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Will Covid kill the arts sector?

As the Government furlough scheme comes to an end, amidst a second a wave of the Covid virus; we ask the question what will become of the arts sector?

A sector that in 2018 added £111.7 billion to the UK economy, a sector that employs over 350,000 and a sector that brings joy, entertainment and an important escape from the daily grind for us all.

To put it bluntly, it’s a worrying time for everyone. The daily cases of Covid are now higher than they were back in March/April. This, of course, can be argued that it’s due to higher testing rates, but as Scientists have warned, Covid thrives in colder conditions. As we head into the winter months, no-one, not even the scientists, can predict what lies ahead.

Daily Covid cases are increasing, raising the question 'is this the start of a second wave?'
Daily Covid cases are increasing, raising the question ‘is this the start of a second wave?’

We’ve already endured a full lockdown back in March and the government are now beginning to make noises that a second one could be implemented if Covid cases and deaths continue to rise.

Museums, theatres and galleries are at breaking point, desperately trying to stay afloat. Cuts, job losses and closures have already occurred, and as these trying times continue things, sadly, are only going to get worse.

In an article by Polly Toynbee in The Guardian, she warns the government is failing the creative industry. That they are drastically underestimating the effects Covid is having and the effect, ignoring pleas from the sector, will have on the UK economy.

We agree.

We understand the government can only do so much, that there is only so much money, and that they need to make difficult choices on where to help and where to focus their attention. But, it feels as though they have given up on the arts, and to be honest it’s heart-breaking to watch it crumble.

If you don’t believe how important the arts sector is have a look at these 3 facts:

  • According to visitor data, in 2018 Tate Modern was the most visited institution in the UK and 5th in the world. (the British Museum, National Gallery and V&A all featured in the top 10 worldwide).
  • Theatres welcomed over 34m visitors through their doors in 2018, generating over £1.28 billion in revenue.
  • Our world renowned arts industry encourages tourists to spend over £856 million collectively, while visiting the UK.
The iconic Tate Modern is the 5th most visited institution in the world
The iconic Tate Modern was the 5th most visited institution in the world in 2018

It’s not difficult to picture what would happen without these venues; not only to the whole UK economy but to local ones as well…

…For example, The Hepworth Gallery contributed £10 million to Wakefield’s economy, and the Turner Gallery in Margate added £13.9 million to Kent’s.

The Turner Contemporary Gallery in Margate helped add almost £14 million to Kent’s economy

For local authorities these are huge cash cows and the knock on effect of closure is terrifying.

Sadly this story, we feel, isn’t going to have a happy ending. Our government needs to recognise the importance of the arts sector and start treating it as such. They need to treat it with the same respect as they do with other sectors and begin putting a plan in place to save the arts… before it’s too late… before the curtains close for good.

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