The National Portrait Gallery, London. Courtesy of the National Portrait Gallery.

Museums Association Urges UK to Launch Emergency Fund with $145M Earmarked for Brexit Festival

The Museums Association (MA), a United Kingdom–based advocacy organization that represents more than 1,500 museums, is asking the government to establish an emergency fund for cultural institutions under financial pressure due to the coronavirus pandemic. The group is proposing that the UK pull the $145 million in funds it had allocated to the “festival of Brexit,” a UK-wide celebration of its departure from the European Union, and reinvest the sum into its cultural sector. 

“We are calling for an emergency fund to be created to support museums through this difficult period,” Sharon Heal, director of MA, told the Art Newspaper. “The government had earmarked £120m for a ‘festival of Britain’ in 2022; we believe this should now be made available to support museums at risk of permanent closure as a result of the coronavirus epidemic.”

The organization is also asking for clarity regarding the safety measures the government is implementing—specifically whether institutions are being asked to close or ordered to close—and demanding that the UK do more to protect culture workers whose livelihoods are at risk following the shuttering of arts museums and businesses for what could be weeks or months.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave a speech on Monday, March 16, informing the public that stricter public health measures need to be taken, including the limiting of social contact and mass gatherings. The speech presumably led major UK institutions—including the British Museum, the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, the National Portrait Gallery, and the Tate galleries—to begin closing their doors.

On Tuesday, Johnson declared war on the coronavirus, which he described as “deadly” but “beatable.” Chancellor Rishi Sunak also unveiled a nearly $400 billion stimulus package to protect the economy from the virus.