Theatre boss says he hopes £1.57bn lifeline for the arts improves accessibility

The Government support package has been welcomed by many in the arts sector.

A theatre boss has said he hopes people in the arts sector feel compelled to make culture more accessible following the injection of £1.57 billion of public funds.

Mark Da Vanzo, Liverpool Everyman & Playhouse chief executive, told the PA news agency that a “great outcome” of the Government’s support would be if venues and institutions felt they had to broaden their public appeal.

The support package for the ailing culture sector has been welcomed by many in the industry.

Mr Da Vanzo said: “We are on that journey already, we already receive a public subsidy and feel it is hugely important to be as inclusive and accessible as possible.

“So that means yes, our journey needs to continue, we need to do more.

“But if that means that is more widely expected of the sector, then I think that is a great thing and will be a great outcome.”

Mr Da Vanzo added that the arts sector are “massive economic contributors, as well as offering something for the cultural life of the country” and he is keen to see them play an active part in the national recovery.

Birmingham Hippodrome CEO Fiona Allan said that culture is “one of Britain’s great international calling cards”.

She told the PA news agency: “One of the things that the UK is known for is our incredible talent in stage and television and film which all comes via the route of theatre and regional theatre.”

The Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts is an acknowledgement that they have an “important” role to play in the nation’s recovery, according to Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of the Young Vic.

Creative Industries Federation’s third birthday party
Kwame Kwei-Armah (David Parry/PA)

He told Times Radio that he and his colleagues are “relieved” following the announcement.

Labour MP Dame Margaret Hodge, who is also the chair of the Theatre Royal, Stratford East, told the PA news agency that it is “a good day, full of promise, as long as the detail matches the promise”.

She added: “The details are not yet announced so we have got to make sure that the system for accessing the money is swift and simple and that money really goes to the right places so that we can not just sustain companies and venues, but that they can start making work.”

Anti-semitism in Labour
Dame Margaret Hodge (Yui Mok/PA)

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chairman Julian Knight said the support package will take some cultural institutions out of the “danger zone”.

However, he said more is needed to secure the sector’s future, including possible tax breaks.

Shadow DCMS secretary Jo Stevens told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that, although the funding is a much-needed relief for the industry, for some it is “already too late”.

“I do wonder what took the Government so long,” she said.

“They have known the problems in the sector for weeks and weeks and weeks, and for some areas and some organisations and theatres across the country from north to south, it’s already too late, jobs have gone.

“So the big things will be how quickly it’s going to get to people, (and) how is it going to be spread around the country in towns and small cities, (where) arts and culture venues are so valuable to local economies.”

The funding was well-received by composer Lord Lloyd-Webber, who said the news is “truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future”.

Coronavirus – Thu Jul 2, 2020
Andrew Lloyd Webber (Nigel French/PA)

ITV chairman Sir Peter Bazalgette said the move “is a very welcome first step in tackling the crisis arts and culture is facing”.

“The blend of grants and loans will help many critical institutions keep going until they can open again,” he said.

“Then we’ll need to sort the long term.”

Caroline Norbury, who is chief executive of the Creative Industries Federation and Creative England, said the “unprecedented” package is “a seismic step forward”.

“Our creative industries are teetering on the brink of cultural collapse – and this could be the game-changer we need,” she said, adding that the support for freelancers in the sector is “particularly heartening”.

Christine Payne, general secretary of actors’ union Equity, said the plans provide “meaningful investment” that will protect arts venues and infrastructure, but added it is important that funds reach workers in the industry.

“These workers have campaigned for this deal; they can’t be left behind,” she said.

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