Volunteer Writer, Rebecca Pearson, explains what Rishi Sunak’s new budget plan will mean for those working in entertainment
It is just under a year ago that #SaveTheArts began to trend on social media platforms – a conscious and collective call to start prioritising funding for the UK’s arts and entertainment industries. Lockdown had started to reveal the weaknesses in the papery financial structure which was upholding the UK’s well-loved cultural heritage. So, with Rishi Sunak’s recent announcement of the new budget plan, might #SaveTheArts finally begin to be realised?
On Wednesday, Rishi Sunak announced that the Government will give £390m to support various arts venues in England to reopen in the coming months after lockdown – including theatres, museums and galleries. £300m of this will be put into the pre-existing Culture Recovery Fund (a Government grants programme which was organised to protect the UK’s culture sectors from the economic impacts of COVID-19), whilst the remaining £90m is set to help national museums and other cultural bodies. Alongside this, there will also be an extension of reduced VAT rates for the industry, put in place with the idea that it will allow for a more sustainable reopening of the culture and entertainment sectors. This support also follows last year’s budget plan with regards to its impacts on the arts industries, which had pre-empted some of the potential damages that the sector would incur from COVID-19. Such decisions suggest that some efforts are clearly being made in order to recover and protect cultural industries.
Whilst it is positive that funding has gone to the arts sector as a whole, Rhianna, 20, a student at The Brighton Academy of Performing Arts and Musical Theatre, comments that it is the individual performers that could still slip through the cracks.
“Thousands of performers have lost jobs, and contracts have been cancelled without the performer being able to start them. It’s incredibly frustrating how looked over we are as an industry; they also don’t fit into the furlough scheme so have been forced to find “normal” jobs.”
Rhianna also questioned that if spectators would be able to attend sporting events, why couldn’t similar measures already be implemented for theatres and entertainment venues?
It is right to question the extent to which these decisions have only been made due to the impacts of COVD-19. Would funding still have been provided without the impending threat of the loss of key cultural and entertainment venues? Even so, Rishi Sunak’s most recent funding announcement is an important step towards clawing back potential losses as a result of COVID-19. It will aim to keep the arts sector ‘afloat’, but it will be the ability of the culture and entertainment venues to reopen safely and bounce back which will be the true test of their survival.
Rhianna suggests that “with regular testing and social distance measures, theatres are perfectly safe to open” – which is a view shared by many within the industry. It will likely be any funding measures that follow the reopening of the arts and entertainment sectors, which will need to build on the allocated funding from the budget plan, that will be integral to the sustained recovery of the industry.
Edited by Sophie Alexander – Entertainment Editor
Header Image by Christos Alamaniotis – Head of Design