More than £ 165million in emergency loans to some of the UK’s largest arts and heritage organizations have been announced to ensure they survive the pandemic.
The Royal Opera House will receive £ 21.7million, the National Theater £ 19.7million, the Royal Shakespeare Company £ 19.4million, the Royal Albert Hall £ 20.7million, the Southbank Center £ 10.9million and the English National Opera £ 8.5million.
A total of 11 “organizations of national and international importance” which provide work for more than 9,000 people will obtain the loans. Each will have an initial repayment leave of up to four years, a low interest rate, and a repayment term of up to 20 years.
The loans are one of the last pieces of the puzzle of the government’s £ 1.57 billion cultural stimulus fund to help a sector which has been one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
Lisa Burger, Executive Director of the National Theater, said, “This is a vital lifeline that will be part of our recovery, helping to ensure that the National Theater will be there for the nation, now and into the future.
“The loan will allow us to invest in independent creative labor to produce some of the most exciting theaters in the world.
The move was also praised by actress Olivia Colman, who last appeared there in 2017, in Lucy Kirkwood’s Mosquitoes. “In addition to the grants to smaller theaters, it is wonderful to hear that the future of the NT is supported by this vital loan,” she said.
The National reopens on December 11 with its Dick Whittington panto, which will air for free over Christmas. He is also filming a new Romeo and Juliet for television with Jessie Buckley and Josh O’Connor.
Elaine Bedell, managing director of the Southbank Center, said the organization had lost £ 25million in revenue this year.
“This loan will help us stabilize our finances as we prepare to reopen all of our sites safely next spring,” she said. “We still have challenges – but we can meet them now with creative optimism.”
Edward Gardner, Principal Conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, said: “The Southbank Center is an essential part of London’s artistic life. This support will help our mission to bring the most adventurous musical creation to as many people as possible. “
Alex Beard, managing director of the Royal Opera House, said the money would help “deal with part of the immediate financial crisis caused by the crisis”.
But none of the organizations see loans as a panacea. Beard said the long-term impact of the crisis and the challenges of socially distant performance meant that “the road ahead is not easy for our industry.” There would also be “restructurings and layoffs”.
Other loans include £ 40million to Historic Royal Palaces, which operates places such as the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace.
Its chief executive, John Barnes, said the loan was a big relief. “As a self-funded charity dependent on visitor income, our finances have been decimated by the pandemic,” he said.
“The magnitude of the losses we have suffered has been so great that at times the future of our charity has been uncertain.”
The loan, he said, “would help us cover our losses this year, having used up all of our reserves, and the additional losses we expect in 2021.”
London’s Bridge Theater, which was one of the first to start putting on plays for socially distant audiences, will secure a £ 5million loan.
In addition to the loans, £ 60million is also pledged for investment projects, including £ 21million to Manchester City Council to enable completion of the plant – a cultural space being built in the old Granada television studios.
So far, over £ 1billion has been allocated from the Cultural Stimulus Fund. More details on £ 300million in grants and £ 100million in loans will be announced in due course, the government said.