Traffic zooming along Shaftesbury Avenue past the tourist crowds and the billboards of London’s vibrant theatre district at night.

Government support for cultural sector a success

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport has announced that an independent report into the Government’s package of support for cultural organisations was a success.

During the Covid-19 pandemic, the government committed to an unprecedented package of support worth £1.57 billion to help cultural organisations cope with the pressures faced through lockdown. The newly released report has outlined that the Culture Recovery Fund was delivered efficiently, whilst also helping to support almost 220,000 jobs and 5,000 organisations. This helped to safeguard cultural institutions and maintain the UK’s “world-class” cultural offering.

Aside from offering support at a time when many, if not all, institutions of the kind were forced to close their doors to the public, the report also found that the fund allowed organisations to reopen as normal once the pandemic had eased. Much of this was down to the recovery fund, delivered in partnership with a number of organisations, helping cultural institutions to bring in new audiences in different ways when they were closed.

Alexandra Palace, London
Alexandra Palace, London

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said:

“The 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.”

The Cultural Recovery Fund was delivered in partnership with Arts Council England, the British Film Institute, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and Historic England and was much needed at the time. With traditional income streams collapsing thanks to the pandemic, funding was delivered rapidly whilst also evolving as the pandemic progressed so that ever-changing cultural sector needs could be met.

Organisations outside of London were able to benefit from more than 65% of the funding available, with organisations being supported able to spend 37% more than they would have if the support was not available. According to the report, this resulted in an additional spend of £612 million, with the extra money helping to keep the “wider cultural ecosystem” moving as lockdown restrictions remained imposed.

The implementation of the support also boosted the cash reserves of organisations in receipt, with this sitting 188% higher than they would have done without the recovery fund.

Wakefield Cathedral
Wakefield Cathedral

Lord Parkinson of Whitley Bay, Arts and Heritage Minister, said:

“The pandemic posed an existential threat to much-loved cultural institutions right across the country, and the brilliant people who work in them showed incredible resilience in the face of those challenges. I am proud of the way the government stood by them, taking decisive action to protect them during lockdown and to support them when restrictions eased.

“Since the pandemic, I’ve had the pleasure of visiting many organisations which received this support – the largest ever investment in arts and culture in this country – and have been delighted to see how it has enabled theatres, museums, music venues, cinemas, galleries, heritage sites and more to bounce back and welcome people through their doors again to do the things we all love.

“This report provides evidence of the thousands of organisations the Culture Recovery Fund saved and the hundreds of thousands of jobs it supported. Everyone can be proud of the positive impact it had.”

The report also went on to outline how new challenges have emerged for the cultural sector since the end of the pandemic, with inflation just one example of the barriers that the sector might not have been able to overcome if it had not been left in a better position thanks to the funding. The importance of the cultural sector cannot be underestimated, with jobs being supported and economic growth being driven thanks to regeneration and the visitor economy. As with survival through the pandemic, the Cultural Recovery Fund has ensured that institutions are able to deal with future challenges robustly.

Chief Executive of Arts Council England, Darren Henley CBE, said:

“The government’s Culture Recovery Fund was an unprecedented investment in the cultural life of our country. Its support for cultural organisations across the country helped to preserve the vital infrastructure of our cultural economy, and put the sector in a stronger position to face the challenges of the post-pandemic world. We are extremely grateful for this support, which shows that the government recognises the unique contribution that culture makes to our communities, economy and national life.”

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