UK arts sector gets STG1.6 bn lifeline

Shuttered UK theatres will share in the government's STG1.6 billion lifeline to the arts sector.
Shuttered UK theatres will share in the government's STG1.6 billion lifeline to the arts sector.

The UK government has unveiled a STG1.57 billion ($A2.82 billion) support package for the country's beleaguered arts sector.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak tweeted news of the package on Sunday evening: "We're introducing a world-leading STG1.57 billion rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions weather the impact of coronavirus."

The lifeline follows months of lobbying by unions and industry organisations on behalf of the arts sector, which is in dire circumstances as a result of the pandemic and close to four-month shutdown of cultural venues, which aren't able to operate normally, even with reduced social distancing requirements.

The deal includes STG880 million in grants for the financial year to April 2021 - a package that will be shared between theatres, music venues, heritage sites, museums, galleries and independent cinemas. The government is also offering STG270 million in repayable loans.

Elsewhere, STG100 million of targeted funds will be distributed to national cultural institutions in England, while a separate STG120 million will go towards restarting construction at cultural sites.

Meanwhile, Northern Ireland will receive STG33 million, Scotland will get STG97 million and Wales will receive STG59 million.

Prime Minister 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."

More than 350,000 people have been furloughed across the leisure and recreation industries since mid-March. The sector employs a workforce of around 700,000.

The relief package comes at a make-or-break moment for countless arts institutions across the UK, and particularly theatres, which are especially hard hit by social distancing requirements.

According to a recent report commissioned by the Creative Industries Federation, the pandemic is projected to cost the theatre sector around STG3 billion in revenue, with up to 70 per cent of jobs lost.

Australian Associated Press