Theatre News

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden responds to criticism for his handling of pandemic support

The MP has spoken out on Twitter

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden
© UK Parliament / Attribution 3.0 Unported (CC BY 3.0)

The Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden has spoken out following criticism of his handling of the pandemic and the ways in which the arts are being supported.

The MP's public message was in direct response to comments made by BBC Front Row's John Wilson, who recently said that he'd heard word from conductor Simon Rattle that Dowden "believes UK arts are 'better & stronger' for NOT having the sort of financial support offered by other European countries". When Dowden was told that "UK arts need huge new investment", Rattle states that this "wasn't something that was welcome for him [the Culture Secretary] to hear".

Taking to Twitter, the Secretary of State fired back at Wilson last night in an attempt to clarify his position: "Not true. What I said was that arts organisations who have worked hard to increase income from non-government sources should not be penalised for it in this crisis. I understand the seriousness of the situation and am working on it every single day."

The theatre community has been repeatedly campaigning out for support for a number of months since having to shut down in March, with thousands of jobs currently in peril and many venues saying they may have to permanently close. Venues such as the National Theatre, Birmingham Hippodrome and Theatre Royal Plymouth have already signalled that large portions of their workforces are at risk.

Thusfar, Dowden has provided no details for a concrete financial package to help the arts sector, and his recently released roadmap for reopening was branded "meaningless" by Equity.

Thousands of freelance workers, currently without any source of income, have also been unable to take advantage of the government's support systems due to ineligibility.

Earlier today, Ian McKellen launched a new fundraiser to help theatre workers in need.