FILE PHOTO: A woman wearing a protective face mask walks past a closed theatre following the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in London, Britain June 23, 2020. REUTERS/Toby Melville/File Photo
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain will invest nearly $2 billion in cultural institutions and the arts to help a sector that has been crippled by the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Sunday.
Theatres, opera houses and ballet companies have been left without a live audience for months.
Though English museums and cinemas can re-open with strict social distancing in the latest easing of lockdown which began on Saturday, guidelines still dictate no live performances at theatres or concert halls.
That has created an existential crisis for much of the sector, which has been vocal in calling on the government for support.
“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,” Johnson said in a statement.
The government said the 1.57-billion pound ($1.96 billion) investment was the biggest ever in Britain’s culture sector.
It said that Britain’s museums, art galleries, theatres, independent cinemas, heritage sites and music venues would be protected through emergency grants and loans.
The government will consult with figures from Arts Council England, the British Film Institute and other specialist bodies on awarding grants, while it said repayable finance would be issued on affordable terms.
Reporting by Alistair Smout, Editing by Timothy Heritage