£1.57billion for arts welcomed by Peterborough’s New Theatre operators and MP

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Peterborough MP Paul Bristow has joined the operators of the city’s New Theatre in welcoming news of the Government’s support package of £1.57bn to be injected into the arts sector

Mr Bristow described the announcement from Department of Culture, Media and Sports Secretary of State Oliver Dowden MP and Chancellor Rishi Sunak MP as “incredibly good news for Peterborough.”

David Hutchinson and Phillip Rowntree, founders of Selladoor Worldwide, one of the country’s largest touring companies, who took over of the New Theatre last year, said it was a “vital lifeline” for the sector but that time is of the essence to make best use of the funding available.

He aims reopen New Theatre in November.

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Mr Hutchinson, the CEO said: “We hugely welcome the Government’s announcement of a £1.57bn package of support for the arts and culture last night. This funding promises to offer our sector a vital lifeline as we continue to plan survival through COVID-19. The theatre sector has been decimated since closure in March, and what is clear is that we won’t be able to open our doors anytime soon as running a commercially viable theatre model with social distancing just isn’t possible. What the Government have done today is to strongly acknowledge the value of the arts – both economic and cultural – and that is an incredibly positive endorsement for all in the theatre sector who have suffered many months of adversity during one of the biggest crises to hit the industry in the last century.

“The absolute key is in the detail now, of how these funds can support the wide ecology of people and organisations in the arts – and do so quickly. We’ve seen thousands of redundancies, many theatres on the brink of collapse and the damage of losing vital skills, experience and artists from our sector for good. We need to mobilise fast to start working as a sector to move together to the rebuild stage.

“This Government package has given the theatre sector a vital lifeline to continue our role – not just promoting the arts, but in communities, schools and as placemakers up and down the country.”

Mr Rowntree. the CFO, added “The economic impact of COVID-19 has been felt by individuals and businesses throughout the country, but none more than the theatre sector, one of the first to close and certainly one of the last to reopen again.

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“The Government announcement of a £1.57bn support package is a vital lifeline for a sector so badly affected by this pandemic and we are very grateful for the acknowledgement of the value of arts and culture in the UK.

“Time is of the essence now, and in order for us to make best use of these funds we need clear guidance on the Government’s timeline for allowing venues to reopen again. With the ability to plan the sector as a whole can ensure the Government’s investment today benefits as many individuals and businesses as possible ensuring a vibrant and thriving sector tomorrow.”

Selladoor recently confirmed that due to COVID -19 they have extended the temporary closure of the New Theatre from March until November with a plan in place to reopen pre-pantomime season on 19 November 2020.

Mr Hutchinson added that it was also very encouraging that the need to protect regional theatres had been acknowledged.

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“We have spent four months screaming for help and what we have heard so far is so significant. We should be thanking the Government, it feels like they have been listening,” he said..

“As a touring company and a regional theatre operator that is what we wanted to hear. But we need that timeline

“We are very much focussed on panto in December in Peterborough, which is so important to us, with a soft opening in November. But for that to happen we need them (the Government) to start talking to us now.

“Pubs opened at the weekend with a couple of weeks notice and were busy near where I live. But in the theatre we can not do that. We need months to prepare,”

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Peterborough MP Mr Bristow wrote to culture secretary Oliver Dowden last week, highlighting the plight of the city’s New Theatre, Key Theatre and The Cresset.

He wrote: “I am sure you agree that we cannot allow Coronavirus to close our theatres for good. The Government’s help in preventing this outcome would be hugely appreciated.”

Today, Mr Bristow said: “Peterborough has made huge strides in recent years and built up a thriving cultural scene with three excellent theatres, live music, and we have looked after our sites of global historical significance.

“I have made the case for the arts and culture. Ministers have listened.

“Detail will be key and I will relentlessly argue for our City’s fair share of this money. That works starts now, but this is incredibly good news for Peterborough.”