UK’s arts venues to get USD2B rescue package

LONDON (AP) – The British government has announced more than GBP1.5 billion (almost USD2 billion) to help the country’s renowned arts and cultural institutions recover from the coronavirus pandemic, after some theatres and music venues warned that without support they might never open again.

The GBP1.57 billion (USD1.96 billion) package for museums, galleries, theatres, movie theatres, heritage sites and music venues includes almost GBP900 million in grants and more than GBP200 million in loans. Details of how the money will be distributed have not been released, but leaders of arts organisations breathed a sigh of relief at the announcement.

“When we heard last night, we slept for the first time since March,” Kwame Kwei-Armah, Artistic Director of London’s Young Vic theatre, said yesterday. “It is a real vindication that we have been listened to and that the government understand that we were dying on our knees and also that we are an important part of our country’s recovery.”

Tamara Roja, Artistic Director of the English National Ballet, said “this package gives our sector a fighting chance of survival”.

Britain’s arts – especially theatre – generate billions in revenue, support hundreds of thousands of jobs, and play a big role in raising the country’s international profile.

Some British arts institutions are starting to open their doors after more than three months of lockdown, starting with the National Gallery in London, which re-opens tomorrow. But social distancing rules and an almost total absence of tourists mean they face a big financial hit.

Theatres and concert venues have not been told when they can admit audiences, and several have already announced they will close permanently.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden said theatres would not be able to return to normal until the need for social distancing is over – and it’s too soon to say when that will be.

“I want to ensure it can happen,” he told the BBC. “I just want to be a bit realistic about the challenges of getting us back to that point any time soon.”

The National Gallery in a deserted Trafalgar Square, London. PHOTO: AP