Covid-19: British soft power gets £1.57 billion rescue package

Updated on Jul 06, 2020 06:30 PM IST

Prominent composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future”.

Announcing the package, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Johnson said that from iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.(AP File Photo)
Announcing the package, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson Johnson said that from iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.(AP File Photo)
Hindustan Times, London | By

Performances of Shakespeare’s plays and other iconic elements of British soft power hit by the coronavirus pandemic were lent a lifeline on Monday when Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced a £1.57 billion rescue package across various sectors.

Thousands of organisations including the performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema will be able to access emergency grants and loans, following growing demands from leading performers.

Prominent composer Andrew Lloyd Webber said: “This news is truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future”.

“It is absolutely critical that Britain’s cultural sector is restored to health as soon as possible, and I look forward to seeing the details of the rescue package and working further with...the Government to get all of Britain’s theatres - both large and small - open as soon as possible”, he added.

The package is expected to help cultural and heritage organisations stay afloat while their doors are closed. Over 350,000 people in the recreation and leisure sector have been furloughed since the pandemic began.

Johnson said: “From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country”.

“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 and curtains remain down”.

Chancellor Rishi Sunak added that UK cultural sectors employ more than 700,000 people, describing them as “lifeblood of British culture”.

Jay Visvadeva of Sama Arts, one of the UK’s oldest organisations engaged in Indian and other south Asian arts and music, welcomed the package. He has cancelled all events for 2020 due to the pandemic and restrictions on audience numbers allowed in performances.

“This is a large package. It will help thousands of organisations through Arts Council England, including those engaged in Asian culture. Regular funding was suspended on March 23, but will now resume on July 22”, he said.

Alex Beard of the Royal Opera House said: “This is a vital next step on the road to recovery for the industry and will help to support and sustain the UK’s vibrant arts ecology through this crisis. There is much to achieve over the coming months and this package of support will be a catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK’s world-renowned creative industries”.

Decisions on awards under the package will be made on the basis of recommendations from expert independent figures from the sector such as the Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Prasun Sonwalkar was Editor (UK & Europe), Hindustan Times. During more than three decades, he held senior positions on the Desk, besides reporting from India’s north-east and other states, including a decade covering politics from New Delhi. He has been reporting from UK and Europe since 1999.

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