Art is vital for our economy as well as our soul, it must be protected - Rashmi Dube

There is a fine balance between madness and sanity. In fact, there is a fine balance in life for most things and we are at a juncture of slipping into madness – at the very least our flirtation has started.

With a broken approach to handling the pandemic and assisting businesses within the UK, and now the prospect of further forced lockdowns like the one faced by Leicester, it is becoming harder for businesses, and in particular the hospitality sector, to plan and prepare.

There is a growing feeling, not just with businesses but with people in general, that we are falling into a spiral of madness, and one in which there has been very little relief from.

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One such group is the arts. The arts work hand in hand with many restaurants and bars who offer pre-theatre meals or are located close to other venues such as museums. So why has England been so slow to react, not just from a global perspective but also from a UK viewpoint too?

Liam Gallagher live in SheffieldLiam Gallagher live in Sheffield
Liam Gallagher live in Sheffield

The arts have been completely disregarded until the funding announcement this week, and many have already had to close their doors. The arts not only employ staff but also rely on suppliers, often freelance works and outside businesses in building production sets.

Their plight if they are not supported effectively throughout this pandemic and economic challenge will not cause a ripple but a disastrous tidal wave that will have a grave effect on the economy and society overall.

Thankfully, the Government’s financial package has now arrived and will at least stall that tidal wave for now. Before you say, “there are bigger things to worry about”, the arts industry generates almost £11bn for the UK and employs almost two million people. The collapse of an industry that size would no doubt help hurtle the UK to its economic depression. There is also the cultural and social effect any form of collapse would have.

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In contrast to England, the other countries within the UK have acted more swiftly such as Scotland announcing a £10m relief fund for the arts venues in their country, Wales providing £7m and Northern Ireland making £4m available.

Chamber cultureChamber culture
Chamber culture

Once again, England has done things differently and the arts have been forced to wait right up to the wire to be told what help is on offer.

At the very beginning of lockdown, the arts had foreseen the issues with social distancing and informed most of their staff and freelance contractors it was unlikely that at the very least the theatres would be reopening before January.

The fate of other arts venues is dependent on levels of social distancing and lockdown. Keeping them solvent has been incredibly difficult – Nuffield Southampton Theatre is already in administration with 89 redundant and the National Theatre announced 400 job losses last week, – and there may be an additional economic responsibility upon the venue, particularly if they employ a large amount of people in an area that is economically deprived.

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Like hospitality, in order to survive they have to achieve 85 per cent attendance. The impact is grave. I have often talked about the eco system and here this is no different; all arts venues, production companies and hospitality are interdependent.

Take a moment and think about what is included in the arts– live music, community arts, and let us not forget pantomimes, the life blood of a lot of regional theatres.

Every year 75 per cent of the population engage in the arts in one form or another – just think how often last year you visited venues like the First Direct Arena, Leeds Playhouse, Huddersfield Theatre or the Leadmill in Sheffield.

This is not a minority interest. Of course, this also includes festivals like the Leeds/Reading Festival.

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The UK is one of the leading lights in culture and attracts visitors from around the world. Let’s hope that with this package of support from the Government, our phenomenal arts sector can avoid being a tragedy only to be talked about in years to come but instead continue to dominate on the world stage.