UK Govt Commits GBP1.6 Billion Emergency Investment In Performing Arts

London's West End

Theatre and the performing arts will have access to a £1.57 billion government investment package designed to help the culture and heritage sectors survive the impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Prime minister Boris Johnson hailed the UK’s creative industries as “the heart of this country”, as the government announced what it has billed as the “biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture”. Johnson said the package will ensure organisations can “stay afloat and support their staff” while they remain closed to audiences.

The announcement follows more than a month of intense campaigning by the theatre and wider creative industries, asking for government support to help them weather the pandemic, which has closed theatres across the UK and put thousands of jobs in the sector at risk. Many performing arts organisations had warned they would go bust without government assistance as they face several more months of closure.

The £1.57 billion package unveiled today will cover Britain’s arts, culture and heritage industries, including “the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema”.

The majority of the money will be paid out in emergency grants, while there will also be a package of repayable loans, additional support targeted at national cultural institutions in England and capital investment for infrastructure projects.

The announcement did not give any further details about when theatres would be able to reopen to audiences, although it is understood that guidance is currently being finalised.

The £1.57bn package comprises:

  • £1.15 billion for cultural organisations in England, made up of £270 million in repayable finance and £880 million in grants.
  • £100 million of support for national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
  • £120 million of capital investment intended to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and heritage constructions projects in England that have had to be paused due to the pandemic.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the funding would provide a “lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations” that have been hit hard by the pandemic, securing them while they are closed. It also said the funding to restart paused projects would support employment, including for freelancers working in these sectors.

In the theatre industry alone, 70% of workers are freelance, many of whom have fallen through the gaps of existing financial support.

Announcing the package, culture secretary Oliver Dowden said: “Our arts and culture are the soul of our nation. They make our country great and are the linchpin of our world-beating and fast-growing creative industries.

“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.”

Chancellor Rishi Sunak added that the sector was “critical to keeping [the] economy thriving”, and said: “That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for.”

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