£1.57b support for the Arts – the devil will be in the detail.

World beating said the Government. Well, we have heard that one before but the amount did take the arts industries by surprise. However, before you think you will be back in the theatre remember this is for the performing arts, art galleries, music venies and the aim, according to Oliver Dowden, the Culture secretary, will be to preserve the so-called “crown jewels” of the arts sector – the Albert Hall is apparently one jewel – as well as many local venues. As Will Gompertz said on the BBC – the devil will be in the detail. the other thing we have yet to learn, of course, is what the guidelines are for theatres which will allow them to open their doors to the audience. These are promised shortly but nothing suggested or speculated about so far suggests the proposals are actually economically viable. There is even a school of thought which believes in taking the money, ensuring the fabric or the building and the staff to run them survive and not opening up until next spring. As for whether or not there are oantomimes at Christmas that still seems in the lap of the gods – for many theatres the annual pantomime is a cash cow which produces lots of milk. Too little too late? The Opposition say so. Sunstantial though it is other countries have come up with different deals some more lavish. Going back to visit a Gallery is relatively simple – social distancing can operate, paths for people to follow can be created and entries can be timed. But getting people in and out of pretty well every performance venue in the land could be very trick, and almost impossible in those much lauded Machin theatres – the crush getting in to pretty well every West End theatre in the good times is daunting and chaotic to say the least. Add temperature checks, social distance and the taking of contact details and it starts to become mind boggling. So the best one can say is the money is welcome, but how it is allocated will be the test of whether it is being well spent and whether what is proposed with deal with the doubts people will have about returning – having a drink in a beer garden is not the same as trying to get an interval drink in any theatre bar for a start. But there is for the first time some glimmer of hope for the future.

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