Royal Opera House and Albert Hall among struggling arts venues to receive £165m in emergency loans

11 December 2020, 10:43 | Updated: 11 December 2020, 17:00

£165m in emergency loans for institutions like the Royal Albert Hall
£165m in emergency loans for institutions like the Royal Albert Hall. Picture: Getty

By Maddy Shaw Roberts

As part of the Culture Recovery Fund, a further £165m in emergency loans has just been announced for arts institutions including the Royal Opera House and Southbank Centre.

The Royal Opera House and Royal Albert Hall are among the 11 institutions to benefit from the latest round of emergency government arts funding.

£165m in repayable finance is being given to venues with “national and international significance”, as a lifeline amid the financial repercussions of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Covent Garden venue is receiving a borrowed cash injection of £21.7m, the Albert Hall £20.7m, the Southbank Centre £10.9m, and the English National Opera £8.5m.

DCMS – the government’s Department for Culture, Media and Sport – says the funding will consist of an initial repayment holiday of up to four years, a “low” interest rate and up to 20-year repayment terms.

Edward Gardner, principal conductor of the London Philharmonic Orchestra, said: “The Southbank Centre is an essential part of London’s artistic lifeblood. This support will help our mission to bring the most adventurous music making to the most people.”

Southbank Centre’s chief executive, Elaine Bedell, said the venue had lost £25m of its income this year, adding: “We’re acutely aware that this loan is taxpayers’ money, and we must be sure that we deliver value back to all the communities we serve.”

Read more: Will the government’s £1.5bn for the arts actually reach those in need? >

Royal Oper House to receive a £21.7m emergency loan
Royal Oper House to receive a £21.7m emergency loan. Picture: Getty

Alex Beard, chief executive of the Royal Opera House, said “the loan will address some of the immediate financial damage crisis caused by the crisis, easing our route to re-opening.”

But, he warned, “Continuing global uncertainty, the inevitable long-term economic impact of this enduring crisis, and the challenges of socially-distanced performances mean that the road ahead is not smooth for our industry.”

Beard added the opera house will still need “restructuring and redundancy” and an “extensive fundraising campaign” to enable its full reopening.

The latest round in funding also includes £19.7m for London’s National Theatre, and £19.4m for Stratford’s Royal Shakespeare Company.

Read more: Dowden says artists should ‘hang on in there for as long as they can’ >

Culture secretary Oliver Dowden, who announced the news on Twitter this morning, said: “This government promised it would be here for culture and today’s announcement is proof we’ve kept our word.

“The £1 billion invested so far through the Culture Recovery Fund has protected tens of thousands of jobs at cultural organisations across the UK, with more support still to come through a second round of applications.

“Today we’re extending a huge helping hand to the crown jewels of UK culture – so that they can continue to inspire future generations all around the world.”

There has been some criticism on Twitter that the most generous loans are reaching the pockets of mainly London venues, and that those working in the venues – musicians, stage hands and other freelancers – are still not receiving the right support.

Deborah Annetts, chief executive of the Incorporated Society of Musicians, said: “Once again the freelance community has been ignored. In 2019, music contributed £5.8 billion to the UK economy, but this year those who create music and are the lifeblood of our industry will lose two-thirds of their income due to coronavirus.

With livelihoods on the line, we are calling on the UK government to provide urgent funding for the thousands of creative freelancers excluded from government support and to publish a clear roadmap for the return of live performance in 2021.”