A widely-reported £408m funding boost for the struggling UK arts sector has been confirmed in the Budget announcements this afternoon.

  • An additional £300m will be allocated to the Culture Recovery Fund, which has previously received £1.57bn in funding. The Fund, which is administered by Arts Council England, supports commercial and not-for-profit cultural organisations in England with grants and loans to cover essential costs of operating in line with Covid-19 guidance or to sustain the organisation in the longer term if this will be cost-effective. Eligible organisations include museums, galleries, theatres and live music venues.

  • £90m has been earmarked to support public museums until they are permitted to reopen. According to the government’s current “roadmap” out of lockdown, this will be no earlier than 17 May 2021 when theatres, cinemas and hotels will also be permitted to reopen.

  • £18.8m will be contributed to community cultural projects.

A further £77m will be made available to the devolved administrations for support of the arts sectors in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

This is undoubtedly a welcome announcement for cultural organisations, many of which have been closed for the majority of the past twelve months. In combination with other sources of emergency funding, such as the furlough scheme, it will be an important lifeline.  Maria Balshaw, Director of Tate, has described the announcement as a “vote of confidence” in the UK arts sector.

Having said that, there remain unanswered questions. In particular, there has been frustration that under the “roadmap” as published, museums will not be permitted to reopen until 17 May at the earliest, while other public buildings such as libraries and non-essential shops – including commercial art galleries – are scheduled to reopen at stage 2, currently scheduled for no earlier than 12 April. It remains to be seen how effective this extra funding will be, how satisfied organisations will be with its accessibility and allocation, and how quickly the UK arts sector will be back on its feet.

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