Chancellor Rishi Sunak has announced £408 million in additional funding for museums, theatres and galleries in England to boost their recovery once coronavirus restrictions ease this summer. The budget statement, released on 3 March 2021, comes after the chancellor committed the government to doing “whatever it takes to support the British people and businesses through this moment of crisis“.
An additional £300 million will reportedly go into the £1.57 billion Cultural Recovery Fund. National museums are set to receive £90 million more in emergency funding to keep them afloat until they can reopen at the earliest on 17 May 2021. Indoor theatre performances could resume on this date as well, with larger performances starting no earlier than 21 June 2021.
The government will also give £18.8 million to cultural community projects. This includes £5 million to transform part of Wakefield high street into a community library, museum, and gallery space. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will receive an additional £77 million to provide their cultural groups with similar support.
“Throughout the crisis we have done everything we can to support our world-renowned arts and cultural industries,” stated the chancellor. “And it’s only right that we continue to build on our historic package of support for the sector. This industry is a significant driver of economic activity, employing more than 700,000 people in jobs across the UK, and I am committed to ensuring the arts are equipped to captivate audiences in the months and years to come.”
Responding to the funding announcement, Maria Balshaw the director of the Tate said it was “a vote of confidence” in the UK’s arts organisations. Art Historian Bendor Grosvenor also remarked on Twitter: “good news for museums. Hopefully it’ll come in time to prevent further job cuts. Museums will soon be busier than ever!”
But insiders at the Victoria and Albert Museum recently alleged the London institution is planning to make significant staff cuts in the curatorial and conservation departments, with one staff member adding “it’s hollowing out the expertise of the museum.”
In 2020, the UK economy contracted by 9.9% and unemployment rose to the worst rate since 2015 at 5.1% in the three months to December. The chancellor borrowed more than £270 billion in the financial year 2020-2021 to cover the costs incurred by the pandemic.