Britain will become ‘cultural wasteland’ without arts support, MPs warn

The Government’s “failure” to act quickly enough to help UK arts in the pandemic could affect the sector’s position as a world leader and result in Britain becoming a “cultural wasteland”, MPs have said.

Downing Street failed to recognise the disastrous effects of the pandemic on the arts industry and its bailout came too late, according to a report by the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport select committee

Mass redundancies could have been avoided if the Government had realised the scale of the threat and responded properly, MPs said.

Instead, there was a “regrettable” delay in offering a £1.57 million support package, and a period of uncertainty during which many organisations had no choice but to announce job closures.

The report follows the committee’s inquiry, which heard that a “significant proportion” of theatres may close permanently due to the crisis.

The orchestra pit at the deserted Coliseum Theatre in London

The orchestra pit at the deserted Coliseum Theatre in London


“We are witnessing the biggest threat to our cultural landscape in a generation. The failure of the Government to act quickly has jeopardised the future of institutions that are part of our national life and the livelihoods of those who work for them,” said Julian Knight, chairman of the committee.

The committee’s report said that the DCMS is treated as a “Cinderella” department by the Government when it comes to spending, despite the contribution that culture makes to the economy.

“We can see the damaging effect that has had on the robustness and ability of these areas to recover from the Covid crisis. The £1.57 billion support is welcome but for many help has come too late,” Mr Knight said.

The arts now face an “existential threat” and the committee called for urgent measures including more support for freelancers and small companies, clear timelines for reopening and technological solutions to enable audiences to return without social distancing.

“The Government must do more to restart the performing arts,” the committee said, criticising the DCMS over its failure to provide details of how and when venues can reopen.

It also recommended that the Government introduce a temporary change to legislation to ensure that museum collections cannot be liquidated for financial assets in the first 12 months if they face insolvency.

The Art Fund announced yesterday that it has doubled its prize fund for the Museum of the Year prize in an effort to help the struggling sector.

Previously the winning museum received £100,000 but this year there will be £200,000 divided equally between the five shortlisted venues.

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