UK unveils $1.9 billion package to save its struggling theaters, music venues and cultural spaces amid pandemic
The UK government plans to fund its arts, culture and heritage industries with a support package of £1.57 billion ($1.9 billion) to help them "weather the impact of coronavirus". Announced on July 5, the package will provide music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theaters and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans, according to NME.
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said, "From iconic theater and musicals, mesmerizing exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country. This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down."
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. I said we would not let the arts down and this massive investment shows our level of commitment."
Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak added that art spaces are "the lifeblood of British culture" and that the money would ensure "that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for". The support package marks the biggest one-off investment in UK culture. It follows other initiatives taken to help companies, institutions and organizations during the Covid-19 pandemic, including loans, business rate holidays and the coronavirus job retention scheme. It will also "help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors".
The funds include a £1.15 billion "support pot" for cultural organizations in England with £270M of repayable finance and £880M in grants.
Additionally, the package will include support of £100M for national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust and £120M for capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and heritage construction projects in England that were suspended due to the pandemic. Other support includes funding for "the devolved administrations" in Northern Ireland (£33M), Scotland (£97M) and Wales (£59M). Expert independent figures from the arts sector will help the government decide on who the money should be awarded to.
UK Music’s Acting CEO Tom Kiehl has described the package as a huge step forward and a lifesaver for many music venues. Kiehl said, "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." He added, "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."
As of now, the UK has 285,416 coronavirus cases and 44,220 deaths.