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Lenny Henry and Maxine Peake call on big business and the government to save theatre and the arts

Lenny Henry and Maxine Peake have called upon big business and entrepreneurs to "put their hand in their pocket" to help save theatre and the arts in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

Speaking outside the National Theatre on London’s Southbank as part of Vanessa Redgrave’s campaign to stop theatres closing and support arts industry freelancers affected by the pandemic, Lenny Henry explained why he doesn't believe government intervention alone is the answer.

"I think it might have to be business too," he said.

"I think the people that care about theatre, not just government but big business, entrepreneurs, people might have to put their hand in their pocket and help with this. It’s not going to be a one time deal. This might come back."

He also expressed concern that a lot of freelancers might not come back to work and questioned the long-term sustainability of the industry.

"There’s been a huge effect on the ecosystem as it is, quite a lot of theatres have closed down.I think we have to think really carefully about how we want our theatre to be going forward," he explained.

"The entertainment industry provides a lot of money to the GDP, so if they want that to continue they’re going to have to take that into consideration."

However Maxine Peake, who also joined the movement on London's South Bank, thinks the government still does have a major role to play and would like to see more investment from Westminster.

"I know people say no they’re investing a lot in the moment, but there’s so many venues, so many place, spaces, people, lots of buildings being saved, but what about the individual who works within those buildings?" she said.

"You know this isn’t just about actors and artists and musicians, this is about those people who are so important to keep the building running," Peake added.

"I think we're really going to suffer in this country, I think we’re going to see a decimation of the arts, not just theatre but galleries. It's scary times."

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