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Government announces £1.57billion support package for UK arts industries

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The government have announced plans to fund the UK’s arts, culture and heritage industries with £1.57billion to help them “weather the impact of coronavirus”.

The support package, which was announced today (July 5), will provide music venues, independent cinemas, museums, galleries, theatres and heritage sites with emergency grants and loans.

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The money marks the biggest one-off investment in UK culture and follows other measures taken to help companies, institutions and organisations survive during the pandemic, including loans, business rate holidays and the coronavirus job retention scheme. According to a press release, as well as helping businesses to survive, it will “help support employment, including freelancers working in these sectors”.

“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,” Boris Johnson said. “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 added: “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 said arts spaces were “the lifeblood of British culture” and that the support package would ensure “that they can continue to provide the sights and sounds that Britain is famous for”.

The funds include a £1.15billion “support pot” for cultural organisations in England, comprised of £270million of repayable finance and £880million in grants.

It also includes £100million for national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust and £120million of capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and heritage construction projects in England that were put on hold due to the pandemic. The package also features more funding for “the devolved administrations” in Northern Ireland (£33million), Scotland (£97million) and Wales (£59million).

“Expert independent figures” from the arts sector will help the government decide on who the money should be awarded to. More details will be announced when the scheme opens “in the coming weeks”.

UK Music’s Acting CEO Tom Kiehl has responded to the news of the package, describing it as a “huge step forward” and a “lifesaver for many music venues”.

“UK Music has long called for sector-specific support to ensure live music can recover,” Kiehl said. “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.

“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.”

Last week, more than 1,500 artists came together to call on the government to stop “catastrophic damage” to live music as part of the #LetTheMusicPlay campaign. Dua Lipa, Liam Gallagher, PJ Harvey, Dizzee Rascal, Radiohead and more signed the open letter, which read: “Government support will be crucial to prevent mass insolvencies and the end of this great world-leading industry”.

In June, the Music Venue Trust and over 500 UK music venues asked the government to provide £50million in emergency funding to “hibernate” the spaces until October.

“These venues are wholesale going to be closed if the government does not act,” MVT CEO Mark Davyd told NME. “No amount of social distancing or any other daft measures that the government has come up with is going to make any difference.”

He added: “As it stands, 93 percent of these venues are likely to close forever by October 1. It would cripple the music industry of this country for decades and I’ve no idea how we would recover from it. The cost of opening 560 new grassroots venues would be close to a billion pounds. It will never be done, so we’ve got to protect what we’ve already got. It would be incredibly cheap.”

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