Chancellor Rishi Sunak has paid a visit to Shakespeare’s Globe following his announcement of a £1.57 billion support package for the arts.
The visit came after Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden, who also visited the London venue, told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme that the return of theatre performances without social distancing remains “some way off”.
Theatres, along with museums, galleries, music venues, independent cinemas and heritage sites, will be eligible for the emergency grants and loans.
Mr Sunak said that when the Globe closed in March, it disrupted their winter season “and a production of Macbeth with 20,000 free tickets for children”.
In a Twitter post, he added: “It was great to visit them this morning with Oliver Dowden after our announcement of a £1.57 billion arts protection package.”
Mr Dowden said it was “great” to visit the theatre, adding: “We will help institutions weather this storm and be there for future generations.”
He also told BBC Breakfast on Monday morning that it would be difficult to get theatres reopened in time for the Christmas pantomime season.
The minister added: “I would love to be able to announce that pantos can return but I have to say it will be quite challenging to be able to get to that point.
“Because if you think about a panto, and we all love going to the panto for the joy of it, but it also supports local theatres, you’ve got granny through to grandchild all packed in together, you know how kids are encouraged to shout and scream at panto season, there’s lots of sort of interaction.”
Mr Dowden said he is working with Public Health England to see if the risks can be mitigated but he wants “to be realistic about the challenges of getting us back to that point any time soon”.
A large number of cultural institutions have welcomed the Government announcement of the lifeline for the arts sector, which looks set to be disrupted by coronavirus for some time.
Arts Council England, the Royal Opera House, the Society of London Theatre & UK Theatre, and the Music Venue Trust were among those praising the move.
Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors is expected to be published by the Government shortly.
The package comes after some theatres – which are not yet able to stage live performances – closed down, making staff redundant, amid the pandemic.
Museums have also said they face an uncertain future, while 1,500 artists and acts signed a letter to the Culture Secretary calling for a road map for the live music industry.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday: “From iconic theatre and musicals, mesmerising exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the UK’s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country.
“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.”
The Government said the money “represents the biggest ever one-off investment in UK culture” and will help struggling institutions “stay afloat while their doors are closed”.
In addition to helping the arts sector, funding will also be provided to restart construction work at cultural and heritage sites paused as a result of the pandemic, the Government said.
Decisions on awards will be made working alongside expert independent figures from the sector.
The £1.15 billion support pot for cultural organisations in England will be made up of £270 million of repayable finance and £880 million of grants.
The funding also includes money for the devolved administrations in Northern Ireland (£33 million), Scotland (£97 million) and Wales (£59 million), the Government said.
The Tate, the Science Museum Group, the Natural History Museum, National Gallery and the Royal Shakespeare Company were among those who also welcomed the funding.
Labour shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens said on Sunday that while she welcomed the “much-needed” cash injection, it was “too little, too late” for many.
She said: “The Government needs to ensure that this vital funding gets to those theatres and other organisations currently teetering on the brink, and fast – especially those across the towns and small cities where live performance venues and other arts organisations are so valuable to local economies, providing many interdependent jobs, particularly in hospitality.”