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The theatre industry reacts to the UK Government's arts investment announcement

Read the statements from several industry leaders about the £1.5 billion support package

The West End
(© Oliver Mallich / flickr)

After the government announced a £1.5 billion package to support the arts through the pandemic on 5 July, it's safe to say that a wave of relief flooded through the industry. But there are still tough times and concerns ahead. We captured the reactions of several leaders in the sector – read on for questions around freelancers, what the return roadmap is going to look like, and more.

This rolling document will be updated as more reactions are announced over the days to come


Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London

"I'm pleased to see that the Government has finally got round to acknowledging the vital role the culture and creative industries play as both a driver of the economy and key part of the fabric of life in our city.

"The loans and funding for our cultural organisations are welcome and long overdue, but I'm concerned to see no mention of support for the thousands of freelancers who work across the sector or the businesses in the creative supply chain, without whom our theatres, galleries and venues simply wouldn't function.

"London's creative and cultural sector led the world before the pandemic and will play a vital role in our economic and social recovery but it is essential that the Government support the whole cast, not just the headline acts."

Birmingham Hippodrome
© Oosoom at English Wikipedia / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Fiona Allan, Artistic Director and Chief Executive Officer, Birmingham Hippodrome

"We are completely overjoyed by the news this evening that £1.57 billion will be invested by the UK Government to protect our world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions during this time of crisis. This is welcomed news as we were at the point where, without intervention, we would have seen 70% of theatres across the UK close.

"This support will mean that more venues, jobs and companies can survive, and there will be an industry to return to when we can do safely. Theatres play an important civic role in our society, bringing communities together and helping regional economies thrive.

"We still have a lot of work to do, and while we wait for further details on how this may directly benefit Birmingham Hippodrome, we are now able to turn our focus to rebuilding what we have lost and planning for the future."

The Curve in Leicester
© Ellie Kurttz

Curve Leicester Artistic Director, Nikolai Foster, and Chief Executive, Chris Stafford

"We welcome this news of urgent investment to protect our world-famous arts and cultural industries. We know theatres play a vital role in our communities and it makes good business sense to invest in our sector, which brings millions of pounds into our local economies. Thank you to DCMS and HM Treasury for this essential support for our industry.

"We look forward to hearing in more detail how these packages will be implemented, reopening dates for performances and specifically how these grants and loans will safeguard the future of the Curve and the theatre industry itself."


National Theatre
© Carlos Delgado / CC BY-SA (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)

Rufus Norris and Lisa Burger, Joint Chief Executives, National Theatre

"The National Theatre emphatically welcomes this vital support from the Government, which recognises the crucial economic, cultural and social impact of theatre in the life of our nationa.

"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. Althought 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 and 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 infrasturcture - both organisation and freelancers - which make British theatre truly world-leading."


Chichester Festival Theatre
© Philip Vile

Chichester Festival Theatre Artistic Director, Daniel Evans, and Executive Director, Kathy Bourne

"We greatly welcome the significant investment made by the Government in supporting the arts at this critical time. Thank you to the DCMS and all those who have worked tirelessly to demonstrate the vital role that culture plays in our lives.

"We now look forward to the future as we work with our colleagues across the industry to ensure we can reopen our theatre as soon as it is safe to do so and welcome audiences back to Chichester Festival Theatre."


Matthew Bourne, Artistic Director, New Adventures

"Very welcome news this morning from Oliver Dowden detailing a vital lifeline for the arts and culture sector. Thank you to everyone who has lobbied so hard to secure this support. As an organisation that tours and works across the country we hope that this funding will reach those who need it before we see any further losses in an industry that provides so much for so many. Not only onstage, but in the many communities where creativity and culture enrich all our lives. Our warmest thoughts go out to our friends and partners across the country."


David Hutchinson, Chief Executive Officer, Selladoor Worldwide

"We hugely welcome the Government's announcement of a £1.57 billion package of support for the arts and culture last night. This funding promises to offer our sector a vital lifeline as we continue to plan survival through COVID-19. The theatre sector has been decimated since closure in March, and what is clear is that we won't be able to open our doors anytime soon as running a commercially viable theatre model with social distancing just isn't possible. What the Government have done today is to strongly acknowledge the value of the arts – both economic and cultural – and that is an incredibly positive endorsement for all in the theatre sector who have suffered many months of adversity during one of the biggest crises to hit the industry in the last century."

Donmar Warehouse
© Johan Persson

Donmar Warehouse Artistic Director, Michael Longhurst, and Executive Director, Henny Finch

"The Donmar Warehouse welcomes the announcement of the £1.57 billion support package from the government for arts and culture. We would like to thank the treasury, Oliver Dowden and everyone who has worked tirelessly to achieve this support, and we hope it will ensure the UK's vibrant theatre ecology can survive until we are all able to open our doors to audiences for live theatre again. We look forward to understanding the details of the support package, and in particular how it can support the thousands of brilliant freelancers who make up the wider cultural workforce. We know how essential the arts will be in bringing people back together in theatres, music venues, museums, village halls, schools and community spaces after their period of isolation, and we can't wait to start this crucial work again soon."


