Protect Arts and Culture Now!

Dear Chancellor and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport.

We, the undersigned arts and cultural professionals and institutions, call on the government to protect the UK’s creative sector.

The arts are a critical part of the UK economy, with £21.2bn in direct turnover and £10.8bn in Gross Value Added (GVA), with £8.6bn of this generated by the market segment of the industry and the remaining £2.2bn contributed by the non-market organisations. When indirect and induced effects are also added in, the arts and culture industry is estimated to have supported £48bn in turnover, £23bn in Gross Value Added (GVA), 363,713 jobs and £13.4bn in employee compensation (CEBR/Arts Council England report, April 2019 and 2016).

Right now, arts and cultural organisations across the UK are in crisis. The fall out from the Covid19 pandemic has been disastrous for the arts and culture industry. Closures, cancellations and postponements have led to deep financial losses which makes recovery particularly challenging for a sector that will likely be the last to come out of containment.

Understanding the vital role that arts and culture plays in communities across the UK, many organisations have been doing all they can to provide a sense of community and relief to people by moving as much content online as possible during the nationwide lockdown. 

Now, the arts and cultural industry is looking to the future and working on reimaging what programmes might look like in a post-Covid world.

As an industry we need the government's help to secure the future of the arts and culture industry in the UK. 

We applaud the government’s swift action in securing people’s livelihood through the various support schemes. And while these measures are certainly welcome there are still so many unknowns. 

 - We seek guidance and clarity from the government on: What social distancing measures will be needed to be taken upon performance and museum/gallery space re-openings?

 - We need clear guidelines on what will be required. What measures (hygiene, signage, etc.) will be required for re-opening? 

As an industry, we have been reflecting on a variety of scenarios for re-opening. For many venues, social distancing will mean reduced capacity and therefore reduced attendance. This reduction in attendance is likely not financially viable. 

However, even with clearer guidelines and a firm reopen date for theatres, venues and arts centres, audiences will need time to regain confidence to attend arts experiences back to pre-crisis numbersIt is very likely that reopening will still not be possible even with the go ahead - it will simply not be financially viable to reopen with social distancing measures in place in our auditorium.  

Therefore we also ask the government to consider:

 - Funding for arts organisations to weather the coming months of closure to allow them the ability to support staff and offer alternative opportunities to access the arts and allow them to continue to produce work.

 - Stabilization fund / revenue fund for venues to ensure venues survive the coming months of closure.

 - Provide sectoral specific funding for arts and cultural venues so they can implement social distancing measures and any new hygiene and training measures that will be required.

 - Business rates relief - a temporary suspension of the requirement for theatres and other cultural venues to pay business rates. This would greatly assist with enabling many theatres to stay open whilst undertaking the difficult task of rebuilding after this period of sustained closure.

 - Enact a Cultural VAT Exemption. Currently, an eligible body for these purposes is the same as for Education except that, in addition, the body must be managed and administered on a voluntary basis by persons who have no direct or indirect financial interest in its activities. It would be beneficial to assist with the regeneration of the cultural sector the aforementioned Exemption be extended to all theatres and cultural venues regardless of charity or voluntary status.

 - A sector specific government advisor who ensures that theatre industry bodies receive timely, accurate and helpful information in order to support the arts and culture sector.

 - Development of a support fund for artists and associated creative workers such as freelancers, technicians, designers, etc. who will require support over the coming months and may not be eligible for other benefits and supports. 

Arts and culture is a vibrant resource to communities across the UK, acting as a hub for creativity, education and building a sense of community. The arts are intertwined with people’s sense of well-being often reflecting our deepest fears, our innermost dreams and helping us to envision a brighter future.

Theatres in London and across the UK attracted more than 34m visitors in 2018, generating ticket revenues of £1.28bn from 62,945 performances, according to figures from UK Theatre and the Society of London Theatre. 

The economic multiplier impact of these visitors is enormous, with hotels, restaurants, shops and transport all being positively impacted. The renewal of many of our tourism businesses is contingent upon the parallel renewal of our arts and entertainment industries.

We call on the UK government to act quickly to secure the future of the arts and cultural sector in the UK and take steps towards designing a short-term and long-term strategy for strengthening the sector. 


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