Customs House boss welcomes Government's £1.57 billion arts package - but fears venue won't reopen until 2021

The Customs House has welcomed the Government’s £1.57 billion of funding for the arts – but bosses still fear for the future of the venue.

By Sarah Sinclair
Monday, 6th July 2020, 4:46 pm
Updated Monday, 6th July 2020, 4:47 pm

The Prime Minister announced the latest support package for the sector on Sunday, July 5.

It came amid growing pressure from those in the industry, with guidance yet to be published outlining how or when live venues could expect to reopen.

Theatres, along with museums, galleries, music venues, independent cinemas and heritage sites, will be eligible for the emergency grants and loans, to help them stay afloat while their doors are closed.

The Customs House has been closed since March.

The Mill Dam theatre dropped the curtain on all performances for the foreseeable future on March 16, as the UK went into lockdown.

Customs House executive director, Ray Spencer has welcomed the announcement but fears it may not be enough to sustain the theatre.

He commented: “We welcome the recognition that the sector needs support and we are really pleased that the Government has made some money available, but now we need to know the criteria and the detail.

“It’s important for people to understand that it’s not just about performers, it’s the 72 staff operating across our organisation. My heart goes out to those individual creators who work in our community and do so much to entertain and engage people in the arts, who are still unable to earn any money.”

Customs House executive director, Ray Spencer has welcomed the Government's arts support package.

Guidance for a phased return of the performing arts sectors is expected to be published this week, but Culture Secretary Oliver Dowdon has said it would be difficult to get theatres reopened in time for the Christmas pantomime season.

“We are desperate to see our audiences back in the Customs House, but it wouldn’t surprise me if we’re looking at 2021 before we can open again,” added Mr Spencer.

“Panto for Customs House is by far our largest show, the loss of Christmas activity will be a huge blow for us. We would have to have significant benefits from the Government to make up for that if we are able to survive until we can open our doors again.”

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