Julian Bird, Chief Executive, Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre

"The government's announcement of a £1.57 billion package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector in the UK is hugely welcomed – for the theatre and performing arts sector, we have worked intensively with DCMS and HMT to seek this clear commitment to our world-leading industry and we thank them. 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. Our industry's united ambition is to be able to play its vital role in the nation's economic and social recovery and this investment will allow us to do so."

Theatre Royal Stratford East

Theatre Royal Stratford East Artistic Director, Nadia Fall, and Executive Director, Eleanor Lang

"After much anticipation and anguish the welcome news of a government bailout will be a much needed lifeline for our industry at such a precarious time. There will of course be an application process for theatres to gain access to the financial support, speed and fair distribution will be key to ensure our survival. We at Theatre Royal Stratford East are committed to doing our utmost in order for our staff, our freelance collaborators, (who make up a significant part of our work force), and our beautiful building get through the closure and thrive beyond it. We cherish the well wishes and support from our loyal audiences, and generous donors and cannot wait to be back."


Cameron Mackintosh

"The news that the government has heard the pleas of the theatre and arts community and they have responded with this very generous grant to help us survive is most welcome. As well as finding out how commercial theatre venues, producers and our freelance artists and technicians can access this vital support it is now critical that we are given immediate guidance when social distancing will be phased out so we can make firm plans to reopen as soon as practical. All of us in the theatre long to declare ‘Curtain up, Light the Lights, We have nothing to hit but the heights'."

Sheffield Theatres
© Craig Fleming

Sheffield Theatres Artistic Director, Robert Hastie, and Executive Director, Dan Bates

"We are so thankful to hear about the government's £1.57 billion package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector. The closure of Sheffield Theatres since March and the cancellation of our planned programme of work has had an enormous impact on our business, our staff and our audiences. We're grateful to DCMS, the treasury and the Prime Minister for hearing us and offering this unprecedented investment which will support our theatres and freelancers to survive and thrive. We'd also like to thank everyone across the industry who has campaigned and helped to achieve this outcome. We know there is more detail to understand and we must wait for further guidelines. In the meantime, we look forward to learning more about the government's funding package and how this can support us to look to the future and return to creating bold and brilliant work for our stages when it is safe to do so."


Sonia Friedman

"I'm deeply relieved and immensely grateful that the Government has heard the urgent warnings from across the cultural sector, and responded with this significant rescue package that it so desperately needed. This historic fiscal support recognises that the arts are not an added extra, but a national necessity that enrich all our lives in countless ways. We take them for granted at our peril."


Indhu Rubasingham, Artistic Director, Kiln Theatre

"This is such welcome news from the Government, at last a glimpse of hope for a sector brought to its knees. We now have an excellent opportunity, to not only move to recovery, but also to reset, challenge and change to make sure we are better, bolder and revitalised as we look after every moving part that constitutes our complex and deeply inter-dependent eco-system."

Theatr Clwyd
© Theatr Clwyd

Tamara Harvey, Artistic Director, Theatr Clwyd

"This is an essential and welcome commitment to our world leading cultural landscape, and hugely important that it's been extended to Wales and the other devolved nations. Every week of the pandemic, we've held online workshops in dance, music and theatre with over 1,000 people in our community. We're a centre for blood donations, we've worked with social services to distribute food, creative packages and rainbow boxes of toys to vulnerable children, we've turned on the lights in our theatre for a local boy can continue his ballet training, so he can take up his place at the Royal Ballet in September.

"Theatres across the country have done this – and more – without knowing if any of our buildings or our artists will survive the winter because we fundamentally believe in the power of the arts to change lives – and because we passionately believe that we are here to serve and inspire the people around us. This £1.57 billion support package comes tragically too late for some but is a clear recognition of the vital economic contribution that the arts, culture and heritage make to our nation. Once we have detail on the what, where and how of these funds, hopefully we can start planning how we bring our stages back to life whilst continuing to serve our communities as we have been doing throughout this pandemic."

Bristol Old Vic
© Philip Vile

Tom Morris, Artistic Director, Bristol Old Vic

"We are delighted by the scale and range of last night's announcement. Artists, economists, producers and audience members have powerfully argued that the national theatre infrastructure would be impossible to rebuild if we were to let it collapse. Government has heard that call and invested.

"There's much to find out about how the funds will be applied but this investment feels like a decisive vote of confidence by Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden in the enormous contribution that the arts and culture can make to our social, educational, creative and economic recovery from the COVID19 disaster. It can't save every organisation or support every artist, but we unreservedly welcome and applaud it.

