Monday, July 13, 2020

UK music sector welcomes £1.57bn support package

By Emmanuel Legrand

The British government's decision to allocate £1.57 billion to the music sector has been widely praised by representatives from the music community. Oliver Dowden, in charge of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, and the Chancellor Rishi Sunak said the package would "help weather the impact of coronavirus" and will be "a big step forward to help rebuild our cultural infrastructure."

DCMS's Oliver Dowden

  The money, said the DCMS, represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture, and "will provide a lifeline to vital cultural and heritage organisations across the country hit hard by the pandemic."

  The package, intended to benefit performing arts and theatres, heritage, historic palaces, museums, galleries, live music and independent cinema, includes:
  > £1.15bn support pot for cultural organisations in England delivered through a mix of grants and loans (£270m of repayable finance and £880m grants).
  > £100m of targeted support for the national cultural institutions in England and the English Heritage Trust.
  > £120m capital investment to restart construction on cultural infrastructure and for heritage construction projects in England which was paused due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  > £188m for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33m), Scotland (£97m) and Wales (£59m).

Safeguard the sector

  "This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the UK can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

  The government said decisions on awards "will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector including the Arts Council England and other specialist bodies such as Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute. Further details will be set out when the scheme opens for applications in the coming weeks. "I said we would not let the arts down, and this massive investment shows our level of commitment," said Dowden.

  “We are delighted that the Government has recognised the special importance of the arts and creativity – including music – to our national life," said Geoff Taylor, Chief Executive BPI & BRIT Awards. "We warmly welcome specific mention of our cherished music venues, and to support for the arts, which should also assist our classical music sector. The live music industry, and the artist community that it supports, has felt the full, devastating force of the Covid-19 emergency and grassroots venues urgently require support if the UK is to retain its exceptional local music scene and continue to produce world-beating artists. We look forward to further discussing how the funds will be allocated.” 

A VAT reduction on concert tickets

  > As part of a £30 billion recovery plan, Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a reduction of VAT from 20% to 5% for the hospitality sector, which is extended to shows, theatres, circuses, fairs, amusement parks, concerts, museums, zoos, cinemas and exhibitions. The measure will be limited for six months, and will apply to advance sales of tickets for events taking place after January 12, 2021. However the VAT reduction did not extend to music retail, which was a request from retail chain HMV owner Doug Putman.

Authorising outdoors live performances

  > Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden announced that from the weekend of 11 July live performances could take place in outdoors venues, respecting social distancing, with reduced audience sizes and online ticketing. Indoor test events are being scheduled to inform the plan as to how and when venues can reopen, according to the DCMS.

  "This is an important milestone for our performing artists, who have been waiting patiently in the wings since March," Dowden said. “Of course, we won't see crowds flooding into their venues, but from 11 July our theatres, operas, dance and music shows can start putting on outdoor performances to socially distant audiences.”

  The Musicians’ Union (MU) welcomed the announcement. “The safety of our members is paramount so outdoor performances will come first, whilst pilots of indoor live performance are carried out and scientific research continues," said MU's General Secretary, Horace Trubridge. “Our sector needs more. Specifically a finance package for the workforce to sustain them until they are able to work at full capacity, and this will be the focus of our lobbying going forward.”

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