Artistic director of Kiln theatre
“This is such welcome news from the government – at last a glimpse of hope for a sector brought to its knees. We now have an excellent opportunity to not only move to recovery but also to reset, challenge and change to make sure we are better, bolder and revitalised as we look after every moving part that constitutes our complex and deeply interdependent eco-system.”
Artistic director of HighTide theatre company
“It’s a significant amount – more money than we’d expected. We can’t fail to note the fact that this moment of structural rescue has coincided with conversations about structural reform after the killing of George Floyd.
“What’s been challenging recently for leaders in the arts, who are trying to reach new audiences and support new voices, is the tension between those two objectives: can you rescue and reform at the same time? The optimistic interpretation of this new plan is that companies such as HighTide will be able to work closely with Arts Council England on how the rescue package can accelerate ACE’s Case for Change 10-year strategy, which was received with huge positivity for its acknowledgment of reform. The hope is that we get back up on our feet better than we were before.
“But it is a sadness to receive this plan after all the recent announcements about redundancy consultations. There’s an opportunity to see whether some of those can be reversed now. The great concern is how this rescue package finds its way into supporting new voices, freelance artists and the most marginalised in society because in any moment of economic uncertainty they are the most at risk.
“The responsibility is with us as organisations to continue to think with integrity and depth about widening our reach.”
Director of the National Theatre
“The National Theatre emphatically welcomes this vital support from government which recognises the crucial economic, cultural and social impact of theatre and culture in the life of our nation. We are extremely thankful to see such a strong vote of confidence from the prime minister, the chancellor of the exchequer and the culture secretary. Although there will be many challenges ahead to operating in the new environment, the NT and theatre companies across the country stand ready to respond with creativity and commitment, and to reopen as soon as is safe. We feel very positive that this major investment will reach and sustain the vital talent and infrastructure – both organisations and freelancers – which make British theatre truly world-leading.”
Former artistic director of English National Opera
“£1.57bn is a lot of money, but there are a lot of institutions for this to go round. It has to be seen as a positive step from the government and for culture in general, but it will all now be in the detail, in the balance between grants, loans and help for major institutions and help for individual artists, who have been hit the hardest.
“What are the strings attached going to be? In Germany, they just came out and said we’re going to pay every freelance artist now just to get them through, on top of everything else. The reason that opera and classical music have a voice and a direct line as high up as the prime minister is that culture is spoken about on the same level as health and social issues. So it is very normal in the rest of Europe for artistic leaders to be in regular conversation with the government about public subsidy during an emergency.
“Classical music and opera are central to the arts in this country and publicly there hasn’t been enough support for them. Freelance musicians have been hit hardest. It’s just depressing to see so many artists lose their work in opera, classical music and theatre in general in the UK. The plight of opera houses has been almost invisible.”
CEO, the Lowry
“This is welcome news, but we are fast running out of time. This lifeline will come too late for some organisations who have already been forced to close their doors for good or made valued employees redundant. While we await precise details of the funding mechanisms, I would remind government that the priority now must be to get these much-needed funds to the organisations most at risk – and fast.”
Artistic director of the Unicorn theatre
“Morale has recently been really low across the whole sector so this seems like good news. I’m cautiously optimistic. They’ve made a big, bold statement about how they believe in the sector. What I hope is that in the detail they respond to the specifics of what the sector requires – and this includes protections for freelancers and ensuring that the progress made in diversifying the workforce isn’t lost. The fact that £880m of it is in grants is good. It suggests an understanding that there is an ecology here of subsidised and commercial work.
“Theatres want to help with the recovery, with wellbeing, with the creative curriculum. We want to help in the moment but have been panicking about survival. There needs to be enough money here for reopening, not just staving off emergency, and this amount seems substantial enough to do that.
“If you look at other countries’ rescue packages, this is a generous amount of money. We don’t know how it’s to be divided up between theatres and museums and so on. Those are massive unknowns. But it’s all linked with so many other things – how quickly the economy recovers, how quickly people feel comfortable in returning to theatres. Hopefully this is a package that will enable the art to flourish and empower the sector to keep taking creative risks.”
Head of Bectu union
“At long last the government have woken up to our warnings and those of the whole creative sector, that without support, we stood to lose a huge amount of our world-beating creative industries. We will now be scrutinising the details of this package to make sure it lives up to the real needs of our sector.
“We must see the most rapid action to stem the tide of redundancies and closures that are emerging in the sector. For some this is already too late and we will be pushing government to get this funding out there within days. The terms of these grants and loans must recognise that there is still a long journey to recovery for theatres and live events and this package is the first cautious step towards reviving the sector.
“While this support was necessary, the government also needs to think again on support for the forgotten freelancers. They have fallen through the gaps in government support, and it is a scandal that they have been ignored by the government so far.”
Co-director, London Theatre Company
“This is a much better plan than anyone expected and it’s a big achievement for DCMS. Obviously there’s a lot of work to done and questions to be asked about how quickly these funds can be distributed, how they reach the artists who need support, and how soon we can connect with the audiences we’re so desperate to serve. But I warmly welcome the way Rishi Sunak and Oliver Dowden have responded to the tenacious and detailed lobbying of the entire arts sector.”
Artistic Director of Theatr Clwyd
“This is an essential and welcome commitment to our world-leading cultural landscape, and hugely important that it’s been extended to Wales and the other devolved nations. Every week of the pandemic, we’ve held online workshops in dance, music and theatre with more than 1,000 people in our community. We’re a centre for blood donations, we’ve worked with social services to distribute food, creative packages and rainbow boxes of toys to vulnerable children, we’ve turned on the lights in our theatre for a local boy to continue his ballet training, so he can take up his place at the Royal Ballet in September.
“Theatres across the country have done this – and more – without knowing if any of our buildings or our artists will survive the winter because we fundamentally believe in the power of the arts to change lives and because we passionately believe that we are here to serve and inspire the people around us. This support package comes tragically too late for some, but is a clear recognition of the vital economic contribution that the arts, culture and heritage make to our nation. Once we have detail on the what, where and how of these funds, hopefully we can start planning how we bring our stages back to life whilst continuing to serve our communities as we have been doing throughout this pandemic.”