"Like others across the sector, we look forward to working closely with ACE and DCMS to ensure that the funds can be released quickly enough to minimise the damage of cuts being made to many organisations, and be used speedily to employ the freelance artists who have been so badly hit by the pandemic.

"We need to make sure that money reaches freelance artists fast, not only through the hardship funds announced from Netflix and others, but through meaningful employment too."


Nickie Aiken, MP, Westminster and Cities of London

"COVID has thrown our theatres, arts and cultural venues into a perilous position and 70 per cent were expected to run out of cash by the end of the year. If these venues collapse, so do the local pubs, bars, hotels and restaurants that rely on them. For every pound spent at the theatre, a further £5 is spent in the local economy. I wrote a recovery plan with industry leaders, I took it to ministers, and at the heart of it was the need for a serious and temporary financial injection. I'm delighted that Oliver Dowden and his team have listened and acted urgently, £1.5 billion will keep the industry going for an entire year, across the whole of the UK, while it works out how to bring people into buildings safely.

"We are world renowned for our arts, theatres and culture – and they will be vital in helping us feel better as we recover from this difficult time. This amount will benefit our economy, our society, our health and our international standing."


Christine Payne, General Secretary, Equity

"Equity welcomes the scale of the package announced tonight – but it won't be money well spent unless each of the union's four pillars of its live performance re-opening plan are adequately funded.

"Critically, it's unclear as to how this money will be used on our first pillar – supporting the workforce through this crisis. How will the £880 million in grants for the sector support and maintain the freelance and self employed creative workers our UK arts infrastructure depends on?

"If this investment does not reach creative workers – the actors, dancers, stage management, singers, variety artists, directors, designers, choreographers and many other highly skilled workers in our talent base, we risk the diversity and success of the wider creative industries – worth £112 billion to the economy.

"These workers have campaigned for this deal; they can't be left behind. Our question to Government is – how will this and future packages preserve the talent base of freelancers, self-employed creatives and staff employed in arts organisations? It's very welcome that this appears to inject meaningful investment into our third pillar: protecting venues and infrastructure. Equity remains hopeful that the details will support all four."

Bridge Theatre
© Philip Vile

Nicholas Hytner, Co-Director, London Theatre Company

"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."


Caroline Norbury, Chief Executive Officer, Creative Industries Federation and Creative England

"This unprecedented £1.57 billion investment is a seismic step forward. Our creative industries are teetering on the brink of cultural collapse – and this could be the game changer we need.

"The voice of the creative sector has been heard loud and clear by the government and we warmly welcome their response. This investment acknowledges the mission critical role that the UK's creative industries will play in recovery and growth in all parts of the country.

"However while this support will rescue many, so much has changed during the pandemic; there won't necessarily be an easy return to normal. It is particularly heartening to see the reference to supporting freelancers, who are a phenomenally important part of the creative industries ecosystem.

"But there will be so much more to do to ensure that our world-beating creative sector can thrive once more and as we move forwards through the challenging days and months ahead it will be crucial that the creative industries work together to reimagine all of our futures.

"I'm confident the creative industries will play a vital role in powering the UK out of the forthcoming economic crisis and this investment will help the creative and cultural sector to rise to meet the challenges and opportunities ahead."

The Lowry, Salford
© Arran Bee from Nottingham, UK / CC BY (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)

Julia Fawcett, Chief Executive, The Lowry

"The announcement of £1.57 billion 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.

"In doing so, they can help save programmes of work and thousands of jobs across our sector that will otherwise fall victim to COVID."


Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England

"We greatly welcome this very significant investment by the government in the future of arts and culture in this country and look forward to working with them on next steps. I know our amazing artists and creative organisations will repay the faith that the government has shown by demonstrating the range of their creativity, by serving their communities and by helping the nation recover as we emerge from the pandemic."

The Royal Shakespeare Theatre
© RSC, photo by Sara Beaumont

RSC Executive Director, Catherine Mallyon, and Artistic Director, Gregory Doran

"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."


Jon Morgan, Director, The Theatres Trust

"Theatres Trust welcomes the announcement of £1.57 billion 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 £800 million that have been stalled by the pandemic by anywhere between three and 18 months at a cost of upwards of £66 million."

Royal Opera House
© Luke Hayes

Alex Beard, Chief Executive, Royal Opera House

"The Royal Opera House warmly welcomes the newly announced package of Government support for the arts sector. This is a vital next step on the road to recovery for the industry and will help to support and sustain the UK's vibrant arts ecology through this crisis. There is much to achieve over the coming months and this package of support will be a catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK's world-renowned creative industries.

"Over the months ahead we will need to draw all on our collective ingenuity and determination to adapt to the realities of re-opening our theatres. We now look forward to the future and celebrating the return of our artforms, our community of staff and artists and importantly, welcoming our audiences back to the Royal Opera House."

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