Government offers £1.5bn support package to the arts

The support for galleries, theatres, cinemas, heritage sites and music venues includes £100m of targeted support and £120m of capital investment

The government has unveiled a £1.5bn package to support theatres, galleries and museums through the coronavirus outbreak. 

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport announced today that it would provide a total of £1.57bn in grants and loans to support museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues while their doors remain closed. 

The DCMS said the package would include £100m of “targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust”. 

It will also include £120m of capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and heritage construction projects that were put on hold because of the pandemic.

Of the £1.57bn, £1.15bn will go to cultural organisations in England, made up of up to £270m of repayable finance and £880m in grants.

Organisations in Scotland will receive £97m, while those in Wales will be given £59m and £33m will be shared among organisations in Northern Ireland. 

No announcement of how the money will be available has yet been made, but the DCMS said decisions on awards would be made “working alongside expert independent figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute”. 

It said the loan finance would be issued on “generous terms tailored for cultural institutions” to ensure they were affordable. 

It added that further details would be available once the scheme opened for applications in the coming weeks.

Critics have questioned why it has taken so long for the government to come up with the package, which is more than twice the size of the £750m scheme announced in early April to help the voluntary sector. 

They have also asked why the theatre sector, for example, has been unable to reopen for business while people have been allowed to board flights. 

More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since lockdown began in March. The DCMS said the grants and loans would help cultural and heritage organisations, many of which are charities, to remain afloat while they could stage performances or welcome visitors. 

Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, said in a statement: “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 while their doors remain closed and curtains remain down.”

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