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Government announces £1.5bn package to support the arts through the pandemic

The government has revealed plans to support the sector through the pandemic

© Andy Bird, (CC BY-SA 2.0, https://flickr.com/photos/mrandybird/4837931749/in/photolist-8nvEyn-Pyd4q2-FZAGzt-Y4k9qN-H43vF2-Zs9isH-WfcVG3-DmgcFC-22bdv

The UK government has announced a £1.57bn "one-off investment in UK culture" to help the industry through the pandemic.

Described by the Chancellor Rishi Sunak as a "rescue package', there will be an £880m worth of grants available through to April 2021, shared out between theatre, heritage sites, museums, music venues, galleries and more, will also be supplemented by £270m-worth of loans.

There will also be £100m worth of support for English cultural institutions and the Heritage Trust, and £120m to help the construction of cultural sites. 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." The scheme will help "support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors".

It comes after intense pressure from the arts sector to support the industry, with a number of venues already forced to make redundancies while in financially precarious positions. Further details about the package are to be revealed over the coming weeks, with the government also finalising guidance on how performances may return, adopting a phased return.

The new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million).

The package was confirmed by the Chancellor and the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, with in-depth reports in the Financial Times, Variety, i news and more.

Jon Morgan, director of The Theatres Trust said: "Theatres Trust welcomes the announcement of £1.57bn additional support for the arts and cultural sectors, and the recognition of the importance of these sectors to the UK economy and national life. We will need to know more detail of how this money will be allocated across the different areas to fully assess its benefit – we would hope that a significant proportion will be reserved for the performing arts. Theatres have been amongst the hardest hit industries by the pandemic and are still at risk as they are unable to operate viably while social distancing is in place.

"It remains to be seen whether this amount will be sufficient to replace the furlough scheme, as it begins to taper from August and ends in October, at a time when we still do not have timescales for theatres reopening.

"We are pleased to see investment in capital projects included in this announcement. Our research has shown that there are more than 100 theatre capital projects worth almost £800m that have been stalled by the pandemic by anywhere between 3 and 18 months at a cost of upwards of £66m."

RSC executive director, Catherine Mallyon and artistic director, Gregory Doran said: "We are very pleased and relieved to hear news of the government's support package and investment in the arts and culture sector during this critical time. Thank you to the DCMS, HM Treasury and the many people in the sector who have worked together to demonstrate the critical role the arts play in our economic wellbeing and public life.

"We hope this investment will provide meaningful support for the whole sector: for the skilled workforce who create world-class theatre, and for theatres and companies at every scale throughout the UK. We are all ready to be part of a powerful civic, emotional and economic recovery for the country, and will be invaluable contributors to the UK's ability to re-emerge from the pandemic locally, nationally and on a world stage.

'We look forward to receiving the detail of the support package when we will see in full how this will help the survival of the sector, and support our next steps to welcoming audiences back to live theatre."

Nicholas Hytner, artistic director of the Bridge Theatre and former artistic director of the National Theatre: "This is a much better plan than anyone expected and it's a big achievement for DCMS. Obviously there's a lot of work to done and questions to be asked about how quickly these funds can be distributed, how they reach the artists who need support, and how soon we can connect with the audiences we're so desperate to serve. But I warmly welcome the way Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden have responded to the tenacious and detailed lobbying of the entire arts sector."

Julia Fawcett OBE, chief executive of The Lowry, said: "The announcement of £1.57bn of emergency investment in the UK's culture sector is welcome news, but we are fast running out of time.

"This lifeline will come too late for some organisations who have already been forced to close their doors for good or made valued employees redundant.

"While we await precise details of the funding mechanisms, I would remind Government that the priority now must be to get these much-needed funds to the organisations most at risk – and fast."