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Wednesday’s Budget will reportedly feature an additional £408 million in support for the culture sector, aimed at helping museums, galleries, theatres and live music venues to reopen when the Covid restrictions are lifted this summer.
The Chancellor Rishi Sunak is planning to add £300 million to the £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund. The Fund has so far aided 3,000 organisations in England and, according to the Treasury, supported 75,000 jobs.
In addition, national museums and cultural bodies will receive £90 million to support them until at least May 17 - or Step 3, when venues are allowed to open their doors to the public, albeit with social distancing still in place. There is a pilot programme planned to test out reintroducing full-capacity audiences to venues safely ahead of the June 21 Step 4 date.
The Budget will also see £18.8 million given to community cultural projects, and £77 million for the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to support their cultural sectors.
Mr Sunak said: “Throughout the crisis we have done everything we can to support our world-renowned arts and cultural industries. It’s only right that we continue to build on our historic package of support for the sector. This industry is a significant driver of economic activity, employing more than 700,000 people in jobs across the UK, and I am committed to ensuring the arts are equipped to captivate audiences in the months and years to come.”
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden commented: “It’s such a relief we can look ahead now so this funding is not just about survival but for planning and preparing for the reopening of theatres, galleries and gigs.”
Speaking to The Times, Margaret Casely-Hayford, chairwoman of the board of trustees of Shakespeare’s Globe, welcome the additional funding “to help us manage the immediate future”, calling it a “necessary lifeline”, while Sir Damon Buffini, chairman of the National Theatre, said that the investment “will be crucial in helping these sectors back to recovery.”
Maria Balshaw, director of the Tate, called it “a vote of confidence” in the UK’s arts organisations.
The Government is also in discussion about whether to underwrite insurance for this summer’s music festivals, and/or to offer grants to organisers if their events have to be cancelled.
Many arts leaders have called for insurance in their sectors, too, including commercial theatre producers. Speaking to the Telegraph, Eleanor Lloyd said: “At the moment, we’re being asked to jump off that cliff without any safety net, trusting that we won’t be closed down again - either by law or by illness in the company. It’s a very temporary thing; the insurance market will return. But for now, we need Government backing. And if they have confidence in their own plans, it shouldn’t be a problem.”