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Sonia Friedman responds to the UK Government's Emergency Support Package

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Today, the UK Government announced a £1.57 billion emergency support package as a fund to help the arts.

In response, Sonia Friedman said:

“I’m deeply relieved and immensely grateful that the Government has heard the urgent warnings from across the cultural sector, and responded with this significant rescue package that is so desperately needed. This historic fiscal support recognises that the arts are not an added extra, but a national necessity that enrich all our lives in countless ways. We take them for granted at our peril.

I welcome this vital intervention from the Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Oliver Dowden, DCMS and the Treasury at a critical moment for our industry. This fund will go a huge way to ensuring there is a theatre industry still standing when it is safe to resume performance and open our doors again.

All of us in the arts are absolutely aware that we are not alone in facing a crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic. We recognise the myriad challenges ahead in all areas of our nation’s social, public and economic life and we know we are not a special case. Far from it: we want to play our part in the recovery, and we sincerely believe that today’s commitment to the arts represents both good fiscal sense and a deep faith in the power of the arts.

Our country’s artists and arts organisations are uniquely positioned to provide ways of imagining our country’s future. It is in our nation’s theatres, in our dance and concert halls, our opera houses, circuses, our village fetes and our comedy clubs that we will come together, to share our stories, make sense of our experiences, escape our daily worries and imagine our futures.

Put simply, our cultural life will help us to heal.

Today is only the first step towards cultural recovery, but it is an essential one – and offers hope and confidence that we can take many more steps. Today’s package offers a lifeline to arts organisations in existential danger, and should act as a springboard to a re-opening, when it is safe to do so.

We will need guidance from Government on that front, as we navigate a route through their roadmap towards safely resuming live performance, and we stand ready to help in whatever way we can and this money will ensure that we can play our part when the time is right.

We appreciate that this commitment represents a show of faith in our sector, and as arts workers, we will endeavour to return that investment and meet the social responsibilities that follow from it. There will be challenges along the way – not least ensuring that this relief money is distributed equitably and efficiently in a way that preserves a rich and complex cultural ecosystem and protects venues, companies and individual artists alike, including the hundreds of thousands of freelancers that sustain and fire our industry. Many have been hard-hit by recent shutdowns, and I know today’s announcement will be a big relief. We owe it to them to ensure it delivers as such. They have helped make the case for this major milestone.

Together, as a sector, we can now begin mapping out our respective paths to the re-opening, recovery and renewal of our glorious theatre industry. We stand ready to open our doors, as soon it is safe to do so, that we might share space once again, reflect on the traumas we’ve endured and dream up an almighty celebration on the other side of this.”

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