A £1.57bn emergency support package to help protect the future of theatres, galleries and museums has been welcomed by Oxford theatres.

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden said grants and loans would aim to preserve “crown jewels” in the arts sector, and many local venues. It follows several weeks of pressure, with industry leaders warning that many venues were on the brink of collapse. Independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues will also be eligible.

Ria Parry, co-director of The North Wall Arts Centre said: “This is incredibly positive, welcome news and we are very thankful for the package of support that has been pledged by the government. It is a huge relief for the sector. There is still much to do, but we should allow ourselves to ‘hope’ now, in a way that had started to seem unimaginable over the last few days as we collectively watched the rise of redundancy announcements and potential permanent closures across the UK Theatre industry.”

John Hoggarth and Ria Parry

She added: “There has been a huge amount of campaigning to get to this point, and it is now vital that this investment, these funds, reach as many people as possible – venues, freelancers, companies, across different cultural organisations and across the UK. We look forward to further detail, and to a better future.”

Oxford Playhouse warmly welcomes the news of the government’s support package and investment in the arts and culture sector, and in a statement said: “This is a very generous rescue funding package which recognises the vital role the arts play economically and socially across the country.   We hope that the package will put the lifeline in place which is so desperately needed for the nation’s theatres, companies, freelance artists and other arts organisations, and look forward to receiving further details.  This funding won’t make recovery easy – we will still need the support of the public – but it will make it possible.

Oxford Playhouse Picture by Ed Nix

“We would like to thank all those who have worked so hard to achieve this agreement, particularly Arts Council England and UK Theatre. Oxford Playhouse plays a vital role in the cultural and economic life of Oxford and the region.  We look forward to reopening our doors as soon as it is safe to welcome back our audience. Meanwhile we are committed to contributing to creativity locally and nationally, with an extensive programme of participation work being delivered online by the Playhouse team.”

Mark Cornell, Group Chief Executive, Ambassador Theatre Group owners of The New Theatre, Oxford added: “I am thrilled to see the government intervene in such a decisive fashion to protect our nation’s cultural capital. Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Treasury and DCMS have demonstrated their significant commitment to the arts. The Job Retention Scheme was a major supporting initiative, and this substantial financial package is another key milestone. No doubt this will give institutions across the arts, culture and heritage sector a welcome shot of confidence.”

The New Theatre Picture by Ed Nix

He added that it is essential that these funds are made available to all areas across the cultural ecosystem, from the subsidised sector to independent contractors, artists, producers, technicians and venue operators. 

“This is an important step towards securing the future of Britain’s cultural life and I’m very grateful to the Secretary of State and his team for their determination and perseverance in bringing this about. We now need to unite to restore audience confidence and work in close partnership with the health authorities to remount British theatre as soon as is appropriately possible.”

John Terry – Director – The Theatre Chipping Norton said: “Today’s announcement feels like a vote of support and a recognition of the role arts and culture plays in the country’s health, happiness and sense of home, as well as in the national economy. In a small rural community like ours, the region would be irrevocably changed by the loss of its theatre, cinema and arts centre. We await, eagerly, further information on how the scheme will work, and hope that it will provide support for live performance in the regions.”

The Theatre, Chipping Norton

SARAH EDWARDS

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