UK splashes £1.5 billion to save the arts

UK splashes £1.5 billion to save the arts


norman lebrecht

July 05, 2020

Story in tomorrow’s FT:

Boris said: ‘The money will help safeguard the sector for generations.’

Press release:

Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport; HM Treasury

Embargoed to 10.30pm, Sunday 5 July 2020
£1.57 billion investment to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions
· Cultural and heritage organisations to be protected with £1.57 billion support package
· Future of Britain’s museums, galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will be protected with emergency grants and loans
· Funding will also be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites paused as a result of the pandemic
Britain’s globally renowned arts, culture and heritage industries will receive a world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package to help weather the impact of coronavirus, the government announced today.
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. It will help them stay afloat while their doors are closed. Funding to restart paused projects will also help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors.
Many of Britain’s cultural and heritage institutions have already received unprecedented financial assistance to see them through the pandemic including loans, business rate holidays and participation in the coronavirus job retention scheme. More than 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.
This new package will be available across the country and ensure the future of these multi billion-pound industries are secured.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said:
“From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising 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.”
Oliver Dowden Culture Secretary 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. Today we are announcing a huge support package of immediate funding to tackle the funding crisis they face. I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment.”
Rishi Sunak, Chancellor of the Exchequer said:
“Our world-renowned galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas are not only critical to keeping our economy thriving, employing more than 700,000 people, they’re the lifeblood of British culture.
“That’s why we’re giving them the vital cash they need to safeguard their survival, helping to protect jobs and ensuring that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for.”
The package announced today 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. This will be a big step forward to help rebuild our cultural infrastructure.
This unprecedented package includes:
£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).
Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.
Repayable finance will be issued on generous terms tailored for cultural institutions to ensure they are affordable. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks.
Notes to editors
For further details please call the DCMS press office on 020 7211 2210.
The government is finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors that will be published shortly. The government is working with the sectors to get it back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so and is being guided by medical experts.
Further quotes:
Sir Nicholas Serota, Chair, Arts Council England, said:
“We greatly welcome this very significant investment by the government in the future of arts and culture in this country and look forward to working with them on next steps. I know our amazing artists and creative organisations will repay the faith that the government has shown by demonstrating the range of their creativity, by serving their communities and by helping the nation recover as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Alex Beard Chief Executive, ROH said:
“The Royal Opera House warmly welcomes the newly announced package of Government support for the arts sector. This is a vital next step on the road to recovery for the industry and will help to support and sustain the UK’s vibrant arts ecology through this crisis. There is much to achieve over the coming months and this package of support will be a catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK’s world-renowned creative industries.
“Over the months ahead we will need to draw all on our collective ingenuity and determination to adapt to the realities of re-opening our theatres. We now look forward to the future and celebrating the return of our artforms, our community of staff and artists and importantly, welcoming our audiences back to the Royal Opera House.”


  • V. Lind says:

    It MAY just safeguard it till reopening.

    • OperaOrchPlayer says:


      It’ll safeguard most, but not all, of the buildings and most, but not all, of the metaphysical structures within those buildings that facilitate the presentation of art. But let’s not go prostrating ourselves in front of Rishi just yet.

      This is an industry-wide package. Under its financial umbrella is everything from the John O’Groats Youth Theatre, to Newlyn Art Gallery, to the Royal Opera House. To put that into perspective, Equity were campaigning for £1bn just to save theatres alone.

      We know that DCMS are advising everyone to “aggressively mothball” their institutions. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that the numbers inputted into the equation used to work out this, very specific, total were absolute skeletal running costs. This is not an incentive to reverse, halt or delay redundancy processes. It is not an incentive to mount performances to loss-making audience numbers. There will still be mass job losses and some companies will still go under.

      This is not saving culture in the UK, it’s boxing it up ready for storage.

      • Elizabeth Owen says:

        Getting rid of the DCMS would save a lot of money. Useless civil servants with no knowledge of theatre.

  • E says:

    Beautiful photo: from “The Cellist,” based on the art of Jacqueline du Pré, presented by The Royal Ballet, choreography by Cathy Marston. It is good to be reminded of this piece. Thank you! A link to a clip is here.

    • Margaret says:

      I was surprised by how effective this ballet was. I couldn’t imagine how the ending could be done without leaving audiences sobbing, or at least depressed, but it was perfect. And the dancers! An extraordinary experience.

  • Sue Sonata Form says:

    The debt bomb is ticking ever louder!! The crash is coming just as the day follows the night. Batten down for job losses to equal the Depression.

    Britain cannot afford this; their recent election of a drunken sailor spendthrift was the only answer to repressive authoritarian Labour. A lose lose, just like the USA.

    To avoid this you need the following: EVERYBODY working 3 times harder than they currently are, and run-away inflation to ‘cancel’ the value of the debt.

    Don’t understand? You soon will.

    • Derek says:


      Run-away inflation usually comes with high interest rates and that doesn’t help with debts.

      This package is needed to sustain the sector during the period when it is not viable to open up venues to audiences and maintain social distancing.

  • Bostin'Symph says:

    Thank you Oliver Dowden! Who’d have thought the Tories would have shown such a commitment to the arts? But they do appear to have put money where their mouths are.

    • Stephen Diviani says:

      Keep in mind though that the payments to arts organizations will not be grants but loans which will have to be paid back.

      • Stephen Diviani says:

        Apologies, I was wrong. I should have read the article NL posted above rather than fake news.

  • Marg says:

    Australian Govt with your paltry $250m please take note and follow suit.

  • Stephen Diviani says:

    Excellent news & it’s a generous amount.

  • CA says:

    Well, in the USA, we aren’t even HAVING a discussion about trying to save the arts.

    • V. Lind says:

      There’s only one art in Washington at the moment — “the art of the deal.”

      And even that was not an art — he cheated, and he went bankrupt, and he stiffed suppliers.

      I dread to guess how much he has taken out of the public coffers for his own.

      But someone whose aesthetic education was at beauty pageants and fashion shows is unlikely to see the problems of orchestras and theatres and opera houses. Unlikely he has ever darkened the doors of any of them, except as some Presidential commitment.

  • Tone row says:

    Venues all tweeting their gratitude to the SOS as duty calls, but not ensembles e.g. freelance orchestras – are they not getting a penny to stay in business?