UK faces 'cultural catastrophe' if £100bn industry not supported, cross-party MPs say
The closed Old Vic theatre (Credit: PA)
The UK faces a "cultural catastrophe" if the £100bn industry is not supported in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, a cross-party group of MPs has warned.
Dozens of opposition MPs - including Lib Dem spokesperson Wera Hobhouse, Labour grandee Harriet Harman and ex-coalition government minister Alistair Carmichael - have signed a joint letter to Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg, asking him to spell out exactly how the government plans to help the arts sector.
"Covid-19 has brought the arts and culture industry to its knees. Experts have suggested that the creative sector will be hit twice as hard as the wider economy, and industry leaders have warned that we are on the brink of a ‘cultural catastrophe’," the letter states.
"Without support, there is a real danger that these industries will never recover."
UK Theatre previously warned the Digital, Culture, Media and Sport Committee that 70% of theatres and production companies across the country could go out of business by the end of the year.
The letter goes on: "For many, it could be much sooner.
"We are aware that the Culture Secretary is pushing for a support package for the culture sector, and his creation of the Cultural Renewal Taskforce is hugely welcome. However, theatres and other performance venues urgently need clarity on the support that will be available to them."
Theatres will be permitted to reopen as part of a wider easing of lockdown measures on July 4, but they will be banned from hosting live performances
Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden promised earlier this month to work with performers and the industry in the coming weeks to develop "innovative ideas" that will allow venues to reopen.
But Ms Hobhouse, who co-ordinated the cross-party letter, wants time to be set aside in the Commons to discuss the issue.
"The government must provide certainty and security for the hundreds of communities, spanning the UK, who rely on thriving cultural sectors to draw in visitors," she said.
"There are many questions left to answer about the future of these organisations – from how to social distance onstage to when a museum can expect to operate at full capacity once more."
She added: "We must make sure that our arts and culture do not become the forgotten industry, in the pandemic recovery project."