Coronavirus: government “too slow to help at-risk arts”, say deputies


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Indoor performances, with a socially distant audience, may resume in England from August 1

The government has been too slow to respond to the “existential threat” facing live theater, music and other cultures, a committee of MPs has said.

Covid-19 poses the greatest threat to the arts in a generation, the House of Commons special committee on culture has said.

President Julian Knight MP said a £ 1.57bn support package was “nothing more than Elastoplast on a gaping wound”.

The government said it had “worked urgently, day in and day out since the start of the pandemic” to provide support.

The Ministry of Digital, Culture, Media and Sports did not consider this to have been too slow and insisted that thousands of organizations and hundreds of thousands of jobs in the sector had been saved through its leave and loan programs.

‘A cataclysm in the arts’

He also highlighted “the biggest one-time cash injection in culture,” which was well received by many personalities in the arts world when it was announced earlier this month.

But Mr Knight, Conservative MP for Solihull, told BBC editor-in-chief Will Gompertz: “The reality is that we are facing a cataclysm in the artistic and cultural space. ”

What is needed is “not just a bailout,” but a “long-term plan” that would allow the industry to “come out on the other side,” he said.

“What we have seen is a lack of common thinking within government,” he continued, suggesting that “huge swathes of our cultural infrastructure” are under threat.

The committee said cultural industries were at risk of massive layoffs. There could be a lasting impact on diversity, opportunities for the public and workers, and the UK’s position as a world leader in culture, he said.

The aid available has been hampered by the “lack of purchasing power” at DCMS, and “a fundamental misunderstanding” of what is needed, the committee said.

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

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Shakespeare’s Globe in London was among the places that submitted evidence

The committee cited evidence that 70% of theaters and production companies could close their doors by the end of 2020, with more than £ 300million lost in box office revenue in the first 12 weeks of the show. coronavirus lockdown.

It also highlighted figures suggesting that 93% of popular music venues were closed permanently and that 90% of all festivals would be canceled this year.

The report recommended a “sector-specific recovery agreement”, “clear, albeit conditional, deadlines for reopening” and “long-term structural support”.

He also called for continued support for workers and freelancers and those who have fallen through the loopholes in current regimes.

Socially distanced audiences

And he said the VAT relief on ticket sales should be extended until 2024, and the tax break for theaters should be cut in half over the next three years.

The Old Vic, Shakespeare’s Globe, and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Really Useful Group were among those who submitted evidence to the committee’s inquiry.

Last week it was announced that indoor performances with a socially distant audience could resume in England from August 1.

Still, the report says the ad does not take into account “performance deadlines, social distancing challenges or concerns about audience behavior.”

In response to the report, a statement from DCMS said: “We have worked urgently, day in and day out, since the start of the pandemic, to provide support to our sectors and on plans to reopen them safely.

He added: “Our investment of £ 1.57 billion is the largest single injection of cash into the culture of this country ever. We have also worked with our independent organizations on additional emergency measures and provided billions of dollars in support to charities to help those most in need. . ”

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