Region's art venues welcome £1.57bn Govt support package

The industry has largely welcomed the government's £1.57bn support package. Credit: PA

Arts venues in Cumbria and the south of Scotland have largely welcomed a Government pledge to give over one and a half billion pounds to help venues keep going in the Coronavirus crisis.

The Government announced on Sunday evening that they were introducing a rescue package for culture, arts and heritage organisations in Britain, including theatres, independent cinemas, museums and the live music sector.

With warnings that without more government support, around 70% of theatres were facing closure by Christmas, the package includes a mixture of loans and grants and is been billed as the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture.

Live music and theatre and other art forms like the displays at Tullie house, in Carlisle, have been missed by many since the lockdown. Most venues are still unable to open so the Government has thrown a life-line to keep them going in the mean time.

Andrew Mackay, the Director of Tullie House, said: "As a cultural sector we've been lobbying long and hard for this bailout because we're all in very difficult financial positions needing visitors to return so Tullie House is no exception.

"We're opening in phases because we need to manage the risk so if there is any funding it would be fabulous if Tullie House could get some."

But many say that only changes to the social distancing laws will allow theatres and live music to start up again.

Theatre director David McNeil said: "I think theatres are generally hopeful but the problem we've got is you can go on an aeroplane for nine and a half hours but you can't sit in a theatre.

"The Government has said you can do rehearsals and performances behind closed doors, but you can't sing. So all the venues are ready to open but they are just governed by the restrictions."

And north of the border many small venues are still under threat of closure, despite the promise of Government support.

Gary Husband, the owner of MacArts, said: "At the moment we're okay. We've benefited from the generosity of the community around us and fund raisers and some Scottish Government funding to keep us going.

"For other venues it might be too late, I know of places that have made redundancies. There are places that are looking at having to shed staff and maybe not even open again so for them perhaps it is a bit too late."

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