London’s Southbank Centre at risk of closure until at least April 2021

The complex, which includes the Royal Festival Hall venue, has called on the government for urgent support

London’s Southbank Centre says it’s at risk of closure until at least April of next year, detailing its financial struggles due to coronavirus in a new statement.

Read more: Live after lockdown: venues on the idea of gigs with social distancing

The centre, which includes the Royal Festival Hall venue, has been shut since March 17, and says its financial reserves will run out by this September.

Making a new statement today (May 25), Southbank has called on the UK government to support music venues and the cultural sector through the current pandemic.

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Though they have furloughed the majority of their staff, the Southbank Centre says they are still facing a £5 million deficit due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Detailing their worry that they will need to make staff redundant, and potentially go out of business before the end of the year if government support is not secured, the organisation, which has lost 60% of its revenue since the pandemic began, has called on the government to extend the current furlough scheme beyond the original planned date of October for the cultural sector.

They also call for a significant intervention from the government to help with the future planning of the arts sector, and support for self-employed artists and musicians who are currently unable to receive government help for lost earnings.

Southbank Centre
London’s Royal Festival Hall. Credit: Victor Frankowski

“It is with an incredibly heavy heart that we today share further details about the future of the Southbank Centre,” the centre’s Chief Executive Elaine Bedell said in a statement.
“We know we are not alone in this and stand with our friends, partners, and colleagues – both here in the UK and abroad – during this time of unprecedented challenge.

“With eight orchestras, the National Poetry Library, and Arts Council Collection all calling us home, and playing host to over 4.45 million visitors each year, we’re doing all we can to safeguard the Southbank Centre we currently know and love for the years ahead.

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“However, this crisis has hit hard, and we join a number of other organisations and venues in sounding the alarm about the long-term health of UK arts and culture.”

With the likelihood of social-distancing measures remaining in place for many months to come, venues are unlikely to be able to re-open until at least April 2021, as to do so on restricted capacities (30%) means the Southbank Centre would lose more money by opening than it would generate. 

Last month, the Music Venue Trust launched the Save Our Venues campaign, with a crowdfunding bid to prevent 556 independent UK venues from closure and stop “damage that would undermine the UK music industry for 20-30 years”.

Last week, it was revealed that the campaign has currently saved over 140 small UK music venues from imminent closure.

A number of UK venues also recently spoke to NME about their concerns and requirements if socially-distanced indoor gigs were to be allowed, with the Music Venue Trust detailing that a number of safe and financially viable solutions were being discussed.

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