What Harrogate Theatre says about Government's £1.57 billion arts rescue package

Harrogate Theatre's chief executive said today he welcome the idea of the new Government's arts rescue package but was waiting to see the detail before getting too hopeful.

Monday, 6th July 2020, 9:58 am
Updated Monday, 6th July 2020, 10:02 am
Harrogate Theatre's chief executive David Bown said today he welcome the idea of the new Government's arts rescue package - but the devil was in the detail.

David Bown, who is urging the Harrogate public and businesses to donate to this arts hub's emergency appeal to survive the lockdown which has ended all live performances, said the "devil was in the detail."

In particular, Mr Bown pointed to two key paragraphs in last night's statement by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media which would determine whether individual arts venues such as Harrogate Theatre ever reopened again.

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.

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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.

Under heavy pressure in recent weeks from famous cultural heroes, top London venues and regional theatres to step in, the main points of the Government's new £1.57 billion investment programme to protect Britain’s world-class cultural, arts and heritage institutions looks like this:

Arts rescue package

£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.

SOLT (The Society of London Theatre) and its sister organisation sister organisation UK Theatre have largely reacted positively to the news.

Julian Bird, chief executive of Society of London Theatre and UK Theatre said: "The government’s announcement of a £1.57bn package of support for the arts, culture and heritage sector in the UK is hugely welcomed – for the theatre and performing arts sector, we have worked intensively with DCMS and HMT to seek this clear commitment to our world-leading industry and we thank them.

"Venues, producers and the huge workforce in the theatre sector look forward to clarity of how these funds will be allocated and invested, so that artists and organisations can get back to work as soon as possible.

"Our industry’s united ambition is to be able to play its vital role in the nation’s economic and social recovery and this investment will allow us to do so."

Harrogate Theatre's chances of emerging intact from the lockdown have been boosted by the fantastic response to its Emergency Appeal which now stands in excess of £50,000.

But, with most of its staff still furloughed with Government money, the pinch point may come when that scheme ends in October.

One key sticking point is whether regional theatres like Harrogate's will be allowed to reopen properly in time for panto season whose big audiences and ticket revenue provide a major contribution to its financial stability.

Talking to the Harrogate Advertiser last month, Mr Bown said: "The business model that most of us follow is a Christmas show that runs at 90% of capacity over many weeks that then props up the rest of the artistic programme.

"The current two metres distancing guidance reduces an auditoriums capacity by 85%, therefore rendering theatre financially unworkable.

"Even the newly talked about one metre ruling would still not work."

Although aimed at protecting galleries, museums, heritage sites, music venues and independent cinemas, fears also remain that the lion's share of the Government's £1.57 billion arts package will go to the arts world's 'crown jewels' in London.

How to support Harrogate Theatre

Donate to the Emergency Appeal via www.harrogatetheatre.co.uk;

Join Harrogate Theatre’s membership scheme;

Buy tickets for future shows - or don’t claim a refund on tickets for cancelled shows.

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