HomeResourcesPolicyCultural Policy Readout / 29 June 2020

Weekly round-up of the latest from Westminster and beyond, from our partners at Whitehouse Consultancy

Government publishes roadmap for England’s theatres

The government has released a five-stage roadmap to help get England’s beleaguered theatres, concert halls and arts centres back up and running. The performing arts have been one of the sectors worst-hit by the pandemic and will be one of the last to get back on its feet. But despite the guidelines, there have been warnings for weeks of a cultural catastrophe without some form of targeted financial help.

Around 70 per cent of theatres warn they will run out of cash by the end of the year. Industry leaders have welcomed the announcement, but crucially there was no mention of any extra money for the arts in the “roadmap” statement by Oliver Dowden, the Culture Secretary. The first two phases are already permitted: physically distanced rehearsal and training with no audiences; and physically distanced performance for broadcast and recording purposes. 

UK Government in talks to support performing arts

Although the roadmap, released by government, has been criticised for containing no financial stimulus, the government is in talks with representatives of the performing arts industry over a financial support package, the Financial Times reveal. Boris Johnson has announced that some cultural institutions would reopen on July 4, including cinemas, art galleries and museums. But performing arts venues, such as theatres and concert halls, would remain closed for live performances. The industry has predicted mass redundancies would continue unless the government provided more economic support. Pioneering Places Canterbury partner, the Marlowe Theatre, has been one of a number of theatres calling for support through the crisis.

Theatres Trust warns that half of small charity-run venues could go bust within three months

More than half of all small charity-run theatres face closure within the next three months due to COVID-19, the Theatres Trust has warned, as the advocacy body announces measures to help venues in need. Extra measures announced include the Theatres Trust Skills Bank, which will match theatres with experts offering free advice on reopening, including information on hygiene, social distancing and general building management, Theatres Trust has also repurposed its small grants programme to support theatres to cover the costs of reopening after several months of closure.

Data from the Charities Commission – analysed by the Theatres Trust – reveals that 57 per cent of small charity-run theatres of 200 seats of less, totalling 136 venues, could go bust in the next three months.

Culture in the House

Written Question of interest:

Jo Stevens, MP for Cardiff Central, asked the following written question:

“To ask the Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport, what steps he has taken to establish a replacement programme for Creative Europe.”

Caroline Dinenage MP, Minister of State for Digital and Culture answered with:

“While the Government has taken the decision not to seek participation in Creative Europe’s 2021-27 programme, we remain committed to supporting the UK’s thriving cultural and creative economy. We will continue to invest money directly into the UK’s cultural and creative sectors, continuing to support and grow their world-class activity on the international stage. Now we have taken back control of our money, we are able to focus spending on specific UK priorities including on our world class arts, heritage and creative industries. Officials are developing options for domestic alternatives to Creative Europe, which will be considered in line with upcoming fiscal events including the Comprehensive Spending Review.”

The week ahead…

Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee Select Committee is receiving oral evidence on the Impact of COVID-19 on DCMS sectors

The session will be receiving evidence from Richard Masters, Chief Executive of Premier League Football; Scott Lloyd, Chief Executive of the Lawn Tennis Association; and Ali Donnelly, Executive Director of Digital, Marketing and Communications at Sport England.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to announce the details of an Infrastructure Delivery Taskforce this week, a clear signal that the government will continue on its levelling up agenda despite unexpected costs incurred in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid Update

The government has issued a stark warning over the public observing social distancing guidelines after people flocked to the coast over the recent days. A major incident took place in Bournemouth when thousands crowded on the beach. Health Secretary Matt Hancock has suggested that beaches could be closed by the government if infections rise. The warning came after England’s chief medical officer Chris Whitty said distancing remained vital and warned that COVID-19 cases “will rise again” if rules are ignored, the BBC reveals.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced measures to ease lockdown rules on 4th July in England, which will allow many more businesses, as well as leisure facilities to reopen, with other measures also being relaxed. A new 1-metre-plus rule has been introduced, which means it is now possible to remain 1 metre away from someone outside your household instead of 2 metres but only if there is another mitigating factor such as a screen or face-covering or hand-washing facilities.

The businesses and facilities reopening include restaurants, pubs, hairdressers, playgrounds, cinemas, libraries, and museums. People will also be allowed to stay overnight at hotels and campsites. The government will publish detailed guidance for every sector reopening in the coming weeks. Industries that will remain closed are nightclubs, casinos, indoor gyms, soft play areas, swimming pools, spas, water parks, bowling alleys, exhibitions, and conference centres. Task forces comprising public health experts and industry representatives will be created to help these facilities become COVID-19 secure.

Also announced, two households of any size will be able to meet at any indoor or outdoor setting, and each meeting will not need to be with the same household. Finally, primary and secondary education will resume with full attendance in September.

The UK’s top civil servant, Sir Mark Sedwill, has confirmed he plans to stand down from the role in September. In a letter to the Prime Minister, Sedwill had stated it was the right time to depart as the government moved to the next phase of its coronavirus recovery plan. There has been criticism that his departure follows reports of tensions between him and senior members of Boris Johnson’s team. The senior civil servants’ union, the FDA, said Sir Mark had been undermined in a “cowardly” way.

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