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New UK cultural taskforce set up to guide reopening of the sector

A new cultural taskforce has been set up in the UK with representatives from the arts, cultural and sporting worlds coming together to help recreation and leisure sectors reopen following COVID-19.

The team of eight industry experts is one of five new ministerial-led taskforces that have been set up to develop blueprints for how and when closed businesses and venues can reopen safely.

The groups will work on ensuring that COVID-19 secure guidelines are developed in line with the phasing ambitions and public health directions, as well as providing key sector stakeholders direct access to ministers.

Oliver Dowden, the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), will be chairing the taskforce responsible for the recreation and leisure sectors.

He will be joined by Tamara Rojo (English National Ballet), Alex Scott (former England international and Arsenal footballer and now a broadcaster), Sir Nicholas Serota (Arts Council England Chair), and Mark Cornell (Ambassador Theatre Group), and four others.

Culture Secretary Dowden said: “We are determined to do all we can to help our sectors that are such an incredible part of British life in their recovery. The Taskforce is made up of some of the brightest and best from the cultural, sporting and tech worlds. Experts in their fields, they’ll be instrumental in identifying creative ways to get these sectors up and running again.”

The first meeting of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce will take place tomorrow (Friday), and will meet on a weekly basis. The work of the taskforce will be supported by eight working groups chaired by DCMS Ministers, which will include representatives from key sector bodies and organisations and focused on areas like sport, entertainment and events, museums and galleries, heritage, tourism and libraries.

Meanwhile, Dowden has appointed Neil Mendoza as the new Commissioner for Cultural Recovery and Renewal. He will advise on how UK culture and heritage can begin the road to recovery following the COVID-19 induced closure.

In this new role, he will initiate a focus on arts and culture, and help ensure Arts Council England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and Historic England and other important bodies work together with DCMS to develop and deliver support to the sector.

Mendoza said: “Our culture holds us together. Arts, music, theatre, museums and heritage and culture in all its other forms are a vital part of people’s lives up and down the country. Our outstanding creativity and arts excellence sets an example for the world.

“The people that work in cultural sectors want to work, to help continue to support and inspire their communities. DCMS intends to help them do just that through this pandemic and be ready for renewal once social distancing is over.”

As part of the Cultural Renewal taskforce (focusing on recreation and leisure), an Entertainment and Events Working Group will now be created, bringing together representatives to develop advice and guidance on the reopening of cultural venues, helping to get employees back to work and audiences engaging with the cultural sector.

The group will work with organisations such as Society of London Theatres (SOLT), UK Theatre and Arts Council England (ACE), as well as include representatives from regional and London-based theatres, performing arts and other creative organisations as well as medical advisors.

It will focus on considering how to begin rehearsing and producing theatre, music, film and dance. The group will also consider the potential implications of a return to work for both disabled artists and audiences and the work of suppliers in the sector.

The announcement follows the submission of evidence from 126 industry organisations as part of an inquiry into the Impact of Covid-19 on DCMS sectors.