The U.K. government has revealed a $1.96 billion USD lifeline for the country’s hard-pressed arts sector. This past Sunday, U.K. Chancellor Rishi Sunak broke the news on Twitter: “We’re introducing a world-leading £1.57 billion GBP rescue package to help cultural, arts and heritage institutions weather the impact of [the] coronavirus.”
This relief fund comes after months of lobbying by arts unions on behalf of the struggling industry throughout the four months of shutdowns, during which more than 50 percent of 700,000 employees within the U.K. leisure and recreation industry’s workforce have been furloughed. Many arts institutions, notably theaters, have been hugely impacted by social distancing requirements. Several regional theaters have gone into administration and dozens have become redundant.
Based on Society of London Theatre’s (SOLT) 2019 ticket sales data, London theaters alone generated a box office revenue of £799 million GBP ($995 million USD). Additionally, London’s West End theater district collected over 15.3 million admissions, almost one million more than Broadway. However, according to a recent Creative Industries Federation report, due to the pandemic, this year’s theatre revenue is estimated to decrease by £3 billion GBP ($3.8 billion USD) and 70% of jobs within the sector will be lost.
The rescue package provides £880 million GBP ($1 billion USD) in grants to be split amongst theaters, museums, galleries, heritage sites, independent cinemas and music venues, for this financial year until 2021. Additionally, £270 million GBP ($336 million USD) will be offered in repayable loans, £100 million GBP ($124 million USD) of targeted funds will be allocated to cultural institutions and another £120 million GBP ($149 million USD) will be used to reboot construction at cultural venues.
On top of this, Northern Ireland will receive £33 million GBP ($41 million USD), Scotland £97 million GBP ($121 million USD) and Wales £59 million GBP ($73 million USD) of monetary support for their arts sectors.
In other COVID-19 related news, Pizza Hut’s largest U.S. franchisee files for bankruptcy.