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Emergency arts funding: must benefit communities beyond big cities

The UK government has announced that it will support the arts and culture industry - which is suffering heavy losses through the COVID-19 crisis - with a £1.57bn emergency support package. Experts in theatre and culture from the University of Warwick react.

Dr Elizabeth Barry, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literary Studies, comments:

"As a teacher of literature and theatre, I welcome the government’s announcement of a package of support for arts and cultural organizations in the UK. This is a really big step in the right direction towards preserving our immensely valuable cultural sector. I hope, however, that the government will see beyond immediate economic return – which has been made an explicit condition for grants – to the value that the arts have for promoting social cohesion, for instance.Dr Elizabeth Barry

"Schemes that build communities and involve young people have lots of indirect as well as direct economic (and social) benefits. It is also important that companies are supported to take artistic risks in order to preserve and develop the creativity that has made Britain famous for its arts the world over.

"This is what will maintain the economic success of the sector. It isn’t always a simple equation between money in and money out – some things take time to develop, and it is important that theatre and the arts are diverse and inclusive, and that the money spreads beyond London and the biggest urban centres."

Prof Tony Howard

Professor Tony Howard, from the Department of English and Comparative Literary Studies, comments:

"This is a hugely welcome response to weeks of lobbying from Britain's theatres, providing a lifeline at the very last possible moment. It's a great deal of money.

"But what are the arts in Britain? It's a huge,complex and diverse web of national institutions, struggling small companies, freelance creators, and minority voices - and the urgent challenge now is to RELEASE those funds and TARGET them where they're needed.

"In 1945, the Government understood the need to use the arts to help the country recover. To 'level up' communities and release creativity. They had a plan and created the Arts Council. Let's see the Plan."

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Luke Walton

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