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The National Gallery, London.

United Kingdom Plans $2 Billion Relief Package for Cultural Sector

The United Kingdom will infuse 1.57 billion pounds, the equivalent of almost $2 billion, into the country’s arts and cultural sector, which has been devastated by Covid-19-induced lockdowns since early March. Rishi Sunak, Britain’s chief finance minister, announced the decision on Saturday, following months of calls for relief from the country’s leading cultural figures. While British museums and galleries are now allowed to reopen, ongoing social distancing measures introduce further uncertainty as to the sector’s financial recovery.

The relief package allocates $1.1 billion in grants for English museums, theaters, independent cinemas, and other arts institutions; $338 million in repayable loans; $188 million for Northern Ireland, Scotland, and Wales; and $125 million for national cultural sites. An additional amount of $150 million is available for those who would restart construction work at such sites. Applications for funding will be available in the coming weeks. Arts Council England, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, and the British Film Institute will assist the government in selecting grant recipients.

Although Prime Minister Boris Johnson claims that the rescue package is “world-leading,” Britain’s pledge is comparable to those made by other large European nations like France and Germany. Particularly vulnerable is England’s theater industry, which, unlike its European neighbors, receives relatively little government support under normal circumstances. In response to the news, representatives for the UK-based creative sector union Prospect emphasized the importance of supporting freelancers, who are ineligible for government funding under current programs.

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