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Cultural Policy Readout / 28 July 2020

Government announces return of indoor theatre performances

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, has announced that audiences that obey social distancing will be able to return to indoor theatre, music and performance venues from 1st August. This will be a step towards kickstarting the arts and cultural sectors and follows the Government’s announcement of £1.57 billion of funding for the creative industries. Guidance for the performing arts, published earlier this month, sets out measures to support the safe return of audiences, including: reduced venue capacity and limited ticket sales to ensure social distancing; online tickets purchases and e-tickets to reduce contact; venues to clearly communicate social distancing; increased deep cleaning; and performers to observe social distancing wherever possible.

Select Committee for the Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport release report

The Digital, Culture, Media & Sport Select Committee have conducted an inquiry into the impact of COVID-19 on the arts sector and have published its findings. The report warns that the pandemic is “the biggest threat to the UK’s cultural infrastructure in a generation” and includes recommendations for flexible versions of the furlough scheme and self-employment income support schemes. The report also criticised the time it took for the government to announce the support package of £1.57 billion which they say resulted in unnecessary redundancies that could have been avoided.

Live music venues to receive first allocation of £1.57bn package

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport has confirmed that grassroots music venues in England will be the first cultural organisations to benefit from the government’s £1.57 billion package for the arts, with those most at-risk receiving cash in the next few weeks. The first allocation – totalling £2.25 million – will fund emergency support grants for music venues at risk of imminent collapse. It is the first news, since the announcement, about how the package will be spent. A total of 150 venues that are at “severe risk of insolvency” are expected to receive the new funding, which will be distributed by Arts Council England and will provide grants of up to £80,000 to cover costs such as rent, bills and maintenance.

Culture in the House

Written Questions of interest

Janey Daby MP tabled the following written question of interest:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, how the funding from the covid-19 financial support package for the arts and culture sector will be distributed; and whether his Department has conducted an equality impact assessment on the allocation of that funding.”

Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of Digital and Culture replied stating:

“On 5 July, the government announced a major £1.57 billion support package for key cultural organisations to help them through the coronavirus pandemic. This funding will provide targeted support to organisations across a range of sectors, including performing arts and theatres, museums and galleries, heritage sites, live music venues and independent cinema.

In line with our obligations under the Public Sector Equality Duty, my department and its Arm’s Length Bodies have considered equalities impacts during the policy development process, and will continue to do so during delivery. Organisations in receipt of funding will also be expected to demonstrate progress in diversity and outreach over the coming years in return for this investment into their futures.”

Covid Update 

Major retailers including Sainsbury’s, Asda, Co-op and Costa have refused to enforce new rules on face coverings which have now come into force. They believe the rules should be enforced by local authorities with a penalty of a £100 fine. But this comes after the Police Federation of England and Wales, which represents officers, said it was “unrealistic and unfair” to expect them to patrol the aisles looking for people breaking the new rule. But according to government issued guidance, those in England will be breaking COVID-19 laws if they do not wear a face covering in shops, shopping centres, banks, takeaway outlets, post offices, sandwich shops and supermarkets. 

Brexit Update

The EU’s Chief Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier, has said that there had been no progress on two “essential topics” in the most recent trade talks with the UK, stating the negotiations could be heading for failure unless Britain alters its position. Speaking in London at the conclusion of the fifth formal round of future-relationship negotiations Barnier said the two sides remained far apart on how to ensure a “level playing field” between EU and UK businesses, as well as that other issue that is causing continual friction; access to British fishing waters. Barnier warned that “the time for answers is quickly running out”.

Despite the negative rhetoric, both sides underlined that talks had not broken down and will continue next week in a more specialised format, as previously planned, and Barnier has praised the “very professional” approach of the UK negotiating team and said the discussions had been “constructive” in some areas.

David Frost, Barnier’s UK counterpart, admitted that Boris Johnson’s hope of securing a provisional deal by the end of July has not been met, but indicated that both sides had shown some sides of flexibility during three days of talks. Frost said, “despite all the difficulties, on the basis of the work we have done in July, my assessment is that an agreement can still be reached in September”.

The week ahead…

The House of Lords will adjourn for summer recess after Wednesday 29th July.

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