This post was published on 9 August 2020.

It is preserved for archive purposes.

Next steps.

10 things the Government still need to do, to protect our arts and culture

Distribute the Culture Recovery Fund

We welcome the Government’s commitment to invest £1.57 billion in our cultural and heritage sectors. The funding must now be distributed quickly and widely.

1. Urgently

The Government announced its support package over 100 days after it ordered arts venues to close. Most companies are still without income. More and more are being forced into redundancies or permanent closure. Funds must reach them as soon as possible.

2. Across the sector

UK culture is diverse and interconnected. Small venues and companies, and cultural freelancers, must be supported alongside the well-established and high-profile institutions. Vital parts of the ecology that have had less engagement with funding bodies (such as contemporary music, circus and amateur theatre) are also in need, and must not be excluded.

3. Across our communities

This vital public investment must benefit every community in all four nations of the UK. It must reach rural and suburban as well as urban areas. It must prioritise diversity and inclusion across all protected characteristics, including ethnicity, disability, gender and sexual identity, as well as socio-economic status.

Help restart live performance

Whether the rescue package is enough to safeguard our arts and culture will depend on when performances can restart. It will not be enough to compensate for a loss of the Christmas season.

4. Clarity and transparency

Many productions and events will require 3 to 4 months’ notice to restart. The Government must issue ‘no earlier than’ dates for stage 5 of its roadmap to allow for crucial planning in all parts of the sector. It must also publish clear evidence and guidance to support safe reopening.

5. Coordinated innovation

Tracing apps, hygiene controls and other technologies may hold the key to restarting live performances safely, since social distancing is economically impossible for most venues. The Government and the Cultural Renewal Taskforce must coordinate development of these ideas, so that best practice can be shared and universal solutions implemented alongside NHS Track and Trace.

6. Insurance

Without adequate insurance, efforts to resume filming, touring and live performance are doomed to failure – especially if local lockdowns continue. Alongside working with the insurance industry to introduce a long-term scheme, the Government should establish an emergency fund to guarantee coverage for interruption or abandonment due to Covid-19.

Save jobs

Our creative workforce is still at risk.

7. Support employment after October

The Government’s rescue funding is no substitute for the regular, earned income on which all arts companies rely. If businesses can't be rebuilt before the furlough and SEISS schemes end, roles and whole teams will become unsupportable. Jobs that have been successfully retained will be lost. Income sources will dry up for even more freelancers and small companies, too many of whom have already been excluded from support schemes. People with health risks who may still need to shield could be at particular, unfair risk. The loss of large parts of the arts workforce would hinder the sector for years to come. To minimise costly redundancies and unemployment, and maximise return on its investment, the Government should extend employment support beyond October if core business is not yet sustainable.

Stimulate long-term recovery

Lockdown and Covid-19 will have major long-term impacts on the arts. The Government should legislate to help cultural organisations rebuild over the months and years ahead.

8. Invest in local authorities

Local government funding for the arts has been cut by 43% since 2008/9. Instead of returning to austerity, Rishi Sunak should use the Comprehensive Spending Review in September to increase funding to local authorities. This would allow them to fund new arts activity to aid recovery from coronavirus, strengthen community cohesion and boost local economies.

9. Create protections for local assets

The Covid-19 crisis has put extra pressure on cultural assets which may not be eligible for ‘listed status’. To protect grassroots venues from permanent closure, the Government should develop a system for ‘Assets of Cultural Value’ (similar to existing ‘Assets of Community Value’). It should build on recent ‘Agent of Change’ planning reform to prevent takeovers by commercial property developers. It should ensure its manifesto pledge for a £150 million Community Ownership Fund extends to cultural assets.

10. Extend tax relief

Theatre Tax Relief, introduced by the Conservatives in 2014, has succeeded in encouraging investment in new productions. The Government should extend it, increasing the rate to 50% for the next three years, broadening the definition of ‘core expenditure’ and encompassing a wider range of production activity. It should develop similar schemes for other artforms. The VAT cut on ticket sales should also be extended for the next three years, to help organisations rebuild their audiences.

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