More than £165m (€180m/$218m) in repayable finance has been offered to support 11 of the UK’s most iconic cultural organisations, including the National Theatre and the Royal Albert Hall, through COVID-19.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) today (Friday) announced the loans, which represent the largest individual amounts distributed from the government’s £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund.

The Royal Opera House has received the largest loan among the list’s performing arts organisations, of £21.7m. However, in the same round of funding, Historic Royal Palaces, whose properties include the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace, will receive a total of £40m.

In addition, the Royal Albert Hall will receive £20.7m and the National Theatre will get £19.7m. Other recipients include Southbank Centre, English National Opera, and London Theatre Company.

The full list of repayable finance recipients are:

  • Historic Royal Palaces – £40m
  • Royal Opera House – £21.7m
  • Royal Albert Hall – £20.7m
  • National Theatre – £19.7m
  • Royal Shakespeare Company – £19.4m
  • Production Park – £12m
  • Southbank Centre – £10.9m
  • English National Opera – £8.5m
  • London Theatre Company – £5m
  • Michael Harrison Entertainment – £4.5m
  • Mark Goucher Productions – £4.1m

Today’s funding round announcement brings the allocated amount of the Culture Recovery Fund to more than £1bn, with the remaining money being used to fund a second round of grants in April 2021, which was also confirmed today. In total, £300m in grants and £100m in loans will be available to support organisations’ transition back to their usual operating mode next year. Further detail on the rounds will be released in the weeks ahead.

The repayable finance scheme will include an initial repayment holiday of up to four years, a low interest rate and repayment terms of up to 20 years.

UK Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said: “This government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word.

“The £1bn invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture – so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

The organisations receiving loans provide work for more than 9,000 people, taking the total number of jobs supported by the CRF to more than 75,000.

The security of the repayable finance will also help protect organisations, like the National Theatre, as they restart performances and programmes, providing work for staff and freelancers in the run-up to Christmas.

The National Theatre, which led digital innovation during lockdown to make some of their most famous productions available for free, is reopening with a pantomime for socially distanced audiences as well as filming a new version of Romeo and Juliet for TV starring Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor.

Lisa Burger, executive director and joint chief executive, National Theatre, said: “The National Theatre is incredibly grateful and relieved to secure this emergency loan from the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund. It is a vital lifeline that will form part of our recovery, helping to ensure that the National Theatre will be here for culture and here for the nation, now and in the future.

“While the challenges of this pandemic are not over, we can now begin to rebuild the NT with a renewed commitment to make theatre for everyone that celebrates the diversity of our nation. Together with support we hope to secure from our partners, donors and audiences, the loan will enable us to invest in the freelance creative workforce to produce some of the world’s most exciting theatre. We stand ready to play our part in supporting the UK’s economic and emotional recovery from the effects of COVID-19.”

In England, more than £500m in grants up to £3m have been awarded to over 3,000 museums, music venues, independent cinemas, circuses, heritage sites and theatres across the country. Nearly 70 per cent of funding has been awarded to recipients outside of London.

In addition, as part of the Culture Recovery Fund, £60m in grants is being delivered through the Capital Kickstart Fund, which aims to accelerate previously-funded projects that will revitalise core assets in local communities and provide opportunities for work across a range of sectors.

Image: Norio NAKAYAMA / CC BY-SA 2.0 / Edited for size