Royal Albert Hall

The government has announced a £1.57 billion funding package to support the UK’s struggling arts industries. 

An industry that had received next to no financial support since the Coronavirus lockdown began, the package will see funding provided to the country’s struggling theatres, galleries, museums and other cultural venues.

It will also see the likes of independent cinemas, music venues and heritage sites eligible to apply for emergency grants and loans.

The announcement was widely welcomed across the arts industry, with some suggesting the figure was on the upper end of what they hoped for. The Arts Council, Royal Opera House, UK Theatre, National Theatre and several other bodies and venues said the funding was vital in securing their future.

£1.15 billion of the package will go towards cultural organisations in England, made up of £880 million in grants and a further £270m in repayable loans. Northern Ireland will receive £33m of the total sum, Scotland £97m and Wales £59m.

A further £100m is being set aside for the English Heritage Trust and other national cultural institutions in England. Construction on heritage and cultural projects will also receive support worth £120m.

Culture secretary, Oliver Dowden, said: “[Arts venues] make our country great and are the lynchpin 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.”

There was, however, criticism from within the Conservative party. Chairman of the House of Commons culture select committee, Julian Knight MP, said: “This is the first step to help prevent some of our major cultural institutions from going under.

“This money is welcome and should take some out of the danger zone, if only temporarily. But to secure their long-term future there needs to be a targeted sector deal, possibly involving more generous tax breaks.

“We know that 1m social distancing doesn’t work economically for most theatres and venues in the UK. We ultimately need to have a means by which these organisations can open safely and gain the confidence of the public. We’ll await further details in the guidance when it is published.”

It also coincides with comments from the prime minister that a plan for a phased return to work for performance industries, such as film and TV and theatre, will be revealed in the near future.

Arts venues across the country have been forced to make redundancies with no income and no sign of support. Many have canceled their entire calendars until the new year. Last week, there were warnings that the iconic Royal Albert Hall would have no option but to close permanently next year if it did not receive any support.

The announcement comes just days after venues around the country were wrapped in pink ribbons as a show of support for the industry. Critics of the government’s lack of support had, in particular, questioned why it was deemed safe to sit on an airplane, a confined space in close proximity to a lot of people, sometimes for several hours, but it is not deemed safe to attend theatres in any capacity.

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