MPs rule government was ‘too slow to help’ performing arts venues

The industry is facing mass redundancies

A committee of MPs has said the government has been too slow to respond to the impact of coronavirus on live music and theatre.

Chair of the House of Commons culture select committee Julian Knight MP said the recent £1.57bn support package for the industry was “nothing more than an Elastoplast over a gaping wound”.

The committee said the cultural industries were likely to face mass redundancies and there could be a lasting impact on diversity, opportunities for audiences and workers, and the UK’s position as a cultural world leader.

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The help available was hampered by the “lack of spending power” at the The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport and “a fundamental misunderstanding” of what is needed, the committee added.

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Audience at gig

Mr Knight said: “Our report points to a department that has been treated as a ‘Cinderella’ by government when it comes to spending, despite the enormous contribution that the DCMS sectors make to the economy and job creation.”

The committee cited evidence that 70% of theatres and production companies could go out of business by the end of 2020, with more than £300m lost in box office revenue in the first 12 weeks of the coronavirus lockdown.

It also pointed to figures suggesting that 93% of grassroots music venues faced permanent closure and that 90% of all festivals would be cancelled this year, reports BBC News.

The report recommended a “sector-specific recovery deal”, “clear, if conditional, timelines for reopening”, and “long-term structural support”.

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The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport disagreed that it had been too slow, and insisted thousands of organisations and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sector had been saved by its furlough and loan schemes.

“We have worked with urgency, day-in-day-out since the start of the pandemic in providing support for our sectors and on plans to reopen them safely,” it said in a statement.

“Our £1.57 billion investment is the largest ever one-off cash injection into culture in this country. We have also worked with our arms length bodies on additional emergency packages and provided billions in support to charities to help those most in need.”

It comes after the government recently announced that outdoor gigs and arts performances will be able to resume, providing they have a “limited and socially distanced audience.”

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