YORK venues have welcomed the Government’s £1.57 billion support package for the arts – with the boss of one theatre saying it could be a “massive help”.
Theatres including York Theatre Royal, Grand Opera House, Joseph Rowntree Theatre, which all remain closed, and other city venues will be hoping to benefit from a share of the cash.
Theatres, along with museums, galleries, music venues, independent cinemas and heritage sites, will be eligible for emergency grants and loans.
Tom Bird, York Theatre Royal’s executive director, said: “We really welcome the announcement. It is important to say we are waiting on the detail. Obviously the industry has been suffering due to not being able to reopen. We were hoping for some recognition of this and that is what has come.
“We want to emphasise it is an investment, rather than a bailout. Theatres deliver a return of £5 in taxes for every £1 invested.
“We don’t know when we will hear if we will receive funding and how much we will receive.”
He said until the details are announced there is no guarantee the theatre will received any of the funding.
“Potentially it is a massive help at a time that is totally unprecedented for the sector,” he added.
He said a grant would help keep the theatre going to allow it to “continue to make a social and economic impact on the city”.
Mr Bird said the future of the theatre’s Cinderella pantomime, due to run from December 4 this year, was still uncertain.
“Even if theatres are allowed to open, if they don’t have confidence that the theatre will be full you can’t put together a Christmas show because it is a big investment for theatres,” he said.
Mr Bird has thanked the members of the community who have made donations to the theatre and those who have agreed to take credit notes for tickets booked for cancelled plays rather than refunds.
Mark Cornell, group chief executive at Ambassador Theatre Group, which operates the Grand Opera House, said: “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 Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport 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.
“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.”
Dan Shrimpton, chairman of trustees at Joseph Rowntree Theatre in York, said the funding will be a “great boost” to the creative industry.
“The full details of the government scheme are yet to be released, once they are we can understand the details for applying for funding,” he said.
“We recognise there are many individuals as well as organisations across the creative sector who are in desperate need of support at this time.
“This funding provides a great deal of encouragement that they will be able to obtain the financial support needed. The Joseph Rowntree Theatre is not in a financially difficult position at this time.”
He said once the details are available the venue will be exploring the options to understand if it is eligible to apply.
“If we are eligible, and we need additional funding support, we will make an application.”
He said with the prolonged closure the venue has started to use its reserves to meet ongoing costs whilst the theatre remains closed.
He confirmed that the theatre has received a £10,000 grant from City of York Council, plus many of its customers have kindly donated their ticket money to its closure appeal instead of taking a refund for the cancelled shows.
The Fulford Arms, in Fulford Road, which is famous for its live performances from local and national artists, is another city venue that has welcomed the support package.
Chris Sherrington, co-owner of the pub, who also works for the Music Venue Trust and helped set up the York Music Venues Network, said: “We at The Fulford Arms, York Music Venues Network and Music Venue Trust warmly welcome this unprecedented intervention into Britain’s world class live music scene.”
He said the fund could give city venues time to create a plan to reopen safely.
The Fulford Arms has not reopened its doors yet mainly due to live performances not being possible for the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile, the Culture Secretary has warned that the return of theatre performances without social distancing remains “some way off”.
Oliver Dowden told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme the relaxation of guidelines, such as on planes, has only been implemented in “exceptionally limited circumstances” and insisted “slow and baby steps” must be taken.
Mr Dowden also told BBC Breakfast it would be difficult to get theatres reopened in time for the Christmas pantomime season.