Support for Culture and Arts Sector

Thank you for taking the time to email me about support for the culture and arts industry during coronavirus, I have been in touch with the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on this pressing issue and I deeply regret the impact coronavirus has had on performing arts in our country and I look forward to when our treasured cultural sector can make a full return. 

DCMS have announced a major new funding package worth £1.57 billion to support our renowned arts, culture and heritage sector during these incredibly challenging times. This is in response to increasing calls from the sector, with leaders and groups saying they are facing unprecedented losses as a result of coronavirus – I am grateful for all constituents in Mid-Sussex who have written in on this matter over the past few weeks. I urgently raised these concerns with my colleagues in DCMS and I am delighted to see the new funding package which has now been announced by the Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden MP and the Chancellor.

The Prime Minister said that “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.”

Beyond its obvious social and cultural value, this sector is incredibly valuable to our economy. Our performing arts, live music venues, heritage sites and museums and galleries contribute approximately £32.3 billion to the UK’s economy and employ around 680,000 people. I know how important protecting these industries is to people and I have been delighted to see so many constituents write to me to talk about their love of the theatre and the arts, which is something I deeply share.

During Urgent Questions yesterday in the House of Commons, the Minister for Digital and Culture, Caroline Dinenage MP, outlined the previous Government financial support provided to this sector during this crisis including “loans, business rate holidays and the self-employed and furloughing schemes.” Ms Dinenage acknowledged more had to be done to support our precious arts, stating that the announcement of the £1.57 billion rescue package for “museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues across the country in the form of emergency grants and loans” will support both “long-standing and rightly famous cultural institution such as the Royal Shakespeare Company”, as well as “lesser known but equally cherished cultural and heritage institutions and organisations in regions up and down the country – places that have been cultural anchors for their communities for years.”

Furthermore, I want to also mention the Chancellor’s announcement about the 6 month cut in VAT from 20% to 5% for hospitality and tourism sectors, which will offer significant further financial support for cultural and heritage sites in this country.

This new funding builds on earlier Government support, including a business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. 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 money, which represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic. Further details about the package can be found here - https://www.gov.uk/government/news/157-billion-investment-to-protect-britains-world-class-cultural-arts-and-heritage-institutions

This package builds on earlier support measures, including a £160 million emergency response package announced by Arts Council England in March. The further details about this can be found on the Arts Council’s website (https://www.artscouncil.org.uk/covid19). Additionally, more than 350,000 people in the leisure and recreation sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

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 pandemic. The package is split into:

  • £1.15 billion support pot for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans. This will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million grants.
  • £100 million of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
  • £120 million capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The new funding will also mean an extra £188 million for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million).

Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks. I was pleased to see the funding announcement was welcomed by those in the sector.

The establishment of the Entertainment and Events Working Group was also very welcome. The Working Group informs and supports the work of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce headed by the Culture Secretary, which is working to find innovative ways to reopen the arts sector as soon as possible.

I am particularly pleased theatres can now reopen for rehearsal, pre-production and broadcast, although not yet for live performance with an audience. This, alongside the work being done with representatives of the entertainment and events industry to develop supporting guidance, represents a vital step in the roadmap to recovery for our nations’ theatres. 

Finally, I know the Secretary of State, Ministers and DCMS officials continue to consult the creative and cultural sectors extensively to ensure they understand fully the potential impacts of the Covid-19 outbreak on the sector. DCMS officials and ministers have also held regular calls with representatives from across the arts and cultural sector and these have included representatives from the Royal Shakespeare Company and a number of dance schools and representatives including Sadler’s Wells and Northern Ballet.

I hope this was helpful and I will be keeping constituents updated as and when there are further developments.