'We can't save everyone': Minister admits jobs and venues will be lost despite £1.57bn for arts industry

Jobs within the UK's arts industry will be lost and venues will go bust amid the coronavirus pandemic, the culture secretary has admitted, despite setting out a £1.57 billion support package designed to protect the sector.

Oliver Dowden said the "vast majority" of the UK's "world beating" arts industry will be rescued, including venues known as Britain's "crown jewels", but admitted the package is "not going to be able to support everyone".

"Sadly not everyone’s going to be able to survive and not every job is going to be protected and sadly, I’ll have to be honest with you, of course we’ll see further redundancies," he said during a visit to William Shakespeare's Globe Theatre.

While he said protecting the crown jewels was a priority, he said he also hopes to save "local venues, whether that is the theatre or the gallery", which are "often the only place people can go to to access culture".

Leaders in the industry have mostly welcomed the government support - made up of grants and loans - which was unveiled by Chancellor Rishi Sunak on Sunday evening.

Mr Dowden said the package had been set out to help businesses "weather the storm" caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

"Arts are the cultural beating heart of our nation. From Shakespeare to Ed Sheeran they enrich our lives but also they make us an economic powerhouse - creative industries, we are a world leader in all of them," he said. 

He said priority will be given to the UK's "crown jewels - so institutions which are nationally and internationally renowned".

Boris Johnson said the government is working on a plan to reopen theatres as much as safety measures could allow.

“I totally understand the frustration of people in the theatre world,” the prime minister said.

“They’re huge for the UK and they’re one of the most amazing things about this country.”

He said he wants to “set out next week” a timetable for when theatres and other sectors can get back to normal as much as possible.

“There will have to be some creativity in becoming Covid-secure in the theatre for all sorts of reasons,” he added.

“But we can do it and we are working very hard now with the theatre sector to get that done so that they can reopen in due course.”

The Tate, the Science Museum Group, the Natural History Museum, National Gallery and the Royal Shakespeare Company were among those who welcomed the money.

Meanwhile Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee chair Julian Knight said the support package would take some cultural institutions out of the “danger zone”.

However, he said more was needed to secure the sector’s future, including possible tax breaks.

Mr Dowden said cash will also be awarded to institutions across the UK, not just in London.

He said: "If you’ve only got one gallery in your local area or a theatre, it’s that much more important so its really important that we help those institutions to stay in place."

Labour shadow DCMS secretary Jo Stevens told BBC Radio 4’s Westminster Hour that although the funding is a much-needed relief for the industry, for some it is “already too late”.

“I do wonder what took the government so long,” she said.

“They have known the problems in the sector for weeks and weeks and weeks and for some areas and some organisations and theatres across the country from north to south, it’s already too late, jobs have gone.

“So the big things will be how quickly it’s going to get to people (and) how is it going to be spread around the country in towns and small cities, (where) arts and culture venues are so valuable to local economies.”

The funding was well-received by composer Lord Lloyd-Webber, who said the news was “truly welcome at a time when so many theatres, orchestras, entertainment venues and other arts organisations face such a bleak future”.

However not everyone in the industry reacted so positively to the announcement.

After playwright Shelley Silas tweeted she did not believe the Tories had properly listened to the industry’s lobbying, fellow playwright Jack Thorne responded: “I disagree, and I know there’ll be those who believe we should never praise them, and of course it won’t be enough money, but I think they have listened and acted and I think we should say thank you. Won’t change how I feel about the vast majority of their politics obviously!”

Ms Silas followed up by writing she would be “interested to see a breakdown” of how the funding will be divided up, tweeting: “Happy for you to disagree Jack. I’d be interested to see a breakdown of where and which buildings/organisations the grants/loans go to. Hope the Nuffield can be saved. Prob too late.”

Comedian and TV presenter Jason Manford kept his thoughts to a simple “Thank you @RishiSunak.”

Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors is expected to be published by the government shortly.

The package comes after some theatres – which are not yet able to stage live performances – closed down, making staff redundant, amid the pandemic.

Museums have also said they face an uncertain future, while 1,500 artists and acts signed a letter to Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden calling for a road map for the live music industry.

The government said the money “represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture” and will help struggling institutions “stay afloat while their doors are closed”.