Arts, Culture and Heritage: Support Package

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:37 pm on 7th July 2020.

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Photo of Caroline Dinenage Caroline Dinenage Minister of State 1:37 pm, 7th July 2020

The UK’s arts and cultural heritage are not just beloved in the UK, but are the envy of the rest of the world. Our theatres, live music venues, museums and galleries are incredibly valuable to our economy, bringing in £32.3 billion in 2018 and employing approximately 680,000 people. However, they are much more than that: they are the lynchpins of their local communities, entertaining, enlightening and educating us, and bringing us together through shared experiences.

The coronavirus pandemic dealt those sectors a body blow, forcing thousands of institutions to close their doors. The Government have already provided substantial financial assistance to see them through the crisis, including loans, business rate holidays and the self-employed and furloughing schemes. Together, those schemes have provided hundreds of millions of pounds of support, saving livelihoods, beloved organisations and institutions. Of course, we have been working extremely closely with the sector and medical experts to try to get things back up and running as soon as it is safe to do so.

Our battle against coronavirus is not over. With social distancing still in place and crowded venues not possible for the foreseeable future, it was clear that the cultural sector desperately needed help to weather the ongoing storm. The Government have provided it this week, with an unprecedented £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. It is the single largest one-off investment in UK culture and proof of our commitment to protecting the sectors that do so much to enrich all our lives. It has widely been recognised as exceeding expectations and DDCMS Ministers would like to put on record our thanks to the many people who have worked so incredibly hard on this behind the scenes over the weeks.

The funding will support the country’s long-standing and rightly famous cultural institutions such as the Royal Shakespeare Company, the Ironbridge Gorge Museum, the Mary Rose Trust, which I visited yesterday, and the National Theatre, but it will also support 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. That will include theatres, live music venues and museums, but it will not just be about cultural spaces, as it will include dance companies, orchestras and touring arts groups that do not have their own venues but that still play a key role in our cultural life and, of course, still need support. By protecting these organisations as well, the funding will help to support those working across the cultural sector.

The package will also see £120 million invested in rebuilding, upgrading and starting new construction work across our cultural infrastructure as part of our wider effort to build, build, build after coronavirus. This will help to revitalise historic buildings across the country, creating jobs and protecting livelihoods all across our regions. Another £100 million will be allocated to arm’s length bodies such as the British Library, the British Museum and the British Film Institute. An extra £188 million will be given to the devolved Administrations in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, as the Government support our whole Union; our cultural strength is stronger as a family of four.

The broader package comes on top of the announcement made last week by the Arts Council to reopen its project grants competition and make an additional £39 million of funding available to support creativity—in particular from freelancers, creative practitioners and independent organisations.

We all want to see full audiences back in our venues and institutions, enjoying the very best of British culture as soon as possible. We will keep our foot very firmly on the pedal, and are finalising guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors as we speak. This package allows us to protect some of our precious cultural assets during an uncertain time ahead. It will help thousands of organisations to make it through this crisis and out the other side for future generations to enjoy. I ask the House to join the arts sector in welcoming this massive rescue package. It is a lifeline to help the sector weather this storm and bounce back even stronger.