Shadow culture secretary Jo Stevens has warned the government that “time is rapidly running out” in the fight to save theatre from collapse.
Stevens said the sector needed “clear and urgent reassurance” that help was coming, and pressed culture secretary Oliver Dowden to be more transparent about his conversations with the Treasury about a support package.
Addressing Dowden, the Labour MP said: “The commission for cultural recovery that you announced more than three weeks ago gave a tiny glimmer of light, but since that date there has been silence and it was only in response to my question that details of those involved in the working groups underneath the commission were finally made public.”
The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport published the list of organisations being consulted in the working groups last week.
Stevens said she wanted to stress to government that a “one-size-fits-all horizontal economic intervention has not, and does not, work for our cultural industries”.
She is requesting a response from Dowden to a number of questions, asking for detail on his conversations with chancellor Rishi Sunak about support for those working in the arts that have so far been excluded from both the furlough and self-employed income support schemes.
Pushing Dowden on the issue of insurance, she said organisations had “consistently raised the problem of obtaining insurance that will enable them to start productions, reopen and recover”.
Stevens also asked whether Dowden and Sunak had considered a specific exemption to the job retention scheme for theatres and cultural venues, whether they were considering modifying Theatre Tax Relief temporarily and about the possibility of a long-term loan scheme to help recovery.
“I do not doubt that the government wants our world-renowned and economically successful cultural industries to survive the Covid crisis, but you will know from your discussion with the sector that time is rapidly running out,” she said.
She warned that without support, theatre would face large-scale redundancies and closures, in addition to “a huge loss of talent and specialist skills... that will severely impede post-Covid recovery and renewal”.
In an interview with the Evening Standard last week, Dowden said he believed a package to support the arts was imminent, claiming to be in “intricate discussions” with the Treasury to negotiate terms.
“I am not going to stand by and see our world-leading position in arts and culture destroyed,” he said.
Stevens’ letter can be read in full here:
On Wednesday I wrote again to @GOVUK @DCMS Minister raising the perilous financial state of our cultural industries - theatres, other live performance venues and the talent working across them again pressing for urgent, sector specific support before it's too late. (Thread) pic.twitter.com/KlSotMwXe4— Jo Stevens (@JoStevensLabour) June 12, 2020