U.K. Government Urged to Save Cultural Sector From Collapse

There is mounting pressure on the U.K. government to better safeguard the country’s beleaguered cultural sector.

A Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee, led by member of parliament Julian Knight, has urged leadership to take immediate steps to prevent the sector from imminent collapse.

The U.K. issued a fresh set of restrictions on Tuesday to prevent the expected exponential growth of coronavirus. The DCMS Committee is calling on the government to use the pause created by these restrictions to implement a series of recommendations.

The recommendations include:

  • A repeated call to publish a ‘no earlier than’ date for stage five of its plan to reopen performing arts venues with at least three months notice to enable sectors to remobilize.
  • Providing clear guidance about the public health conditions that would enable stage five reopening and the safety, hygiene and testing measures that would be required for audiences to return without social distancing.
  • Further government funding to equip venues to reopen at full capacity, preceded by sector-specific schemes to make it economical for venues to reopen and to encourage audiences back when it is safe to do so.
  • Better coordination between government departments for mass testing programs.

“‘We know that without the ability to get in audiences in greater numbers, many theaters simply can’t afford to keep running,” said Knight. “The collapse of such vital pillars in our cultural landscape would be devastating.”

Theatre impresario Andrew Lloyd Webber spoke about the arts sector having reached “a point of no return,” when he appeared before the committee earlier this month.

The Committee has also warned that a sector which contributed £32.3 billion ($41.1 billion) to the U.K. economy in 2018 is facing mass redundancies without an extension to the Job Retention Scheme for the arts and leisure sectors that ends in October.

“As our response to coronavirus adapts, tomorrow afternoon I will update the House of Commons on our plans to continue protecting jobs through the winter,” U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak tweeted Wednesday.

It is not immediately clear whether Sunak’s ‘winter economy plan’ will cover the arts sector or not.

“I plan to urge the government today in the House of Commons to acknowledge the dire prospects facing this sector and commit to its support, firstly by acknowledging the specific recommendations made by this Committee and secondly by providing sector-specific funding to allow them to be implemented,” Knight said.

Knight has written to culture secretary Oliver Dowden detailing the Committee’s recommendations. Dowden is due to appear before the Committee in October.

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