Creative industries call for financial help during coronavirus pandemic

The UK's largest arts centre has joined other cultural organisations in warning of the dire financial effects of Covid-19 on the creative industries.

In a statement released on Monday the Southbank Centre says it is at risk of closure until at least April next year.

The Centre which sits on the banks of the Thames and is home to the Royal Festival Hall and eight orchestras including the London Philharmonic, is calling for more government support.

It is asking for an extension of the furlough scheme beyond October for the cultural sector, and support for self-employed artists and musicians who don’t qualify under current financial support schemes.

The Southbank has furloughed most of its staff but says it is still looking at losses of at least £5 million by the end of the 2020/21 financial year.

To achieve even that, it says it will have used up all its reserves, have needed £4 million in support from the government’s Job Retention Scheme and will have used the remainder of its annual Arts Council grant to "effectively mothball the buildings".

It is social distancing and the restrictions on mass gatherings that have hit arts organisations hard.

The Southbank, like venues including The Royal Albert Hall, says opening up with restricted audience capacities of 30% means they would lose more money than they’d make.

The Royal Albert Hall says they would lose money if they open up with restricted audience capacities of 30%. Credit: PA

The Royal Shakespeare Company and The National Theatre also say they are facing financial collapse, and on Monday, The Association of British Orchestras added its voice to the calls for more financial support to cultural organisations.

It is also asking for the government to publish a timetable for the lifting of restrictions on mass gatherings to help orchestras and venues plan with certainty.

The government has now set up a cultural renewal taskforce to look at the measures needed to revive an industry where so many are reliant on box office takings.

Many of the UK’s artists, musicians and theatres have of course had a strong digital presence during lockdown, ensuring that the creative industries can continue to play a role in educating and entertaining albeit online.

But without traditional live performances in theatres and auditoriums before a paying audience, earning potential has taken a battering for many of the UK’s arts organisations.

And with social distancing set to be a part of our lives for months to come, the situation is grave for many in the creative industries from our world famous brands, to smaller theatres and venues in our communities.

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