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Independent Report Finds Government Successfully Supported The Cultural Sector During COVID-19

cultural sector

An independent report published today has revealed that the government’s support for the cultural sector during the COVID pandemic was a resounding success. Throughout the pandemic, the government provided £1.57 billion of emergency funding to cultural sites across the country to keep them afloat.

The result of this funding, according to the report, is that around 220,000 jobs and 5,000 organisations were supported due to the efficient rollout. What’s more, these organisations are now in a better position to build for the future thanks to the Culture Recovery Fund.

The report, which was produced by Ecorys, also states that the Culture Recovery Fund increased the income of supported cultural organisations by 140% during the pandemic. With this boom, organisations were able to not only survive but also attract new guests to their spaces.

Another key piece of information that has come out in the report is that the funding evolved throughout the pandemic as the needs of the cultural sector changed. This has also helped the sector to deal better with challenges since the pandemic, such as inflation.

The funding was delivered in partnership with Arts Council England, the British Film Institute, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Historic England. More than 65% of the money went to organisations outside of London, displaying that it truly was a national effort. Some of the beneficiaries of the funding were as follows:

  • Alexandra Park and Palace in London – The popular site in London received over £3.5m which allowed it to remain active during the pandemic. Alexandra Park received record visitors during the pandemic as locals looked to make the most out of outdoor spaces.
  • Rosehill Arts Trust in Whitehaven – The North West theatre received over half a million which helped them to put on drive-in, socially distanced and live-streamed performances.
  • Birmingham Royal Ballet – The Midlands organisation received £675,000 which helped it to bring back live performance quickly when restrictions eased. It also helped them to stage performances of The Nutcracker.
  • Strike a Light in Gloucester – The dance, theatre and music organisation received just shy of £80,000 which allowed it to continue to operate during the pandemic and to put on a busy programme of events when restrictions were eased.

A boost for Sunak

The report will be welcomed with open arms by Prime Minister, Rishi Sunak, as he unveiled the Culture Recovery Fund back in July 2020 when he was Chancellor. At the time, Sunak called the cultural sector the “lifeblood of British culture” and said that the funding would “safeguard their survival”.

Based on the report’s findings, the cash reserves of the supported organisations were boosted by 188% compared to what they would have been without the Fund. Speaking about the report today, Sunak said:

“This report reaffirms that the Recovery Fund was money well spent. It protected our finest cultural institutions from collapse, saved countless jobs across the country and put the entire cultural sector on a stronger footing for the future.

“As a direct result of this support, many organisations are now attracting new audiences with an improved offering, and their strengthened financial position means they are better placed to meet the challenges of tomorrow.

“ Our world-leading cultural sector is helping to drive economic growth, one of our five priorities, creating better-paid jobs and opportunity right across the country. It has a special place in our national life and I am proud that it continues to thrive under this government.”

Reaction from the cultural sector

When the funding was first announced in 2020, there was an outpour of relief from the industry as many key figures and institutions had expressed that the industry was effectively on its knees.

Andrew Lloyd Webber, one of the nation’s most successful composers said at the time that the funding was “truly welcome” as so many theatres, orchestras and entertainment venues faced a “bleak future”.

Meanwhile, Alex Beard, Chief Executive of the Royal Opera House, said that the funding was the “vital next step on the road to recovery” and that it would be “the catalyst for unlocking the extraordinary creativity embedded in the UK’s world-renowned creative industries.”

Now, three years later, the report’s findings have been backed up by quotes from those who benefitted from the Fund. Emma Dagnes, Alexandra Park and Palace Charitable Trust CEO said that the fund “was essential to us navigating through the pandemic, while the Chair of the British Film Institute, Tim Richards, said:

“As an industry, we’re hugely grateful for the support provided by the Government’s Culture Recovery Fund to independent cinemas during the pandemic.

“The funding has enabled many to continue to play their vital role within communities across the country providing jobs, a platform for diverse content and shared social experiences that are proven to be good for mental wellbeing.”

Final thought

Given the fact that the Conservative Party are once again in the midst of more political controversy today with the resignation of Deputy Prime Minister, Dominic Raab, this positive report may well slip under the radar.

Considering Sunak was responsible for the budget during the pandemic, he will be disappointed that they won’t be able to revel in the findings of this report since the findings of the Raab report have put question marks over his own position as Prime Minister.

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