Our Response To the Government’s Support Package for the Arts

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Yesterday evening, the Government announced a £1.57 billion support package to help the UKs Arts Sector, including theatres, museums and galleries, to weather the effects of the Covid pandemic. The Mercury Theatre is just one of the thousands of arts organisations across the country affected by the lockdown. Our Executive Director, Steve Mannix today released a statement in response to the news.

“Yesterday’s Government announcement was very, very welcome indeed. After weeks of tirelessly campaigning to keep our industry afloat, the sector and its supporters have been heard, and while we’re not out of the woods, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

There’s no doubt that the relief package will be a real lifeline not only for regional theatres like ourselves, but for the entire sector across all art-forms. I join my peers in looking forward to seeing a detailed description of how this funding will be distributed, hopefully alongside an update on when and how venues can start to reopen, so that we can plan properly and safely for our future.

We at the Mercury are also in a unique position; we were mid-way through a largescale capital redevelopment project when lockdown began, so our plans for the future must not only factor in Government advice and funding, but also a now extended building timeline and additional costs to this project.

We were fortunate to have had reserves put aside for a rainy day and those, alongside the invaluable Job Retention Scheme, have kept us afloat over the last few months. The vital Government support package has arrived just in time, and we look forward to working in partnership with the Arts Council England and others to ensure an equitable and speedy distribution to allow us to reopen properly and safely for the benefit of artists and audiences alike. 

This support offers an opportunity to build a new dynamic partnership with Government where arts and culture are central to the solution. The financial support is an investment in the future economic success and prosperity of the nation. The sector currently earns more than £112billion per year and had been growing at 5 times the speed of the wider economy. Last year the Mercury alone contributed more than £4million to the local economy of Colchester and North Essex. In addition, our Mercury Rising capital project is also contributing over £9million locally. Together with the business community, retail and the public sector we can play an active part in ensuring a successful recovery locally, regionally and nationally.

While we eagerly await more details, many of those working in the arts are continuing to do what they do best: working with passion and dedication to find ways to safely take their creativity into their communities while they are most in need. It is so important that we recognise how much of our industry’s work is only possible due to freelancers, creatives and grassroots companies, and that we all commit to supporting these adaptable, innovative people alongside those on our regular payroll, as the sector looks to the future.

I would like to take this opportunity to thank our funders, audiences, supporters, staff and the wider theatre community for their unwavering patience and support during these difficult times. I can’t wait to welcome everyone back to the Mercury Theatre when is it safe for us to do so, and with yesterday’s announcement in mind, our plans to do just that can continue with confidence.”

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