We wrote last week about musicians and the British music industry coming together in a strong show of unity to call for financial support from the government, amid an increasingly concerning silence about relief for the arts and culture industries more generally. This weekend, the calls continued as swathes of the UK’s hospitality industry opened up for business again. Were pubs really that much more of a priority than music venues, theatres and museums, wondered people in the latter sectors.
(It’s an emotive subject, and also complicated. In theory, pubs may be easier to maintain social-distancing rules than all-standing concert venues. In practice… perhaps not. And while claims that a single pub chain had received more government aid than the entire live music industry were shared widely and crossly on Twitter, the argument was never that venues should reopen at the same time as pubs, but rather that the government should a.) provide a desperately-needed package of relief, and b.) publish some kind of roadmap towards reopening, as it had done for other sectors.)
Sunday brought news on the first of those. Britain’s arts, culture and heritage industries will be getting a “world-leading £1.57 billion rescue package“. So, not just live music and theatre / performing arts, but museums, galleries, independent cinemas and historic palaces. This includes £270m of repayable loans and £880m of grants for ‘cultural organisations’, with the promise that the loans will be “on generous terms”. The scheme will open for applications “in the coming weeks” and that’s when further details will be available on how it’ll work.
Swerving the British government’s obsession with ‘world-leading’ claims (which didn’t turn out so well with its plans for a ‘world-beating’ Covid-19 contract tracing system) the devil will clearly be in the detail here, in terms of who’s eligible for the support, and who’s making the decisions – so far bodies including the Arts Council England, Historic England, National Lottery Heritage Fund and the British Film Institute have been named, but it remains to be seen which if any music bodies will be involved.
Every UK music body’s response celebrated the recognition of this and related sectors’ importance, but also offered caution on the details. The two key questions at this point are: first, whether the support will extend beyond venues and live music companies to artists and their teams; and second, whether the support for venues be weighted towards those with a track record of public funding, which might disadvantage some music venues. Everyone is gearing up for urgent talks to thrash out these and other issues.
We realise that for our many readers outside the UK, this may seem a bit of a local story for local people. We think it has wider relevance: certainly in the details of how the music industry came together to make its case for relief. But we’d love to write more about these campaigns – and the government responses – elsewhere in the world. As ever, our editorial team are keen for your thoughts and tips on those.
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