U.K. Arts Sector to Receive $2 Billion Rescue Package From Government

London, United Kingdom - Getty - H 2020
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The rescue package for the novel coronavirus-hit arts industry includes support for theaters and independent cinemas.

The British government has unveiled a £1.57 billion ($1.96 billion) lifeline for the country's beleaguered arts and culture sector, including theaters and independent cinemas. 

The rescue package — announced Sunday evening — comes amid a renewed call for help from the British arts industry, which has been pushed to the brink by the novel coronavirus pandemic, with many famed venues facing closure and thousands of workers already having lost their jobs. Unions and industry bodies had been lobbying the government for months, with the arts sector among those to have received minimal support so far.

The new deal includes £880 million ($1 billion) in grants for the financial year to April 2021, a package that will be shared among theaters, music venues, heritage sites, museums, galleries and independent cinemas. The government is also offering £270 million ($336 million) in repayable loans. Decision on how the money is distributed will be made with the support of bodies such as the British Film Institute. 

"From iconic theater and musicals, mesmerizing exhibitions at our world-class galleries to gigs performed in local basement venues, the U.K.'s cultural industry is the beating heart of this country," said Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

"This money will help safeguard the sector for future generations, ensuring arts groups and venues across the U.K. can stay afloat and support their staff whilst their doors remain closed and curtains remain down."

In welcoming the new, BFI CEO Ben Roberts said: "This is very welcome news for our independent cinemas, who play a vital cultural role across the country. Today's announcement will help many of them to reopen soon and safely for audiences and staff, and bring communities and film lovers together again."

In excess of 350,000 people have been furloughed across the leisure and recreation industries since mid-March. The sector employs a workforce estimated at 700,000.