Theatres can make major contribution to recovery of UK, says charity

Laura Harding, PA Deputy Entertainment Editor

Theatres can make a “major contribution” to the recovery of the country, promoting wellbeing and reviving the high street, according to a leading charity.

Theatres Trust, which champions theatres in communities and supports community groups to save their local theatre, welcomed the news that the Chancellor will provide more than £400 million of additional support for the badly-hit culture sector in his Budget.

Rishi Sunak is preparing to hand out £408 million to help museums, theatres and galleries in England to reopen once coronavirus restrictions start to ease in the coming months.

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The Government previously announced a £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund to save institutions in peril as a result of the global pandemic.

Many theatres have not been able to open their doors since March 2020.

Jon Morgan, director of Theatres Trust, said: “Theatres Trust welcomes not only the Chancellor’s announcement of additional funding for the arts, but also his recognition for the important role culture will play in the country’s social and economic recovery.

“£408 million is a significant increase – more than quarter on top of the initial £1.57 billion Culture Recovery Fund.

“This is much needed as the pandemic’s impacts have continued longer than originally anticipated and it is unlikely that many theatres will be able to reopen viably before fuller audiences are permitted from June 21 at the earliest.

“The extension of the Job Retention Scheme until the end of September is also welcome news for theatres.

“Together with the Culture Recovery Fund, this scheme has kept theatres afloat during the turbulence of the past year. This will provide a welcome cushion to further protect theatres until they can return to viable operation.

“Theatres have continued to play active roles in their communities throughout the pandemic, whether providing digital entertainment and creative inspiration or acting as food banks or vaccine centres.

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“As the country begins to recover, theatres can make a major contribution, promoting wellbeing and a sense of place, animating the high street and contributing significantly to the wider economy, and today’s support shows that this valuable role is recognised.

“We welcome the additional funding for the devolved nations and would hope that this budget will be allocated to the arts. With no reopening dates announced yet in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, theatres in these nations need further financial security.”

Mr Morgan added: “There are already hundreds of small community theatres across the country that are real assets to their local areas and are an important part of the theatre ecology.

“Any programme that supports more communities to own and run their local theatre is to be welcomed and should be flexible enough to support both purchase and repair works alongside vital skills development to equip voluntary groups to successfully restore and operate the buildings.”

Mr Sunak is expected to pump an extra £300 million into the Culture Recovery Fund, as part of the measures.

National museums and cultural bodies will also receive £90 million to help keep them afloat until they can open their doors on May 17 at the earliest, and £18.8 million will be provided for community cultural projects.

An additional £77 million will be given to the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to provide their culture groups with similar backing.

Andrew Lloyd Webber has already announced that rehearsals for his forthcoming musical Cinderella have started following the Government’s announcement of a road map out of lockdown.