Theatres Trust director Jon Morgan responds to the 2021 Budget and comments on how it affects the arts:
Theatres Trust welcomes not only the Chancellor’s announcement of additional funding for the arts, but also his recognition for the important role culture will play in the country’s social and economic recovery. £408m is a significant increase, more than quarter on top of the initial £1.57bn Culture Recovery Fund. This is much needed as the pandemic’s impacts have continued longer than originally anticipated and it is unlikely that many theatres will be able to reopen viably before fuller audiences are permitted from 21 June at the earliest.
The extension of the Job Retention Scheme until the end of September is also welcome news for theatres. Together with the Culture Recovery Fund, this scheme has kept theatres afloat during the turbulence of the past year. This will provide a welcome cushion to further protect theatres until they can return to viable operation.
Theatres have continued to play active roles in their communities throughout the pandemic, whether providing digital entertainment and creative inspiration or acting as food banks or vaccine centres. As the country begins to recover, theatres can make a major contribution, promoting wellbeing and a sense of place, animating the high street and contributing significantly to the wider economy, and today’s support shows that this valuable role is recognised.
We welcome the additional funding for the devolved nations and would hope that this budget will be allocated to the arts. With no reopening dates announced yet in Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, theatres in these nations need further financial security.
As the national charity that champions theatres in communities and supports community groups to save their local theatre, Theatres Trust is pleased to see the new Community Ownership Fund and are interested to hear more details. There are already hundreds of small community theatres across the country that are real assets to their local areas and are an important part of the theatre ecology. Any programme that supports more communities to own and run their local theatre is to be welcomed and should be flexible enough to support both purchase and repair works alongside vital skills development to equip voluntary groups to successfully restore and operate the buildings.