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UK arts sector boosted by £1.57bn rescue package

The UK’s Arts sector has welcomed Government aid of £1.57bn announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak.

Thousands of organisations across a range of sectors including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema will be able to access emergency grants and loans.

The package includes funding for national cultural institutions in England and investment in cultural and heritage sites to restart construction work paused as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Assistance has also been announced for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Decisions on awards will be made in conjunction with figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

Jonathan Brown, chief executive of STAR (Society of Ticket Agents and Retailers), said the funding would be a lifeline for the sector, but reiterated the need for a road map to reopening.

“It is very welcome news that the Government is recognising the continuing economic impact of the pandemic by announcing such significant financial support for the arts, culture and heritage sectors, especially theatre and live music,” Brown said.

“We look forward to seeing clarity about how these funds will be distributed and how organisations, venues, artists and performers will benefit from this much needed help. Prospective dates for the road map to reopening that the Government set out last week are also crucial.

“Our membership, which includes venues, promoters and ticketing system suppliers, as well as ticket agents, continues to focus on the restoration of our world-leading entertainment industry and the hope that audiences can return safely as soon as possible.”

The Government announced that some £1.15bn will be made available through a support pot for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270m of repayable finance and £880m grants.

A further £100m will come through targeted support for national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.

The Government will also provide £120m capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the pandemic.

UK Music Acting CEO Tom Kiehl added: “UK Music has long called for sector specific support to ensure live music can recover. Eligibility for grants and loans must be as broad as possible to ensure maximum take up from across the industry from those in desperate need of help.

“Those that don’t have a track record of public funding must also not be put at a disadvantage. We are seeking urgent talks with Arts Council England to discuss further.”

The new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m).

A DCMS statement said: “Repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks.”

Julian Bird, chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre, welcomed the assistance, adding: “Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible.”

Many of Britain’s cultural and heritage institutions have already received financial assistance to see them through the pandemic including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “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.

“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.”

In the last two months, here have been warnings of a “cultural catastrophe” with theatres and live entertainment being the sectors hit hardest by the pandemic. Around 70 per cent of theatres had cautioned that they could be forced to close forever by the end of the year without further support from the Government.

A report published last month by the Creative Industries Federation (CIF) projected a combined revenue drop of £74bn for the UK’s creative industries in 2020.

Last week, the UK government unveiled a new five-phase plan for the reopening of theatres and live music.

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