Further details of when theatres will be able to reopen will be published imminently, the culture secretary has promised, as he says he wants arts organisations to open their doors “as rapidly as possible”.
Oliver Dowden said the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport had been “working flat out” to get sectors across arts and heritage back up and running following lockdown, as he faced questions from MPs about the details of the £1.57 billion investment package announced last week.
The emergency relief package has been welcomed by the theatre industry, but many organisations say they need an indication of when audiences will be able to return in order to properly plan their reopening.
During DCMS questions in the House of Commons, Dowden said: “I want to see these institutions open their doors as soon as it is safe to do so, and I’m working extensively with the sector on how to achieve this and will be publishing further roadmap timings for further steps imminently.”
DCMS’ roadmap for the reopening of theatres comprises a five-step plan towards full reopening, although no dates have yet been announced.
Outdoor theatres have been lobbying to be able to return as soon as possible, in line with other outdoor activities that have been allowed to reopen, while other theatre organisations have asked for ‘no earlier than’ dates that indicate when they could reopen for performances without social distancing.
Dowden added: “We have more to do and there will be further announcements on restarts imminently but the best way to secure jobs and revive our sectors is to reopen them safely, and I won’t stop until we’ve achieved this for all DCMS sectors.”
In parliament, Dowden and other DCMS ministers also faced questions about how the government’s support will ensure creative freelancers will be able to survive the months ahead if they remain unable to work while venues and organisations are closed.
Culture minister Caroline Dinenage said: “We know the creative industries are not the venues, they are not the organisations or the studios they inhabit, they are the people – the skilled artists, craftsmen, designers, performers and technicians that make us world-class in this sector, and we know this includes very many freelancers and self-employed.”
She said the government recognised the “really crucial role that individuals play” in the creative industries’ success, and that the £1.57 billion package “will allow more businesses to survive and more creative activity to restart, ensuring employment opportunities for freelancers – and at the end of the day, that is what our freelancers want to do, they want to get back to work”.
Dowden added: “The key thing for freelancers is to protect the institutions so that in future they can return [to work] as they reopen, and that is what this package achieved.”