelancers and self-employed artists do not qualify for the support schemes on offer.

A working group led by MP Nickie Aiken alongside the Royal Opera House, the Royal Albert Hall, Society of London Theatre recently stated that "an agreed-upon value of £300m for every three months that venues are closed would save the sector across the whole of the UK".

The MP stated that performances will naturally not be wholly feasible until social distancing rules are relaxed, and reiterated that he's working with a cultural taskforce to oversee the reopening of theatres.

Dowden spoke to the publication about his own love of the arts – he even appeared in an Edinburgh Fringe youth show in his younger days.

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