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£10m ‘lifeline’ support announced for Scotland’s performing arts venues

Scottish Ballet performs Sleeping Beauty at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow - Image credit: Andrew Milligan/PA

£10m ‘lifeline’ support announced for Scotland’s performing arts venues

A £10m “lifeline” fund to help performing arts venues survive the coronavirus crisis has been announced by the Scottish Government

The Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund is intended to keep live arts venues, which cannot yet reopen to audiences, financially viable up to the end of March 2021.

It is also hoped the funding will allow for theatres and other venues to bring back staff from furlough to work on future plans and to increase the opportunities for commissioning and employment of freelance artists and other creative practitioners.

Created as part of the Scottish Government’s £185m Business Support Fund, the Performing Arts Venues Relief Fund is open to both regularly funded organisations and non-regularly funded organisations.

The fund will be run by Creative Scotland, who will publish further details shortly.

Culture secretary Fiona Hyslop said: “Our theatres and performing arts venues and the talented freelancers who work with them are an essential part of the fabric of Scotland’s culture and communities and promote our international reputation, and we are determined that they will survive and be able to thrive again.

“We reacted quickly to help culture and the creative industries from the earliest days of this pandemic, including through the £120m Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund, which is unique to Scotland. This new fund is the next step.

“Our performing arts venues effectively had to close overnight, with an almost complete loss of income. 

“There is no doubt that in doing so they saved lives, and for that I am extremely grateful.

“As we navigate our way through the pandemic, we know physical distancing is vital to ensuring that we do not see a second wave of infections, but we recognise the difficulties this presents for those in performing arts.

“This dedicated fund will be a vital lifeline to help performing arts venues continue to weather the storm.

“We are also actively considering support for grassroots music venues.

“We know the impact of this crisis will be long-term so ambitious action to support the future of these organisations, as well as our wider cultural infrastructure, is vital.

“We will continue to urge the UK Government to use their fiscal levers, such as significant borrowing powers, to back culture and creative industries with major investment.

“This will enable the Scottish Government to offer even more support to respond to this crisis and build for the future.”

Iain Munro, chief executive of Creative Scotland, said: "We welcome this £10m from the Scottish Government which will provide a critical injection of cash to help meet the immediate needs of performing arts venues in Scotland which have been so badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is significant, welcome and demonstrates the Scottish Government’s continued commitment to culture but we also recognise that organisations and individuals working across the wider cultural sector are facing extremely challenging circumstances which, in some cases, threaten their long-term viability.

"We will therefore continue to work closely with both the Scottish Government and other partners to explore every possible avenue for further support.”

The Tron Theatre in Glasgow received £76,000 from the Scottish Government’s initial support for the sector through the Pivotal Enterprise Resilience Fund (PERF).

Andy Arnold, artistic director at The Tron, said: “This new dedicated fund is welcome news and should provide a morale boost to Scottish theatre and I hope will give a financial lifeline in the short term to many vital cultural organisations.

“Tron Theatre is also extremely grateful for the PERF award we received, which will enable us to prepare our venue for re-opening and re-establishing our creative programme.”

But the Scottish Greens warned that the money would not be enough to prevent venues from closing.

The party’s culture spokesperson Ross Greer said: “This funding is very welcome, but it will only buy venues more time, not prevent their closure entirely.

“Theatres and venues of all sizes in almost every community in Scotland have been devastated by this crisis and face an uncertain future while social distancing continues.

“We risk a post-COVID normal with cultural deserts across much of Scotland if venues close on the scale we’re currently facing.

“£10m will buy venues and their staff time, which is vital with so many jobs on the line and the furlough scheme being wound down later this year, but with the number of venues now in crisis, this amount will not go far.

“The UK Government has done embarrassingly little to protect the arts during the pandemic compared with other countries.

“There is widespread international recognition that education, health and culture are key to wellbeing, but the latter has been largely ignored by the Conservatives so far, despite making up a huge share of our economy.

“If Scotland is going to take a different approach we need to step up, quickly.”

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