UK Government Announces £1.57 Billion Rescue Package for Arts Venues and Cultural Spaces

The UK government has announced a support package to protect the “future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues”, according to a press release. The funds will be provided to help support the UK’s arts industries, who have suffered severe financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Read the government’s full press release here.

“Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the lynchpin of our world-beating and fast growing creative industries,” Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said. “I understand the grave challenges the arts face and we must protect and preserve all we can for future generations. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”

The package, which marks “the biggest one-off investment in UK culture”, comes after weeks of pressure from the arts and heritage sector. Last week, over 1,400 artists including Dua Lipa, Radiohead, Coldplay, and the Rolling Stones signed an open letter addressed to Oliver Dowden as part of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign to prevent “catastrophic damage” to the music industry in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

“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,” 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 whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”

The funds include a total sum of £1.15billion directed towards cultural organisations in England, which will be delivered through a mix of £880 million in grants and £270 million in repayable loans. The government said the loans will be “issued on generous terms”.

The package will also allocate £100million to national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust, as well as £120million of capital investment to help restart construction on cultural infrastructure and heritage construction projects in England that were paused due to COVID-19. It also includes more funding for “the devolved administrations” in Northern Ireland (£33million), Scotland (£97million) and Wales (£59million).

Arts Council England, the Royal Opera House, the Music Venue Trust, the Society of London Theatre, and UK Theatre were among those who responded to the news of the package. “This fund provides the opportunity to stabilise and protect our vibrant and vital network of venues and gives us the time we need to create a plan to safely reopen live music,” said Mark Davyd, chief executive of the Music Venue Trust. Last month, the Music Venue Trust and over 500 UK music venues wrote an open letter to the government asking for £50million in emergency funding for UK music venues.

Though many welcomed the announcement as a necessary step in the right direction, shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens described it as “too little, too late”. She added: “The Government needs to ensure that this vital funding gets to those theatres and other organisations currently teetering on the brink and fast.”

But many industry professionals remain optimistic. “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,” Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said. “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.”

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