There was some good news this week with the Government’s announcement of £1.57bn in emergency support for our creative and cultural venues. This is something I’ve been calling for as it will help protect the future of theatres, galleries, museums and other venues across the West of England. I’ve been in regular contact with representatives from our excellent creative and cultural sector and I know just how important this intervention will be. On top of the support announced by the Chancellor to encourage people to eat and drink out again by cutting VAT and introducing the new ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme, our visitor economy is getting some much-needed backing.
Arts and culture really are at the soul of the West of England, and are also an important contributor to our wider economy. Sadly, they’ve been particularly hard hit by the pandemic and lockdown. I hope that this funding will provide a lifeline to ensure that as we recover from Coronavirus, these important venues will still be around to provide creative jobs, attract tourists and generally help make sure the West of England remains an exciting and enjoyable place to live.
This new funding comes on top of existing support for the creative and cultural sector, including Arts Council England’s recent Emergency Response Funding that has supported 419 people and organisations in our region with £2.44m; the Government’s loans; business rate relief, and the jobs retention furlough scheme. Here in the West of England, I’ve ensured that the importance of the creative and cultural sectors is recognised by including representatives in our Regional Recovery Taskforce. The Combined Authority also continues to provide support for artists and the creative sector through our Creative Scale-Up programme – which has moved online – and our West of England Growth Hub.
I’ve also been encouraged to see that some creative arts activity has been able to continue during this time, particularly where this has helped local communities come together and promoted both physical and mental wellbeing. I know that residents across the region and beyond have greatly enjoyed various online performances and exhibitions which have brought familiarity and comfort during this hard time.
The additional £1.57bn is the largest ever investment in UK culture and a real vote of confidence in its importance and recognition of its value. I know how important the sector is for our region, and I’m glad that the Government has listened to those of us who have been calling for this much-needed intervention. It was great to see some of the jewels in the region’s crown, such as the Bristol Old Vic, welcoming the announcement. I look forward to continuing to work closely with them, and other venues to ensure that they’re able to access the support that they need.